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BooksJuly 7, 2023

The Unity Books bestseller chart for the week ending July 7


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 Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan (Faber & Faber, $25)

Claire Keegan is one of the best writers working today. There, we said it. But the fact that this book hasn’t departed from this hallowed list for almost a year is testament to the word of mouth that flows around this hugely affecting, tiny book. Keegan has a new book out, too, a lush publication of her short story So Late in the Day which was first published in The New Yorker. Speaking of which, hurrah for poet Tayi Tibble whose stunning poem Creation Story was just published in The New Yorker, which is massive. Tibble follows Frame, Manhire (Bill), and Stead to “make it” there (and if you can make it there you’ll make it anywhere, so the ditty goes).

2 Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver (Faber & Faber, $28)

“It’s a brave writer who takes on a retelling of Dickens, and of David Copperfield, the most personal of his novels, at that. And yet the American author Barbara Kingsolver’s Demon Copperhead – which transposes this very English, quasi-autobiographical Bildungsroman to her own home territory of Appalachia – feels in many ways like the book she was born to write.” So begins The Guardian review of this multi-award winning retelling. Sold.

3 The Creative Act: A Way of Being by Rick Rubin (Canongate, $50)

Auckland has been lapping this book up. We’re hoping this is a sign of the insurrection about to be hoisted by frustrated artists and carriers of antique arts degrees.

4 The Covenant of Water by Abraham Verghese (Grove Press, $38)

We’ve turned to our old pals at Good Reads for a squiz at the hot takes on this new epic. There are five stars a plenty with a few measly threes, and even a handful of twos scattered between. Here are a few choice snippets:

“I have not fallen so deeply in love with a novel in a very long time. I guess it shouldn’t surprise me; I’ve admired and loved all of Verghese’s previous books. At over 700 pages, across eight decades and three generations, The Covenant of Water weaves history and medicine into an enormously powerful story of human connection and frailty, of secrets and triumphs.” (Ellen, 5 stars)

“Well… I’m not really finished with this book. I got to 40% and i am wiped out. I’m done.. no enthusiasm to pick this up anymore, and I am so disappointed because when I saw that this author had a new book, I was very excited. I’m a huge fan of Cutting For Stone!” (Karen, 3 stars)

5 Trust By Hernan Diaz (Picador, $38)

This novel came out in 2022 so this is a curious re-entry. Trust is steeped in Wall Street of the 1920s and is told in four parts, each being an unfinished manuscript telling conflicting tales about its lead character, Andrew Bevel, and his wife. If you’re after a critique of capitalism and the joyride that is an unreliable narrator, this novel sounds like it might be for you.

6 Starry Messenger: Cosmic Perspectives on Civilisation by Neil Degrasse Tyson (Harper Collins, $33)

From the guy who wrote Astrophysics for People in a Hurry (smash hit some years ago now), this is a book that urges humans to value science and rational thought over feelings. Kirkus Reviews’ succinct appraisal ends with “Good sense for those who value good sense.”

7 Under The Weather: A Future Forecast For New Zealand by James Renwick (Harper Collins, $40)

A sobering yet hopeful book about what we can actually DO about climate change and why we don’t have to be existing in a world where it’s happening. In contrast to the book above, Renwick wants us to feel climate change rather than think of it in the abstract. Which sounds very logical. You can read an excerpt from this urgent and topical book, right here.

8 Atomic Habits by James Clear (Random House, $40)

TLDR: Change small things and big things will happen.

9 There’s A Cure For This: A Memoir by Emma Espiner (Penguin, $35)

A blistering and beautiful memoir from doctor and writer, mother and daughter, Emma Espiner. Read our review, here.

10 Conversations On Love by Natasha Lunn (Viking Penguin, $26)

This was a lil V-day release last year and looks to be making a hearty comeback in this pithy heart of winter. It’s basically a whole collection of interviews between Lunn and a clutch of fascinating writers (Roxanne Gay, Lisa Taddeo, Esther Perel, Alain de Botton…) on the curly question of love.


1 Pet by Catherine Chidgey (Te Herenga Waka University Press, hardback $50, paperback $38)

In another coup for a New Zealand writer, Pet was just reviewed in The Guardian, who had this to say: “Chidgey is an agile writer, and here fuses pacy storytelling with some resonant metaphors. Musings on memory, inheritance and betrayal are lightly woven throughout, while the era’s casual racism and misogyny, coupled with women’s unquestioning collusion in the objectification of their own bodies, stokes an atmosphere of growing unease.”

And if you’re still not convinced, then read Sam Brooks’ review, here.

2 Yellowface by Rebecca Kuang (Borough Press, $35)

This novel is taking the world by storm with its entertaining and astute evisceration of the publishing industry. Highly recommend.

3 Aroha by Hinemoa Elder (Penguin, $30)

This beautiful book of wisdom from Dr Hinemoa Elder is the gift that keeps on giving.

4 Axeman’s Carnival by Catherine Chidgey (Te Herenga Waka University Press, $35)

The second Chidgey in the list is the winner of the Jann Medlicott Prize for Fiction at this year’s Ockham Book Awards and is a ripping tale of madness and magpies. 

5 Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver (Faber, $28)

6 Matariki by Gavin Bishop (Puffin, $16)

An absolutely gorgeous new book that explains each of the stars of Matariki in Bishop’s signature bold, lush colour. A book for all ages this Matariki.

7 Covenant of Water by Abraham Verghese (Atlantic Books, $38)

8 Wager: A Tale of Shipwreck, Mutiny & Murder by David Grann (Simon & Schuster, $40)

A rip-roaring historic true-crime that brings 18th Century seafaring to vivid life. The Guardian reviewer was rather breathless in their praise, “There’s an expectation, in reviewing a book like The Wager, to balance its strengths with some discussion of its flaws. But The Wager is one of the finest nonfiction books I’ve ever read. I can only offer the highest praise a writer can give: endless envy, as deep and salty as the sea.”

9 Birnam Wood by Eleanor Catton (Te Herenga Waka University Press, hardback $50, paperback $38)

She’s back! Birnam Wood is of course Catton’s third novel and this one is a page-turner about a bunch of idealistic youths who get entangled with a psychotic billionaire and some boomers. Highly recommend.

10 There’s A Cure For This: A Memoir by Emma Espiner (Penguin, $35)

Keep going!