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Image: Tina Tiller
Image: Tina Tiller

BooksDecember 8, 2023

The Unity Books bestseller chart for the week ending December 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.


1 The Bee Sting by Paul Murray (Hamish Hamilton, $37)

The runner-up for the 2023 Booker Prize is number one this week. We definitely recommend slinging this high on your pile of beach reads.

2 Prophet Song by Paul Lynch (Bloomsbury, $37)

Put this Paul on your pile too. This year’s Booker Prize winner is an incredibly timely dystopia – here’s a snippet from this Guardian review: “Prophet Song echoes the violence in Palestine, Ukraine and Syria, and the experience of all those who flee from war-torn countries. This is a story of bloodshed and heartache that strikes at the core of the inhumanity of western politicians’ responses to the refugee crisis.”

Yep, timely.

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

To complete the trio of Irish writers is the extraordinary Claire Keegan. This slim novel is the perfect Christmas book: short, intense, beautifully human.

4 Good Material by Dolly Alderton (Fig Tree, $37)

From the bestselling author of the memoir Everything I Know About Love comes a novel about a break up. So far, reviews are generally pleased: “There’s much to enjoy here, not least Alderton’s willingness to allow in some narrative ambivalence: while Andy’s sorrow is humanely sketched, it also often leans towards self-indulgence. She’s got a good ear for dialogue – the banter between Andy and his mates is quick, crisp, familiar; full of convincing in-jokes about receding hairlines and geeky analyses of the Killers’ Mr Brightside. Alderton has a solid line in cameos, too: Emery, Andy’s markedly more successful standup friend, brings a wonderfully farcical energy to proceedings. Morris, Andy’s wilfully eccentric landlord, deserves a sitcom all of his own.” (The Guardian)

5 Water by John Boyne (Doubleday, $35)

Boyne (the fourth Irish writer on this list so far) really churns them out doesn’t he? This latest one sounds intriguing. Haunting, if you will. Here’s the publisher’s blurb:

“The first thing Vanessa Carvin does when she arrives on the island is change her name. To the locals, she is Willow Hale, a solitary outsider escaping Dublin to live a hermetic existence in a small cottage, not a notorious woman on the run from her past.

But scandals follow like hunting dogs. And she has some questions of her own to answer. If her ex-husband is really the monster everyone says he is, then how complicit was she in his crimes?

Escaping her old life might seem like a good idea but the choices she has made throughout her marriage have consequences. Here, on the island, Vanessa must reflect on what she did – and did not do. Only then can she discover whether she is worthy of finding peace at all.”

6 The Year of the Locust by Terry Hayes (Bantam, $38)

This is the long-awaited (10 years!) follow up to the phenomenon that was I Am Pilgrim, and it sounds just as ludicrous and thrilling and perfect for total escape come a couple of weeks time when we might actually get some time to sit down and read a 650-page novel.

7 Question 7 by Richard Flanagan (Knopf, $40)

This is the acclaimed Australian writer’s twelfth book and is one of those curious works of auto-fiction (where an author draws on their own life to weave a story that might also use elements of fiction). Reviews are glowing, including this one on The Conversation. Here’s the opening: “The most astonishing and accomplished sequence in Richard Flanagan’s Question 7 arrives near the book’s end, as he describes the near-death experience that inspired his first novel, Death of a River Guide, published in 1994.

It reads as if Flanagan has spent the book winding up, gathering the strength to find an angle of entry into that formative trauma. With propulsive confidence, he details the hours spent trapped under a kayak, being battered and pressed by the Franklin River’s tumultuous waters, brushing up against death, perhaps briefly succumbing, before being rescued and returned, transformed, to the world of the living.”

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

What would tomorrow mean without tomorrow, and tomorrow?

9 So Late in the Day by Claire Keegan (Faber & Faber, $30)

More Claire Keegan (and the fifth Irish book on this list). Breathtaking and essential. If there’s anyone you know in your life who hasn’t yet experienced Keegan’s work then may we suggest a wee Keegan bundle under the tree?

10 Lola in the Mirror by Trent Dalton (Harper Collins, $37)

The latest from widely liked Aussie author of Boy Swallows Universe.


1  The Bee Sting by Paul Murray (Hamish Hamilton, $37)

2 The Year of the Locust by Terry Hayes (Bantam, $38)

3 Prophet Song by Paul Lynch (Bloomsbury, $37)

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

The winner of many a prize this 2023, Kingsolver’s re-telling of David Copperfield is masterful. Another highly recommended title for your Summer pile.

5 The Crewe Murders: A 50-year History by Kirsty Johnston & James Hollings (Massey University Press, $45)

An absolutely fascinating deep-dive into one of Aotearoa’s most compelling cold cases. If you’re into true crime then this is a must-read and a sure-fire great gift come 25 December.

6 Unruly: A History of England’s Kings & Queens by David Mitchell (Michael Joseph, $42)

A rollicking poke around the ludicrous past by funny guy and excellent writer David Mitchell (the Peep Show one, not the Bone Clocks one).

7 Memoir of My Former Self: A Life in Writing by Hilary Mantel (John Murray, $40)

Readers the world wide lost Mantel far too early at the end of last year. This book comes out a year after her death and isn’t actually a memoir but a collection of her journalism between 1987 and 2017. It is typically brilliant, funny and illuminates Mantel’s preoccupations: the lives of women, the lives of writers, the live project of history.

8 Lioness by Emily Perkins (Bloomsbury, $37)

One of our books of the year, Lioness is a riveting investigation of privileged lives and what happens when the foundations of comfort are prodded at, and danced loose.

9 The Observologist: A Handbook for Mounting Very Small Scientific Expeditions by Giselle Clarkson (Gecko Press, $40)

Another of our books of the year comes at the perfect time for school holidays. Clarkson’s gorgeous guide will have you and the family (both young and old) crouching, peeking, and really looking at the life and industry of our smallest domestic and backyard critters.

10  The Hundred Years’ War on Palestine: A History of Settler Colonialism and Resistance, 1917–2017 by Rashid Khalidi (Profile Books, $35)

An essential text for understanding the horror unfolding in Gaza right now. Here is an excerpt from this Guardian review: “Khalidi sets out his stall early on: the Palestine-Israel war was never one between two national movements contesting equally over the same land but was always a “settler colonial conquest” by Europe-based Zionists whose founding father, Theodor Herzl, laid bare the project to Khalidi’s great-great-great uncle in 1899: Palestine’s indigenous population did not matter and would anyway benefit from the modernising effects of Jewish “pioneers”, such as America with its westward Manifest Destiny. For Khalidi, Jewish settlers, aided by Britain from 1917, and by the US later on, colonised Palestine, creating and securing Israel through six “wars”: the Balfour declaration of 1917; the 1947 UN partition plan; the 1967 UN security council resolution 242; the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon; the 1993 Oslo peace accords; and Israeli leader Ariel Sharon’s Temple Mount visit in 2000.”

Keep going!