Image: Tina Tiller
Image: Tina Tiller

BooksSeptember 8, 2023

The Unity Books bestseller chart for the week ending September 8

Image: Tina Tiller
Image: Tina Tiller

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.


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

History buffs are flocking to their local bookstore to grab a copy of the new David Grann non-fiction adventure. The Wager is a thrilling true story of shipwreck, mutiny, murder and betrayal in 1741, and has received starstruck reviews from all the usual suspects. For example… The Washington Post describes The Wager as “almost pure, horror-filled plot, without the usual Grannian first-person moments, a tightly written, relentless, blow-by-blow account that is hard to put down…”

2 Fungi of Aotearoa: A Curious Forager’s Field Guide by Liv Sisson (Penguin, $45)

Feeling curious? We have an excerpt for you about the magical medicinal properties of fair fungi, complete with some very startling mushroom pictures.

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

The creative way of being continues. 

4 Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin (Vintage, $26)

Number one in Wellington, too! Zevin’s novel about two game designers was Amazon’s best book of 2022, and it was the number one bestseller in the UK this June, so we’re right on trend. 

The Guardian spoke with Zevin about the book’s success recently – here’s a taster: “Many non-gamers who have enjoyed the novel will begin their recommendation by saying ‘it’s about video games but …’, as if a book on this subject needs a caveat in order to appeal to readers of conventionally ‘literary’ fiction. Zevin seems keen to challenge such preconceptions: the novel’s title is a reference both to the possibility of ‘infinite rebirth’ offered by video games, and a quote from Macbeth’s soliloquy about the meaninglessness of life.”

What You Are Looking For Is in the Library by Michiko Aoyama (Doubleday, $37)

A delightful story recently translated from Japanese, reminiscent of Before the Coffee Gets Cold.

6  American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer by Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin (Atlantic, $33)

The book that inspired Christopher Nolan to create Oppenheimer.

7  Killers of the Flower Moon: Oil, Money, Murder and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann (Simon & Schuster, $29)

A 2018 bestseller from the author of The Wager (see: number 1). The subtitle really gives you all the intrigue you need, doesn’t it?

8  Eat Up New Zealand: The Bach Edition by Al Brown (Allen & Unwin NZ, $50)

A newly revised edition of Al Brown’s iconic cookbook Eat Up New Zealand, with more than 150 casual, bach-friendly recipes. Bach-friendly? Summer must be coming.

9  Meditations by Marcus Aurelius (Modern Library, $26)

A classic of Stoic philosophy, which has surprised us by popping up in the bestsellers. This edition, translated by Gregory Hays, was first published in 2003. Ancient! Although not as ancient as the original texts, which were composed while Marcus Aurelius was Roman Emperor, between 161 and 180 AD. Now that’s ancient wisdom coming back into style.

10  Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt (Bloomsbury, $25)

A charming debut novel about the unlikely friendship between a widow named Tova and a giant Pacific octopus named (yes) Marcellus. Goodreaders are making claims like, “This might be my favourite book this year, and will also be one of the best books I’ve ever read” and “Incredible!! 5+ stars and highly recommend!”


1 Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin (Vintage, $26)

2 Fungi of Aotearoa: A Curious Forager’s Field Guide by Liv Sisson (Penguin NZ, $45)

3 Tom Lake by Ann Patchett (Bloomsbury, $35)

The new novel by Ann Patchett. It is, of course, lovely and brilliant.

4  Everything I Know About Love by Dolly Alderton (Penguin, $28)

Dolly Alderton’s funny, vivid 2018 memoir about her teen years and twenties, Everything I Know About Love, has become a bit of a bible for young women, further cemented by the BBC One series adaptation. Dolly Alderton has a new novel called Good Material coming out in November, which may have bumped Everything I Know up the reading list. 

5 American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer by Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin (Atlantic, $33)

6  Our Land in Colour: A History of Aotearoa New Zealand 1860 1960 by Brendan Graham and Jock Phillips (HarperCollins, $55)

A lovely big coffee table book, full of 200 newly restored and colourised photographs from earlier life in Aotearoa. The words “stunning” and “breathtaking” have been thrown around by the likes of the NZ Herald and RNZ.

7 Wifedom: Mrs Orwell’s Invisible Life by Anna Funder (Hamish Hamilton, $40)

A new book about Eileen O’Shaughnessy, George Orwell’s first wife. Kirkus gives a wonderful summary:

“In 2017, Funder, author of Stasiland and All That I Am, found herself embarking on a massive Orwell reading project in an effort to excavate herself from the domestic drudgery that seemed to be dominating her life. Coming across a strange passage in Orwell’s private notebook that cites the ‘incorrigible dirtiness & untidiness’ and ‘terrible, devouring sexuality’ of married women, Funder sought more information about Orwell’s first wife, Eileen O’Shaughnessy (1905–1945), an Oxford graduate and working woman. As the author notes, she is a somewhat inscrutable figure in the major male-authored biographies of Orwell.

This book is not a traditional biography but rather a pastiche of Eileen’s letters to her friend Norah Symes, Funder’s invented scenes of the Orwells’ lives, and a first-person account of Funder’s own life as the mother of teenage daughters as the ‘revelations of #MeToo erupt,’ a time of ‘unspeakable truths.’ Eileen is a worthy subject in her own right, but the author ably depicts the balance of power between the Orwells, particularly the way George wrote Eileen out of the narrative.”

8 Lioness by Emily Perkins (Bloomsbury, $37)

One of our absolutely favourite novels of the year. Why? Ask books editor Claire Mabey.

9  Turncoat by Tīhema Baker (Lawrence & Gibson, $35)

We always celebrate when local, debut novels and collections make the bestsellers, but Turncoat has something more that’s rarely seen on the bestsellers list: aliens. 

A sci-fi satire, Spinoff reviewer Shanti Mantias described Turncoat thusly: “…in some ways a straightforward satire about what it’s like for Māori to work within a system that constantly breaches Te Tiriti o Waitangi. The alien captain who has conquered earth several hundred years before Daniel’s birth is called ‘Kookee’. Each week, his team gathers for ‘anthem practice’, to sing ancient songs of Earth nations so they feel connected to humans. The cherry on top: Baker himself has worked as a policy adviser for te Tiriti, just like Daniel works in ‘ChamCov’, the Alien government department for Covenant resolutions.”

Read the full review over this way

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

The bestselling author of Cutting for Stone has finally released a second novel – and by finally, we mean after 14 years.

Keep going!