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(Image: Tina Tiller)
(Image: Tina Tiller)

BooksFebruary 9, 2024

The Unity Books bestseller chart for the week ending February 9

(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.

AUCKLAND

1 Entangled Life by Merlin Sheldrake (Jonathan Cape, $26)

We can’t get enough of these shrooms! (see also Liv Sisson’s Fungi on the Ockham’s longlist). This book could be credited with kicking off our mushy obsession by explaining how beguiling the life of Fungi really is. Sheldrake has one a billion awards for this magical book and the new illustrated edition is extra lush.

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

One of the top fiction titles of 2023 is still going strong. If you’re still on the fence, how’s this opening from The Guardian review: “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.”

3 House of Flame and Shadow by Sarah J Maas (Bloomsbury, $39)

Maas attacks! Copy the above title into Google – marketing magic! That has never happened when I’ve googled a book before and I want to know how much money you have to pay Google to get them to do that.

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

The Spinoff’s Sam Brooks gave this book a hoon and came out … well, read for yourself, here.

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

The must-read book of the moment (and the book that many think could also have won the Booker).

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

Immense story in a slight package. Just astonishing. 

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

The Booker winner!

8 The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu (Head of Zeus, $25) 

First published in 2016, this sci-fi phenomenon is enjoying renewed attention thanks to the story being Netflix-ed. Here’s the compelling blurb: “1967: Ye Wenjie witnesses Red Guards beat her father to death during China’s Cultural Revolution. This singular event will shape not only the rest of her life but also the future of mankind.

Four decades later, Beijing police ask nanotech engineer Wang Miao to infiltrate a secretive cabal of scientists after a spate of inexplicable suicides. Wang’s investigation will lead him to a mysterious online game and immerse him in a virtual world ruled by the intractable and unpredictable interaction of its three suns.

This is the Three-Body Problem and it is the key to everything: the key to the scientists’ deaths, the key to a conspiracy that spans light-years and the key to the extinction-level threat humanity now faces.”

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

Little tiny changes. Lots of books sold.

10 Days at the Morisaki Bookshop by Satoshi Yagisawa (Bonnier Publishing, $32)

The ultimate comfort read for a bibliophile.

WELLINGTON

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

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

3 Bird Child & Other Stories by Patricia Grace (Penguin, $37)

A new Patricia Grace is big news and this new collection of short stories comes nearly 20 years after the first, Waiariki. Here’s the publisher’s blurb: “The titular story ‘Bird Child’ plunges you deep into Te Kore, an ancient time before time. In another, the formidable goddess Mahuika, Keeper of Fire, becomes a doting mother and friend. Later, Grace’s own childhood vividly shapes the world of the young character Mereana; and a widower’s hilariously human struggle to parent his seven daughters is told with trademark wit and crackling dialogue. Moving artfully across decades, landscapes, time and space, with tenderness and charm, Bird Child and Other Stories shows an author as adept and stimulating as ever.”

4 Lioness by Emily Perkins (Bloomsbury, $37)

Absolutely correct that Lioness is on the longlist for this year’s Ockham’s and would be right at home on the shortlist, too. Read books editor Claire Mabey’s review of Perkins’ tightrope critique of privileged boomer behaviour, here

5 Strong Female Character by Fern Brady (Octopus, $28)

Comedian Fern Brady has scooped a swath of awards for this memoir, which sounds both hilarious and heartbreaking. Here’s the blurb: “After reading about autism in her teens, Fern Brady knew instinctively that she had it – autism explained her sensory issues, her meltdowns, her inability to pick up on social cues – and she told her doctor as much. But it took until she was 34 for her to get diagnosed.

Strong Female Character is about the years in between, and the unique combination of sexism and ableism that so often prevents autistic women from getting diagnosed until adulthood. Coming from a working-class Scottish Catholic family, Fern wasn’t exactly poised to receive an open-minded acceptance of her neurodivergence. With the piercing clarity and wit that has put her at the top of the British comedy scene, she now reflects on the ways her undiagnosed autism influenced her youth, from the tree that functioned as her childhood best friend to the psychiatric facility where she ended up when neither her parents nor school knew what to do with her.”

6 The Hundred Years War on Palestine: A History of Settler Colonialism & Resistance, 1917—2017 by Rashid Khalidi (Profile Books, $35)

Free Palestine.

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

From our Ockham’s report: “Turncoat was the indie smash hit of 2023 with publisher Lawrence & Gibson scrambling to hoon more copies out to readers. The intellectual exercise of this intergalactic, sci-fi satire that skewers the hypocrisy of the public service, and its failures to uphold Te Tiriti o Waitangi, could not be more timely. Read our review here.”

8 Not the End of the World: How We Can Be the First Generation to Build a Sustainable Planet by Hannah Ritchie (Chatto & Windus, $40)

“Feeling anxious, powerless, or confused about the future of our planet?” (Yes.) “This book will transform how you see our biggest environmental problems — and how we can solve them.” (Sign me up. Also send copies to the Beehive.)

9 The Financial Colonisation of Aotearoa by Catherine Comyn (Economic & Social Research Aotearoa, $30)

Comyn’s book is also on the Ockham’s longlist showing again that we’re hungry for well-researched, insightful information to feed our ongoing project of learning/unlearning the history of Aotearoa. 

10 How Big Things Get Done: The Surprising Factors Behind Every Successful Project, from Home Renovations to Space Exploration by Bent Flyvbjerg with Dan Gardner (Macmillan, $40)

Clearly a lot of projects going on in Wellington. Good Readers are raving though, like Kevin: “Whoa. That was incredible. Easy to understand, backed by data. Oh the data, how I loved it!! This was a book telling stories backed by data (this database of large projects he’s created is just awesome), instead of so many other books in this topic that tell a story and try to somehow make the data fit the story. It was refreshing and immediately beneficial to me.”

Keep going!