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Image: Archi Banal
Image: Archi Banal

BooksFebruary 10, 2023

The Unity Books bestseller chart for the week ending February 10

Image: Archi Banal
Image: 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  Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan (Grove Press, $25)

Small and perfect, this 1985 small-town Irish novella. A lovely snippet to bruise your heart: “It would be the easiest thing in the world to lose everything, Furlong knew. Although he did not venture far, he got around – and many an unfortunate he’d seen around town and out the country roads. … And farther out the country, he’d known cows to be left bawling to be milked because the man who had their care had upped, suddenly, and taken the boat to England. Once, a man from St Mullins got a lift into town to pay his bill, saying they’d had to sell the Jeep as they couldn’t get a wink of sleep knowing what was owing, that their bank was coming down on them. And early one morning, Furlong had seen a young schoolboy drinking the milk out of the cat’s bowl behind the priest’s house.” 

2  Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi (Picador, $23)

It’s just unstoppable, isn’t it?

3  Cleopatra and Frankenstein by Coco Mellors (Bloomsbury, $31)

Solid title, slightly shaky reviews. The publisher is aiming Cleopatra and Frankenstein at Sally Rooney fans, and Coco Mellors already has a series deal with Warner Bros.

The Guardian gives a summary. “New York City at the start of the 21st-century – pre-financial crisis, pre-Trump, pre-Covid – is captured with near-devotional lushness in this nostalgic debut. It’s an urban playground that struggling painter Cleo, 24 years old and stylishly British, is on the brink of being exiled from, her student visa due to expire in mere months, when she meets Frank, a fortysomething ad agency owner with a nice line in elevator chitchat. They wed on a whim to calamitous effect on both sides. In terms of depth, this novel is more Jay McInerney than Hanya Yanagihara, but Mellors proves herself a poetic chronicler of inky gloom as well as twinkly surfaces.”

4  Circe by Madeline Miller (Bloomsbury, $22)

A lyric novel about the banished Greek goddess Circe. Will begins his 5-star Goodreads review with this: “Men, can’t live with ‘em, can’t turn ‘em all into swine.” We’ll just leave that there to entice you.

5  The Creative Act: A Way of Being by Rick Rubin (Penguin Press, $50)

The new book on creativity by hit music producer Rick Rubin. The Guardian has a few wry comments that made us chuckle…

“Anyone with a passing familiarity with Buddhism, management theory or the self-help shelf will also find plenty that feels familiar in Rubin’s modus operandi. That’s not to say that Rubin is unoriginal or indeed wrong, only that occasionally, these 400-odd pages can read a little like ‘the 73 unexpected practices of successful creatives’. The tone is gnomic and epigrammatic, and Rubin’s elevation of artistic endeavour to the highest status of human achievement reverberates with a solemn quasi-religiosity – one befitting a hardback with a fabric bookmark – that is hard to square with his ballsy production work on Jay-Z’s epic banger 99 Problems.”

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

Auckland continues to wise up on its own fascinating history.

7  Young Mungo By Douglas Stuart (Picador, $38)

The second novel by Douglas Stuart, following his Booker Prizewinning Shuggie Bain.

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

The first novel in a sci-fi trilogy set in Communist China. The Three-Body Problem was translated into English in 2014 and immediately became the first Asian novel to win a Hugo Award for Best Novel. Nearly a decade later, it’s still a fan favourite. 

9  Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus (Doubleday, $37)

“Back in 1961, when women wore shirtwaist dresses and joined garden clubs and drove legions of children around in seatbelt-less cars without giving it a second thought; back before anyone knew there’d even be a sixties movement, much less one that its participants would spend the next sixty years chronicling; back when the big wars were over and the secret wars had just begun and people were starting to think fresh and believe everything was possible, the thirty-year-old mother of Madeline Zott rose before dawn every morning and felt certain of just one thing: her life was over. 

Despite that certainty, she made her way to the lab to pack her daughter’s lunch.”

10  The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida by Shehan Karunatilaka (Sort of Books, $37)

The most recent winner of the Booker Prize – Sri Lankan civil war, ghost protagonist, satire, a bureaucratic afterlife. Everything you want in a Booker winner, really.

WELLINGTON

1  Wawata – Moon Dreaming: Daily Wisdom Guided by Hina, the Māori Moon by Hinemoa Elder (Penguin, $30)

Wisdom from the Māori moon, from the author of bestselling Aroha. Jessica Hinerangi Thompson-Carr wrote us an enthralled review, which you can read right over this way.

2  Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin (Penguin Random House, $37)

A novel about love and video games. Sam Brooks wrote a toe-curlingly scathing review last year – a taster, to curl your toes: “When I got to the end of Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, I felt like I’d gotten to the end of a bad game. A game that had promise, but in which a litany of glitches, design flaws and awkward mechanics distracted me from anything that might’ve been good about it. We can forgive a glitchy game if the soul is there. If it’s not there, all you’ve got is a bad game. Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow is a failure on pretty much every level, but if it had a little bit more soul (and frankly, a lot more craft), it’d be fine.”

In saying this, Brooks also deeply hated Ready Player One, which we happily devoured back in the days of 2012. Perhaps not being a gamer actually helps?

3  Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus (Doubleday, $37)

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

5  It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover (Simon & Schuster, $23)

Sequel to It Starts With Us, and winner of the Dumb and Dumberer Award for best sequel title.

6  The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida by Shehan Karunatilaka (Sort of Books, $37)

7  Straight Up by Ruby Tui (Allen & Unwin, $37)

Whatever way you look at it – straight, sideways, backwards, upside down – Ruby Tui is the memoir queen of the moment. A great read even for those who aren’t usually rugby fans. 

8  Better the Blood by Michael Bennett (Simon & Schuster, $35)

This local novel has been longlisted for the Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction – quite the rarity to see a crime novel making the cut! Books editor Claire Mabey exclaimed in surprised delight, “a crime novel! Great going by Michael Bennett with Better the Blood, an exploration of the crimes of colonisation via the character of cop Hana Westerman who investigates a serial killer bent on revenge for the historic murder of a rangatira.”

9  Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi (Picador, $23)

10  The Shards by Bret Easton Ellis (Knopf, $37)

A new serial killer thriller from the author of American Psycho. The narrator is a paranoid, obsessive and creative 17-year-old boy – also called Bret. A smattering of positive reviews from all the big publications:

“It’s been a dozen years since Bret Easton Ellis published a novel. And his latest, The Shards . . . is worth the wait. Hermetic, paranoid, sleek, dark—and with brief explosions of the sex and violence that have characterised Ellis’ oeuvre—The Shards is a stark reminder that the American Psycho author is a genre unto himself.” —NPR

“Cleverly done . . . eerie . . . The Shards establishes a tricky two-step of sincerity and unreliability.” — The Wall Street Journal

“A thrilling page turner from Ellis, who revisits the world that made him a literary star with a stylish scary new story that doesn’t disappoint.” –Town & Country

Keep going!