Elizabeth Knox: garden witch, creator of worlds, about to be published in the US and about time.Image: Ebony Lamb.
Elizabeth Knox: garden witch, creator of worlds, about to be published in the US and about time.Image: Ebony Lamb.

BooksFebruary 7, 2020

Unity Books bestseller chart for the week ending February 7

Elizabeth Knox: garden witch, creator of worlds, about to be published in the US and about time.Image: Ebony Lamb.
Elizabeth Knox: garden witch, creator of worlds, about to be published in the US and about time.Image: Ebony Lamb.

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.

(This week is slightly skewed due to Waitangi Day – both stores totted up their data a day early).


1  Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi (Picador, $20)

Time travel, a coffee shop.

2  The Absolute Book by Elizabeth Knox (Victoria University Press, $35)

Knox has wandered into a fairy-land of her own making this last week or so, after the books editor at Slate wrote “a semi-deranged blog post to attempt to browbeat American publishers into acquiring” The Absolute Book. Stand by for wonderful news.

3  All Who Live On Islands by Rose Lu (Victoria University Press, $30)

“By the time I arrived, the campsite was already littered with broken glass. Everyone was six hours into a game of Edward Scrumpyhands, where a bottle of Scrumpy Apple Cider is taped to each hand, rendering the drinker incapable of doing basic tasks until both bottles are drunk … [My boyfriend] leaned over and began recounting the evening. The first person to finish Scrumpyhands was Ripper, in just forty minutes. He’d chugged his bottles down because he really needed to take a shit. But he was too wasted to find the toilet and ended up shitting all down his legs, so was he really the winner?”

4  Boy Swallows Universe by Trent Dalton (Harper Collins, $25)

Thoroughly messed-up in 1980s Brizzy.

5  This is Going to Hurt: Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor by Adam Kay (Picador, $23)

“For me, the true miracle of childbirth is that smart, rational people with jobs and the ability to vote look at these half-melted fleshy blobs, their heads misshapen from being squeezed through a pelvis, covered in five types of horrendous gunk, looking like they’ve spent a good two hours rolling around on top of a deep-pan pizza, and honestly believe they look beautiful. It’s Darwinism in action, an irrational love for your progeny.”

6  Normal People by Sally Rooney (Faber & Faber, $23)

Sally Rooney Sally Rooney Sally Rooney

7  Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout (Viking Penguin, $35)

“She just showed up again. She’s Olive and she has to be contended with.” – Strout, to Wall Street Journal Magazine.

8  Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens (Corsair, $25)

Crawdads = crayfish. Do they actually sing? Surely no. I am very much not the first person to google this.

Here’s CBS News: “The title “Where the Crawdads Sing” was taken from a phrase Owens’ mother used to use encouraging her tomboy of a daughter to take to the woods around their rural Georgia home, and listen to what those woods had to say. “I learned from a book that crawdads don’t really sing. But I learned from my mother that if you go far enough into the wilderness, by yourself, and there’s nothing but you and nature, you will hear the crawdads sing.””

9  Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid (Bloomsbury Circus, $33)

“In a reflecting blue hallway of glass and water, Emira and Briar walked beneath angelfish and guppies, eels and bottom-feeding sharks. Briar stood at one side and tapped the glass lightly with her hands, her little fingers in front of neon algae and rocks.

“Mira, yes yes yes.”

Emira bent down next to her.

“Hey, you. Pickle-head,” she said. “Hey, I love you.”

Briar laughed from her nose – it almost seemed as if she were trying to blow something out of it – and she put her cheek on Emira’s shoulder. Just then, the lights went off in their end of the aquarium to signal that closing time was near. Briar screamed out, “Mira, I can’t find me!” Emira held her closer and said, “I still see you.””

10 Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman (Harper Collins, $25)

For uplifting, see also Charlotte Wood’s The Weekend, featuring this perfectly-written scene of an awkward encounter outside a restaurant: “A sort of flapping took place – Wendy thought of geese landing in water – as the two parties met. Wendy and Jude’s bodies kept travelling, hoping to carry Adele along in their current, let her call goodbye over her shoulder, retain her dignity. But no.”


1  The Absolute Book by Elizabeth Knox (Victoria University Press, $35)

2  Te Tiriti o Waitangi / The Treaty of Waitangi by Toby Morris, Ross Calman and Mark Derby (Lift Education, $20)

Special release: the whole glorious thing is available free, right here.

3  Head Girl by Freya Daly Sadgrove (Victoria University Press, $25)

Freya’s favourite poem in this collection is TURDUCKEN, once again available free, right here.

4  Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo (Penguin Books, $40)

Winner of the 2019 Booker Prize.

5  All Who Live on Islands by Rose Lu (Victoria University Press, $30)

6  2000ft Above Worry Level by Eamonn Marra (Victoria University Press, $30)

An essay from Eamonn is incoming, also a review (not by Eamonn).

7  Three Women by Lisa Taddeo (Bloomsbury, $35)

“Sometimes there’s nothing better on earth than someone asking you a question.”

8  We Are Here: An Atlas of Aotearoa by Chris McDowall & Tim Denee (Massey University Press, $70)

Nominated in the illustrated non-fiction category of the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards. Should at least make the shortlist.

9  Grown Ups by Marian Keyes (Michael Joseph, $37)

Magical, insightful, funny as hell, maybe her best.

10 The Boy, the Mole, the Fox & the Horse by Charles Mackesy (Ebury Press, $40)

“Nothing beats kindness,” said the horse. “It sits quietly beyond all things.”

Keep going!