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View from above of a senior woman reading in her courtyard, phone and coffee on a little table beside her. Lockdown vibe.
Week four of lockdown vibes (Photo: Justin Paget / DigitalVision via Getty)

BooksSeptember 10, 2021

The Unity Books bestseller chart for the week ending September 10

View from above of a senior woman reading in her courtyard, phone and coffee on a little table beside her. Lockdown vibe.
Week four of lockdown vibes (Photo: Justin Paget / DigitalVision via Getty)

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.

Amendment to the above: Auckland’s sitting this week out, due to them having sold no books. Sodding level sodding four! But the Wellington store is right back into the level three/two swing of things, where books are not only essential, but accessible.

Also, no Sally Rooney! Pre-orders for her third novel are going hard but those are not counted here, and in wildly upsetting news the stock is stuck somewhere due to level four. Beautiful World, Where Are You, indeed.

Unity will have it on shelves – and in these charts – as soon as possibly possible.


1  Labour Saving: A Memoir by Michael Cullen (Allen & Unwin, $50)

One of Labour’s most influential politicians, Cullen wrote his memoir after being diagnosed with lung cancer. He passed away last month, right as the country went into lockdown. 

On Instagram, the prime minister called him “fiercely intelligent and hugely funny. But he was also incredibly kind.”

Number one well deserved. 

2  Māori Made Easy: For Everyday Learners of the Māori Language by Scotty Morrison (Raupo, $38)

A totally real conversation that we definitely overheard just the other day:

“I really want to learn te reo. What should I do?”

“Duh. Get a copy of Māori Made Easy by Scotty Morrison.”

3  Small Bodies of Water by Nina Mingya Powles (Canongate, $40)

A brand new essay collection by Aotearoa’s Nina Mingya Powles that combines nature writing and memoir. The lyrical essays explore belonging, migration, family, food and earthquakes – and, of course, the personal significance of bodies of water.  

Our review is forthcoming, soon. 

4  The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (Bloomsbury, $25)

Escapism at its most escapey – romance, Ancient Greece, and the story of a legend. Perfect lockdown fodder, in other words. 

5  After the Tampa: From Afghanistan to New Zealand by Abbas Nazari (Allen & Unwin, $37)

An inspiring new memoir. Fulbright scholar Abbas Nazari began life under Taliban rule, before his family fled Afghanistan with 400 other asylum seekers on a small fishing boat that then began to sink. Saved by cargo ship the Tampa, Nazari’s family ended up in New Zealand, while many of the refugees became the inaugural inmates at Australia’s detention centre, Nauru. 

We published an excerpt about a terrible storm during which Nazari and his family thought they were going to die. The trials didn’t end there.

“We should have been thrilled at the thought of finally getting off the Tampa, but we were not. This was the devil we knew. Questions swirled throughout the square; no one trusted the Australian government by this point. We suspected their every move. What if they were taking us to prison? What if they were sending us back?”

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

Nothing can stop Imagining Decolonisation! Not lockdown and not Covid-19. 

That is not to imply that Unity was illicitly smuggling copies of Imagining Decolonisation to desperate customers during level four. 

Perhaps it’s best to say that Imagining Decolonisation cannot be stopped … but sales can be briefly paused by a public health crisis. 

7  Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason (HarperCollins, $35)

The funny, dark novel by an expat Kiwi that has been compared to Fleabag, Sally Rooney and Joan Didion. We reviewed it, ravingly; broke the news of her film deal; and Mason wrote for us about her homesickness, here

8  Still Life by Sarah Winman (4th Estate, $35)

The Times gives a neat summary: “Sarah Winman’s epic fourth novel starts small, on a terrace in Tuscany in 1944. Evelyn Skinner, an art historian in her sixties, a lesbian and possibly a spy, is recounting the time she met EM Forster (‘him with a view’) at a pensione in Florence. Bombs are falling nearby as Allied troops advance through Europe, and by the end of the day Evelyn will be sitting in a ruined wine cellar falling in love with a young Cockney soldier, Ulysses Temper.

“Not the sort of love you usually get in novels about Italy in the war, though: theirs is the spiritual, humanistic, no-sex kind that can exist between old gay ladies and young men. It’s a chance meeting that will shape them forever.”

9  Aroha: Māori Wisdom for a Contented Life Lived in Harmony with our Planet by Hinemoa Elder (Penguin Random House, $30)

Apparently weeks of mandated isolation haven’t taught us to live like wise old monks, so Aroha is still very much in demand. 

10  The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich (Little, Brown, $25)

This year’s Pulitzer Prize winner, set in rural North Dakota during a period of Native American dispossession.

Keep going!