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A living room filled with houseplants; a young woman reads on an armchair.
(Photo: Richard Drury via Getty Images)

BooksJune 4, 2021

The Unity Books bestseller chart for the week ending June 4

A living room filled with houseplants; a young woman reads on an armchair.
(Photo: Richard Drury via Getty Images)

The only published and available best-selling indie book chart in New Zealand is the top 10 sales list recorded every week at Unity Books’ stores in High St, Auckland, and Willis St, Wellington.


1  Bug Week & Other Stories by Airini Beautrais (Victoria University Press, $30)

Airini Beautrais wrote an essay for us about Bug Week, before she shot to stardom by winning New Zealand’s biggest fiction prize. She wrote:

“I felt compelled to write about the things I wrote about, and that included rape and intimate partner violence. I felt that my place in the literary ecosystem was strongly affected by the fact that I was a woman – a woman in her thirties, a single mother in a small town, a survivor of abuse. I can’t separate my writing from my trauma and my anger. I’m a very angry person a lot of the time. There’s a big artistic risk in that, but I also think there’s massive, explosive artistic potential, and that was the line I wanted to tread.”

2  The Mirror Book by Charlotte Grimshaw (Vintage, $38)

Literary punchline to the question, “What do you get when you mix conflicting versions of the truth with a family of writers?”

3  Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro (Faber & Faber, $37)

Klara, a solar-powered “Artificial Friend”, makes a pact with the sun in the hopes of curing an unwell young girl called Josie. 

4  Noise: A Flaw in Human Judgment by Daniel Kahneman, Olivier Sibony & Cass R. Sunstein (HarperCollins, $40) 

The authors of Thinking Fast and Slow and Nudge have unearthed a brand new (ish) socio-political problem – noise, the seemingly irrelevant factors that affect decision-making. Because socio-political problems are best explained with a hypothetical, here’s one from the blurb:

“Imagine that two doctors in the same city give different diagnoses to identical patients – or that two judges in the same court give different sentences to people who have committed matching crimes. Now imagine that the same doctor and the same judge make different decisions depending on whether it is morning or afternoon, or Monday rather than Wednesday, or they haven’t yet had lunch. These are examples of noise: variability in judgments that should be identical.”

5  How Do You Live? by Yoshino Genzaburo (Rider, $37)

A Japanese classic where a young boy is taught important life lessons by his uncle, published in English for the first time. The series of stories delve into relationships, courage, bullying, grief, and what it means to live a good life. 

6  A Clear Dawn: New Asian Voices From Aotearoa New Zealand edited by Paula Morris & Alison Wong (Auckland University Press, $50)

Last week, we published kī anthony’s exceptional essay from A Clear Dawn. It begins:

“Here is a shitty autobiography: I spent my entire teens in one long, fucked-up sugar baby relationship where I traded 24/7 sexual availability for the world’s worst tech mentoring. I then bounced from brothel to brothel for a couple of years, ghosted my madam and started hustling independently, had a lesbian wedding as soon as they were legal, and eventually wound up working in open-source tech support on the strength of the listening and digital skills I picked up as a hooker.”

7  Aroha: Māori Wisdom for a Contented Life Lived in Harmony with our Planet by Hinemoa Elder (Penguin Random House, $30)

Sales are ticking up for reasons that will become clear in a report we’re about to publish.

8  The Premonition: A Pandemic Story by Michael Lewis (Allen Lane, $55) 

Lewis turned statistical analysis of baseball into the film Moneyball with Christian Bale and the 2008 financial crash into The Big Short with Brad Pitt. The Premonition tells the story of a group of scientists trying to prepare America for the Covid-19 pandemic, and will likely soon be a movie starring Leo DiCaprio. 

9  Hiakai: New Māori Cuisine by Monique Fiso (RHNZ Godwit, $65)

One of the coolest cookbooks, maybe ever, and rightful winner of the Booksellers Aotearoa New Zealand Award for illustrated non-fiction. An account of Māori food that includes traditions, ingredients, tikanga, recipes, and Monique Fiso’s journey of bringing kai to the world. 

10  The Forager’s Treasury: The Essential Guide to Finding and Using Wild Plants in Aotearoa by Johanna Knox (Allen & Unwin, $45)

Which wild plant is an excellent salad garnish, which will cure your athlete’s foot, and which will cause a horrible rash if you rub it against your face? The Forager’s Treasury answers these questions (probably) and many more.


1  Helen Kelly: Her Life by Rebecca Macfie (Awa Press, $50)

RNZ describes Helen Kelly as not only the first female head of the country’s trade union movement, but also “a visionary, a fighter, a strategist, and an orator” and Rebecca Macfie’s new book as “not simply a biography but also an exploration of a defining period in New Zealand’s history”. Not only a darn good read, not simply a fascinating subject, but also number one in Wellington this week.

2  A Clear Dawn: New Asian Voices From Aotearoa New Zealand edited by Paula Morris & Alison Wong (Auckland University Press, $50)

3  Pic: Adventures in Sailing, Business, and Love by Pic Picot (Nationwide, $30)

Pic Picot is best known as the midwife (midhusband?) of bougie peanut butter, but he has also been a leatherworker, psychiatric ward patient, travelling rock ‘n’ roller, furniture maker and failed restaurateur. We enjoyed the bit where he’s utterly repulsed by cheap peanut butter with sugar in.

4  This Pākehā Life: An Unsettled Memoir by Alison Jones (Bridget Williams Books, $40)

Shortlisted for the general non-fiction prize at the Ockhams, and the other day the author popped into Unity Wellington for a public discussion of the book.

5  Imagining Decolonisation by Rebecca Kiddle, Bianca Elkington, Moana Jackson, Ocean Ripeka Mercier, Mike Ross, Jennie Smeaton and Amanda Thomas (Bridget Williams Books, $15)

A book that helps us to imagine a decolonised Aotearoa for just $15? What a steal.

6  From the Centre: A Writer’s Life by Patricia Grace (Penguin, $40)

“Though it was my father who read to me, it was in my mother’s company that I learned to identify written words. ‘Weetbix’ was the first word I remember recognising. I liked ‘Sergeant Dan the Creamoata Man’, who I remember as a boy soldier on the front of the porridge packet … It was being able to read fairly competently by the time I was five that caused a problem for me once I started school.”

7  Bug Week & Other Stories by Airini Beautrais (Victoria University Press, $30)

8  Unsheltered by Clare Moleta (Simon & Schuster, $35)

Emily Maguire says “fist-clenching, breath-holding, heart-accelerating”, Emily Perkins says “urgent, heart-stopping”, and Elizabeth Knox says “utterly convincing”.

9  Aroha: Māori Wisdom for a Contented Life Lived in Harmony with our Planet by Hinemoa Elder (Penguin Random House, $30)

10  Dressed: Fashionable Dress in Aotearoa New Zealand 1840 To 1910 by Claire Regnault (Te Papa Press, $70)

How did European interactions with Māori, settler life, and geography affect Victorian fashion in our fair country? This beautiful illustrated volume – a hardback with a wonderful cushy padded cover – tells all.

Keep going!