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Image: Archi Banal
Image: Archi Banal

BooksMarch 10, 2023

The Unity Books bestseller chart for the week ending March 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  Golden Days by Caroline Barron (Affirm Press, $38)

Look who’s sitting up top! The shiny debut novel by Aucklander Caroline Barron, author of acclaimed memoir Ripiro Beach. 

Kete Books writes, “In this novel of a friendship gone wrong, the 1990s’ central Auckland party scene lends a lively backdrop to the intense nine months that draws university students Becky and Zoe together, before all disintegrates in the wake of a tragedy.”

2  Birnam Wood by Eleanor Catton (Te Herenga Waka University Press, $38)

It has been 10 years since Eleanor Catton won the Booker for The Luminaries. At 28 she was the youngest ever winner, and The Luminaries the longest novel to nab the prize. The release of her new eco-thriller novel has prompted reviews from the Guardian, Kirkus Reviews, the Washington Post, the New Yorker, and the Financial Times – and best of all, the Spinoff

But we aren’t narcissists, so this from the Washington Post: “The billionaire and the gardeners would seem to be moral opposites, but Catton writes with a satiric edge that leaves no survivors. In fact, she’s most incisive when it comes to the members of the Birnam Wood co-op. As a narrator, she demonstrates a kind of vicious sympathy, hitching a ride along with their thoughts while poking a stick in their spokes. Mira and her friends are intimately drawn portraits of liberal narcissism and naivete. ‘Like all self-mythologising rebels,’ Catton writes, ‘Mira preferred enemies to rivals, and often turned her rivals into enemies, the better to disdain them as secret agents of the status quo.’ Along with vegetables, these privileged young people find plenty of time to sow their own anxieties and reap a bumper crop of conflicts within their pious group of recyclers and scavengers.”

3  Bunny by Mona Awad (Head of Zeus, $25)

A gothic campus novel and winner in the algorithmic world of #BookTok. 

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

Music producer Rick Rubin has worked with Adele, Tom Petty, Johnny Cash, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Kanye West, The Strokes, and many other gargantuan names. Now he’s written a hefty cloth-bound book about creativity. 

5  Greta & Valdin by Rebecca K Reilly (Te Herenga Waka University Press, $35)

Auckland’s most vibrant, witty, and love-struck fictional siblings. 

6  The Dangers of Smoking in Bed by Mariana Enríquez (Granta, $23)

Another #BookTok winner, from Argentinian author Mariana Enríquez. Psychological horror stories that will curl your toes.  

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

American Psycho shocked the world, and is one of the few novels we’ve seen in a bookshop stamped with an R-rating. After a few humdrum novels, Bret Easton Ellis’s new stylistic autofiction continues that good work. Set in LA during the 1980s and narrated by privileged teenager Bret (as in, the author), it’s a golden age only interrupted by brutal murders in the City of Angels.

From the Guardian: “Indifferent to politics – ‘I didn’t care that Ronald Reagan had been elected president last November’ – enveloped in novels and sex and movies and music (‘the things that made life bearable’), Bret experiences everything aesthetically. As the series of brutal killings across LA move perilously closer to his privileged world, his foreboding is beautified by new wave songs and narcotics. Life is ‘heightened, lightly dangerous, somewhat sexualised… like being in a movie’. Splitting his adolescent psyche into a conflictual triumvirate – ‘the writer’, ‘the actor’ and ‘the tangible participant’ – Bret imagines himself and his friends into a glamoramic fictional hyperreality.”

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

A novel about love, friendship, and video games. 

9  Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid (Arrow, $26)

The breakup of a fictional 1970s rock band has become rather a sensation. Jenkins Reid’s novel is beloved by Rees Witherspoon and Dolly Alderton, it’s yet another BookTok star, and the TV adaptation came out on Amazon Prime Video last week. 

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

“The Climaxing to Consciousness group met every Friday in a hot yoga studio on Canal Street above a store advertising ten-dollar aura readings. Zoe had been persuaded to come by her roommate, Tali, who had hair the color of Windex spray and said things like your pussy is your power. She had agreed solely because the class was free, which meant it was the only thing she could afford to do that night.” You can read more at The Cut

WELLINGTON

1  Birnam Wood by Eleanor Catton (Te Herenga Waka University Press, $38)

2  Colditz: Prisoners of the Castle by Ben Macintyre (Viking, $40)

A new history of Colditz, the notorious Nazi prison. Many compliments have arisen:

“A fine feat of storytelling . . . will surely become the last word on the subject.” – The Telegraph 

“Like watching a black-and-white photograph being colourised.” – The Spectator

“Nuanced and gripping . . . told with sensitivity and insight, with an eye for telling detail.” – The Times

3  Really Good, Actually by Monica Heisey (William Morrow, $33)

Screenwriter Monica Heisey has released her debut novel, a comedic book about divorce. One biting Goodreads reviewer titles their thoughts, “Not Really That Good, Actually.” Hopefully as a comedian, Monica Heisey will at least appreciate the humour. 

4  Imagining Decolonisation by Rebecca Kiddle, Bianca Elkington, Moana Jackson, Ocean Ripeka Mercier, Mike Ross, Jennie Smeaton and Amanda Thomas (Bridget Williams Books, $15)

Hello there, old friend.

5  A Lack of Good Sons by Jake Arthur (Te Herenga Waka University Press, $25)

The debut poetry collection by Jake Arthur. Author Tim Grgec says, “Far-reaching, funny, and often startling, A Lack of Good Sons is an absorbing journey of shifting worlds and perspectives. Jake Arthur announces himself as a masterful new voice, brave and bold enough to question everything that shapes us.”

6  Fear: New Zealand’s Hostile Underworld of Extremists by Byron C Clark (HarperCollins, $40)

A newly released book about alt-right extremism, misinformation, political violence, and conspiracy theory in New Zealand. Read an excerpt here, and another here.

7  How to Loiter in a Turf War by Coco Solid (Penguin, $28)

We were slightly heart-bruised that Loiter didn’t make it onto the Ockham shortlist, but our hope is that Coco Solid still wins best debut novel. 

8  Rat King Landlord (Renters United! Edition) by Murdoch Stephens (Lawrence & Gibson, $2)

A reissue of Murdoch Stephens’ 2020 novel about Wellington flatmates who discover that a rat has become their landlord. Rat King Landlord is now full-colour illustrated, tabloid newspaper-formatted – and entirely free for renters to procure or $2 for you to pick up at a bookshop. We recently interviewed Murdoch about the reissue, here.

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

Chidgey and her talking magpie Tama have just been shortlisted for the Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction, alongside three other novels not included on the list today: Better the Blood by Michael Bennett, Kāwai by Monty Soutar, and Mrs Jewell and the Wreck of the General Grant by Cristina Sanders. Big congratulations all around. In our Ockham finalists round up, Books Editor Claire Mabey calls the selection “a fine pack of four accomplished, complex novels and a refreshing illumination of historical fiction, crime and rural stories.” 

Our bet is still on Chidgey for the win.

10  Privilege in Perpetuity: Exploding a Pākehā Myth by Peter Meihana (Bridget Williams Books, $18)

“The idea of Māori privilege continues to be deployed in order to constrain Māori aspirations and maintain the power imbalance that colonisation achieved in the nineteenth century.”

Keep going!