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Image: Tina Tiller
Image: Tina Tiller

BooksJune 9, 2023

The Unity Books bestseller chart for the week ending June 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.


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

This review makes a compelling case for Rubin’s 400-page self-help tome being a bit of a godsend for artists riddled with self-generated roadblocks. Here’s a sample: “He makes the case for utter randomness. In one passage, he suggests opening a book to an arbitrary page. Recalling a time when his doctor told him he should have his appendix removed, he picked up a book by Dr. Andrew Weli, opened it to a random page that said, “if a doctor wants to remove a part of your body, and they tell you it has no function, don’t believe this.” He opted against the surgery. While I probably wouldn’t take his medical advice, he’s really just trying to convince you to be open and let the universe guide you when you’re unsure.”

2 Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin (Chatto & Windus, $37)

This novel is Zevin’s tenth. Her first book is called Margarettown and was published in 2005 and was described by Kirkus reviews as “A droll piece of romantic whimsy, with an unexpected resonance.”

3 There’s a Cure for This: A Memoir by Emma Espiner (Penguin Press, $35)

From Chloe Fergusson-Tibble’s review, published here: ”Reading There’s a cure for this I’m reminded of essays by New Zealand author Lana Lopesi, author of Bloody Woman, a book about indigenous female wisdom. And as Emma dissects the whakapapa of medicine, I’m transported to Zadie Smith’s essays, which I find deeply intellectual, obscuring and darkly funny. Mostly, though, I’m reminded that there is a place for me in medicine and that everything is going to be OK.”

4 Cleopatra and Frankenstein by Coco Mellors (Fourth Estate, $25)

The dreamy Parisian bookshop, Shakespeare & Co, has published a podcast interview with Mellors. Featuring English accents and jaunty stings.

5 Monsters: A Fan’s Dilemma by Claire Dederer (Sceptre, $38)

Have you heard about Hannah Gadsby’s Pablomatic exhibition in which the Australian comedian takes on the problem that is Picasso the man behind Picasso the artist? It sure has been a polarising experiment so far (See this review  and this one). Anyway, it’s this kind of thing that is at the crux of this new, and fascinating, book.

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

Yay, she’s back! If you haven’t read this beautiful, slim gem of a book then we don’t know what you’re waiting for.

7 The Axeman’s Carnival by Catherine Chidgey (Te Herenga Waka, $35)

The story about a magpie that lives with humans and enchants a whole corner of the internet (like Marcel the Shell with Shoes On) was the big winner at this year’s Ockham Book Awards. And Chidgey is showing no sign of slowing down, with her latest novel, Pet, out now! We’ll be publishing a review here, soon.

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

This novel has flown on the wings of Oprah’s Book Club and is soaring through bestseller lists over the world. This opening from the Guardian review is sensational: “The physician-writer Abraham Verghese’s riveting, sprawling epic opens with a mother and her 12-year-old daughter crying. It is 1900 in Travancore, south India, today part of Kerala, and in the morning, the frightened girl is to marry a man who is 40 and a widower. She will do as she is told but she cannot imagine the future ahead. Her mother reassures her but soon her voice ebbs, her breathing slows, and then she is asleep, leaving her daughter awake. The body’s need for rest overtakes the mother’s anguish. And we are thus ushered into the next day and the girl’s journey on a boat far from her childhood home.”

Put that on on the TBR pile, please.

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

Credit where due: It’s hard to think of another living novelist who could take a stab at Dickens and rise above the level of catastrophe”, says the New York Times.

10 Outlive: The Science and Art of Longevity by Bill Gifford and Peter Attia (Vermillion, $40)

This book just makes us think of this song and now it’s in your head too.

Pablomatic is Hannah Gadsby’s controversial take on Picasso at the Brooklyn Museum. Relevant to item 5 above.


1 The Burned Letter by Helene Ritchie (Helene Ritchie, $45)

Helene Ritchie was always told that her family’s relatives simply perished. This book is the result of Ritchie’s 50-year investigation into who those relatives were and what happened to them. A fascinating and heart-breaking holocaust mystery, beautifully told.

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

One of the most stunning publications out this year, this beautifully bold book shares shroom knowledge amid stunning photos of weird and wonderful fungi. We’ll be sharing an excerpt this weekend to give you a taste of the magic.

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

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

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

Come for the beautiful writing and stay for the thrilling pace and mad plot. If you need more convincing, read our review here and an interview with Catton here

6 China Tightrope: Navigating New Zealand’s Relationship with a World Superpower by Sam Sachdeva (Allen & Unwin, $37)

“One of the book’s admirable motifs is its ability to go beyond accounts of inner-circle politics, diplomacy and business deals – although these do feature – by the inclusion of more individual stories of navigating the NZ-China relationship. Sachdeva’s broad range of interviewees – academics, activists, ex-diplomats, entrepreneurs, and members of the Chinese diaspora in Aotearoa – appear like talking heads throughout the book. This chorus of voices are a reminder both of the multifaceted societal connections we have with China, and of the reality of China as a significant factor in Aotearoa’s past, present, and future.” Jack Smylie’s review is a detailed rave.

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

8 Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi (Picador, $25)

After taking Auckland by storm in 2020 the coffee book craze has finally reached Wellington.

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

10 Everything Is Beautiful & Everything Hurts by Josie Shapiro (Allen & Unwin NZ, $37)

A stunning debut, this novel is the story of Mickey Bloom: bullied at school, mistreated by the misogyny of elite sports, brilliant runner, infectious character that you’ll love as a friend by the end. Read books editor Claire Mabey’s rave review here.

Keep going!