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Illustration of a woman sitting, very relaxed, leaning back, with book. She's drawn in light blue and white, on an orange background.
(Main illustration: Wachiraphorn via Getty Images; books illustration and design by Archi Banal)

BooksApril 8, 2022

The Unity Books bestseller chart for the week ending April 8

Illustration of a woman sitting, very relaxed, leaning back, with book. She's drawn in light blue and white, on an orange background.
(Main illustration: Wachiraphorn via Getty Images; books illustration and design by Archi Banal)

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.

AUCKLAND

1  Grand: Becoming My Mother’s Daughter by Noelle McCarthy (Penguin, $35)

Number one in both fair cities! It’s Noelle McCarthy’s new memoir, which books ed Catherine Woulfe reviewed in lavish fashion recently:

“I think Noelle wrote Grand at speed … it reads like she wrote because she was compelled to. As if her recovery from alcoholism, the birth of her daughter, and the death of her mother generated a great howling momentum. The force she exerted, to get to this point.” 

Although there are no photographs in the book, Noelle frequently writes about taking photos, and uses that as a device to frame a scene. She kindly let us publish some of the photos – including, those who’ve read it will be rapt to hear, the one with the ginormous dahlia – and wrote us a terrific essay to go with:

“The last time I saw my mother, I sat alongside her on a narrow hospital cot, stretched my arm out and took several photos. Timestamped a few weeks before Covid locked the world down, they show us with our heads close together, filling the frame, hers tiny, mine bigger. Death has already started to creep into her face, but there she is – alert, narrow-eyed, game still, even with the sunken cheeks and balding temples. I look like a grieving bullfrog, eyes red and bulgy.”

2  Toi Tu Toi Ora: Contemporary Māori Art by Nigel Borell (Penguin, $65)

Did everyone go to the fantastic Toi Tu Toi Ora exhibition at Auckland Art Gallery? 

Yes? Well then, you simply must get this book as a memento.

No? Well then, you simply must get this book so you don’t miss out.

We know, we know – we’re extraordinary booksellers. 

3  Shifting Grounds: Deep Histories of Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland by Lucy Mackintosh (Bridget Williams Books, $60)

Shifting Grounds has been shortlisted for the Booksellers Aotearoa New Zealand Award for Illustrated Non-Fiction. (Winner of this and all other Ockhams to be announced mid-May). The judges call it “a fresh and timely study that weaves multiple narratives into a highly readable story”, and we call it “deeply researched”, “lively” and “beautifully laid-out.” Not a bad collection of compliments. 

4  Greta & Valdin by Rebecca K Reilly (Te Herenga Waka University Press, $35)

Another Ockhams shortlister, and one we would be very pleased to see win the $60,000 golden crown for fiction.  

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

A beautiful novel about marshes, birds and child neglect that sold like hotcakes in 2018 has risen from retirement for another round of applause, after the movie trailer for the film adaptation arrived in internetland a few weeks ago. The film stars Daisy Edgar-Jones, aka star of another novel-to-screen smash, Normal People. 

6  Actions & Travels: How Poetry Works by Anna Jackson (Auckland University Press, $35)

A glowing (and informative) review from Chris Price: “In Actions & Travels, Anna Jackson hosts a literary dinner party that takes place both on the page and online. As she seats poets from different times and places next to one another and deftly draws them into conversation about their dress codes, values and behaviour, we find ourselves part of one big family arguing and communing in the eternal now of poetry.

“If you’ve ever questioned what poems are up to when they ‘wax poetical’, or wondered what Keats and Hera Lindsay Bird would say to each other if they actually met, or what would happen if Patricia Lockwood and Tayi Tibble traded jokes on Twitter, this book is for you.”

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

Auckland has rejoined the Imagine party bus. Destination? World decolonisation. 

…Sorry. Wines have been consumed.

8  The Promise by Damon Galgut (Chatto & Windus, $37)

The 2021 Booker winner, described in a stunning and spoiler-rich review by The New Yorker:

The Promise is drenched in South African history, a tide that can be seen, in the end, to poison all “promise”. The book moves from the dying days of apartheid, in the 80s, to the disappointment of Jacob Zuma’s presidency of the past decade, and the tale is told as the fable of a family curse: first the mother dies, then the father, then one of their daughters, then their only son …

Like a number of early 20th century novels (Howards End and Brideshead Revisited come to mind, along with To the Lighthouse), The Promise turns on the question of a house and its land (in this case, the Swart family farm), and who will live in it, inherit it, redeem it. But Galgut’s novel most closely resembles the work of predecessors like Woolf and Faulkner in the way it redeploys a number of modernist techniques, chiefly the use of a free-floating narrator. Galgut is at once very close to his troubled characters and somewhat ironically distant, as if the novel were written in two time signatures, fast and slower. And, miraculously, this narrative distance does not alienate our intimacy but emerges as a different form of knowing.

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

A feel-good fiction bestseller from 2021. 

10  Kurangaituku by Whiti Hereaka (Huia Publishers, $35)

We said we’d be pleased to see Greta & Valdin win the fiction prize at the Ockhams, but we would be thrilled if Kurangaituku won. Catherine Woulfe raves, “If the judges are out to recognise innovation, audacity, brilliance, give the Acorn to Whiti Hereaka for this book she spent 10 years building.”

WELLINGTON

1  Grand: Becoming My Mother’s Daughter by Noelle McCarthy (Penguin, $35)

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

3  Wellington Architecture: A Walking Guide by John Walsh & Patrick Reynolds (Massey University Press, $25)

A brand-spanking-new pocket guide to the architecture of Wellington, covering five walking routes of the windy capital. The guide digs into the detail of more than 120 buildings and the architects who designed them, and includes full-colour maps and photographs. Give it to a visiting friend or learn to love your own city on a new level. 

4  Greta & Valdin by Rebecca K Reilly (Te Herenga Waka University Press, $35)

5  The Promise by Damon Galgut (Chatto & Windus, $37)

6  Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr (HarperCollins, $35)

The most recent novel by the author of All the Light We Cannot See. We loved it. 

7  Give Unto Others by Donna Leon (Hutchison, $35)

Escape to Venice with Commissario Guido Brunetti on his 31st detective case (that’s Donna Leon’s 31st case, too). 

8  The Magician by Colm Tóibín (Picador, $38)

Sample:

As Heinrich grew taller, he came to let Thomas know more emphatically that his younger brother’s efforts to behave like a Mann were still a pose, a pose whose falsity was increasingly apparent when Thomas began to read more poetry, when he could no longer keep his enthusiasm for culture a secret, and when he would fitfully allow his mother to accompany him on the Bechstein in the drawing room as he played the violin.

Time passed and Thomas’s efforts to pretend that he was interested in ships and trade gradually crumbled. While Heinrich had grown defiantly unequivocal in his ambitions, Thomas was nervous and evasive, but still he could not disguise how he had changed.

9  Oh William! by Elizabeth Strout (Viking, $35)

Another fiction goodie has returned! 

10  I Am Autistic: An Interactive and Informative Guide to Autism (by Someone Diagnosed with It) by Chanelle Moriah (Allen & Unwin, $30)

A simple guide to autism, written for autistic people and those in their lives. When Chanelle Moriah was diagnosed at 21, she found it difficult to find any information about autism from the perspective of someone who is autistic. She’s gone ahead and filled the gap, creating an essential illustrated guide based on her experiences.

Keep going!