Lockdown goals (Photo: Ingo Rosler via Getty)
Lockdown goals (Photo: Ingo Rosler via Getty)

BooksMarch 5, 2021

The Unity Books bestseller chart for the week ending March 5

Lockdown goals (Photo: Ingo Rosler via Getty)
Lockdown goals (Photo: Ingo Rosler via Getty)

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  The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (Bloomsbury, $25)

This 2011 bestseller set during the Trojan War has made a surprise comeback to the top of the chart. Nothing like an erotic escape to Ancient Greece during lockdown, we say. 

2  Last One at the Party by Bethany Clift (Hodder & Stoughton, $38)

Books editor Catherine Woulfe gave this post-apocalyptic pandemic novel an absolute rave review a couple of weeks ago:

“There were so many bits that I loved. This sentence, regarding a Porsche with a pleasing purr: ‘It was like driving a giant kitten.’ The structure, which snicks together flashbacks and exposition with scenes of right-now horror. The fact that our heroine browses the cornucopia of a fully-stocked town library and takes everything by Marian Keyes and Jilly Cooper, and nothing else. That at the end of the world she curls up and watches The Gilmore Girls.”

3  The Midnight Library by Matt Haig (Canongate, $33)

“Between life and death there is a library, and within that library, the shelves go on forever. Every book provides a chance to try another life you could have lived. To see how things would be if you had made other choices … Would you have done anything different, if you had the chance to undo your regrets?”

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

Psychiatrist Dr Hinemoa Elder explains 52 Māori proverbs. Wisdom for living a better life? Yes please. Some of us haven’t put on pants today. 

5  The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett (Dialogue Books, $35)

A family saga about identical twin sisters from the deep south. One sister stays put in the same small town with her black daughter, while the other escapes and passes for white. 

6  The Devils You Know by Ben Sanders (Allen & Unwin, $33)

Young Auckland writer Ben Sanders works two days a week as a structural engineer, and the rest of the time pumps out zillions of successful thrillers.

7  Nothing to See by Pip Adam (Victoria University Press, $30)

Pip Adam is once again on the Ockham’s Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction shortlist after winning with The New Animals in 2018. This time she’s written a brilliant novel about three women struggling to stay sober, straddling the weird and the mundane with her usual flair. 

Excerpt from an excerpt published on The Spinoff: “Someone looked at their watch. There was a supermarket up the end of the long road they lived on. They’d started getting their bread and hummus and carrots there because Diane explained it was cheaper than the dairy. It was the sort of place you went for cigarettes, but all of them had given up smoking at treatment, because if you’re going to have several horrible detoxes you might as well have them all at once.” 

8  Land: How the Hunger for Ownership Shaped the Modern World by Simon Winchester (HarperCollins, $40)

Nonfiction about humans’ historic relationship with land, characterised by exploitation, control and possession, with a curious side-order of care and restoration. 

9  The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri (Zaffre Publishing, $23)

Another oldie (20 months is old in bookland, sorry) that’s crept onto the list. Here’s a novel about love and survival, set during the Syrian Civil War as a couple flee Aleppo for Europe. 

10  Sprigs by Brannavan Gnanalingam (Lawrence and Gibson Publishing, $35)

Like Pip Adam, this is Gnanalingam’s – very well-deserved – second ride on the Ockhams fiction shortlist. 

From Catherine Woulfe’s awards roundup: “It’s about a first XV and a high school and a girl. It has a rape scene to break your heart, bundled up in a multitude of other scenes that will break it harder, and Gnanalingam, himself a survivor of sexual abuse, is absolutely scathing and funny and dark and right. … I wish I had read this book when I was 16, and that the boys and the teachers had read it too.”


1  Auē by Becky Manawatu (Mākaro Press, $35)

Are we at all surprised? Of course not. 

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

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

Another week, another truckload of Imagining Decolonisation sold in Wellington. It may only stop when every New Zealander owns a copy. 

4  Aftershock by Judy Melinek and T.J. Mitchell (HarperCollins, $30)

The second novel in the Dr Jessie Teska mystery series. Forensics, San Francisco earthquakes, and a staged death at a construction site.  

5  Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stewart (Picador, $38)

Last year’s Booker winner has been funded for translation into Turkish, Serbian, Portuguese and Arabic. Imagine it will be brilliant and brutal in each of those languages, too. 

6  Land: How the Hunger for Ownership Shaped the Modern World by Simon Winchester (HarperCollins, $40)

7  Love You: Public Policy For Intergenerational Wellbeing by Girol Karacaoglu (Tuwhiri Project, $27)

Scoop: “The book, written mostly pre-Covid-19, includes six further justifications for a ‘radically different approach’ to policy which prioritises not just economic growth, but environmental quality, equity, social cohesion, personal freedoms and political voice across generations.”

8  Māori Philosophy: Indigenous Thinking From Aotearoa by Georgina Stewart (Bloomsbury, $39)

“A significant, groundbreaking and fascinating book that examines Māori philosophy in a meaningful and contemporary way. It will become a core text for the many courses that draw on Indigenous knowledge and Mātauranga Māori, educating and challenging the way we think” –  Linda Tuhiwai Smith of Waikato University

9  Ngā Kete Mātauranga: Māori Scholars at the Research Interface edited by Jacinta Ruru and Linda Waimarie Nikora (Otago University Press, $60)

“In this beautiful and transformative book, 24 Māori academics share their personal journeys, revealing what being Māori has meant for them in their work. Their perspectives provide insight for all New Zealanders into how mātauranga is positively influencing the Western-dominated disciplines of knowledge in the research sector” – publisher’s blurb 

10  Tranquillity and Ruin by Danyl McLauchlan (Victoria University Press, $30)

Four exquisite essays covering meditation, mental health, morality and suffering. 

Read Alie Benge’s brand new Spinoff review, where she says great things like: “The book is a curious exploration of the mind that will shed some light on what yours is doing. Despite not being self-help, I did find that it helped me.”

The Spinoff Review of Books is proudly brought to you by Unity Books, recently named 2020 International Book Store of the Year, London Book Fair, and Creative New Zealand. Visit Unity Books Wellington or Unity Books Auckland online stores today. 

Mad Chapman, Editor
Aotearoa continues to adapt to a new reality and The Spinoff is right there, sorting fact from fiction to bring you the latest updates and biggest stories. Help us continue this coverage, and so much more, by supporting The Spinoff Members.Madeleine Chapman, EditorJoin Members

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