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(Image: Archi Banal)
(Image: Archi Banal)

BooksNovember 10, 2023

The Unity Books bestseller chart for the week ending November 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 (Faber & Faber, $25)

Usually, books at number one are hot off the press. Yet this small, wondrous novel, published two years ago, is still sitting up top. We aren’t surprised – this from last year’s Spinoff Christmas book list. 

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

Shortlisted for this year’s Booker Prize (the winner of which is announced on the 26th of November), and one of our absolute favourite reads of the year. 

But don’t just take our word for it – the Washington Post writes: “anyone who starts The Bee Sting will be immediately absorbed by this extraordinary story about the derailing of a once-prosperous family. Although Murray is a fantastically witty writer, his empathy with these characters is so deep that he can convey the comedy of their foibles without the condescending bitterness of satire. His command of their lives is so detailed that he can strip away every pretense and lie without spoiling a surprise. And, most impressive, while sinking into the peculiar flaws of this one uniquely troubled family, Murray captures the anxiety many of us feel living on the edge of economic ruin in these latter days of the Anthropocene Epoch.”

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

A gothic campus novel about a group of mean girls.

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

The book on creativity from American record producer Rick Rubin. 

5 The Wager by David Grann (Simon & Schuster, $40)

In 2016, David Grann found an eyewitness account of the voyage British naval warship the Wager took which it was shipwrecked in 1741. He spent more than five years researching the events, which ended in mutiny, cannibalism, and wild tales at a court-martial hearing. He also wrote a thrilling book about it. 

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

A huge success for indie publishing collective Lawrence & Gibson, this local sci-fi satire that takes on colonisation via aliens, was firmly stamped with “ingenious and hilarious” in a recent Spinoff review. 

7 The Psychology of Money: Timeless Lessons on Wealth, Greed, and Happiness by Morgan Housel (Pan Macmillan, $45)

Finance advice that’s told through stories and psychology, rather than spreadsheets. From the publisher’s blurb: “Money—investing, personal finance, and business decisions—is typically taught as a math-based field, where data and formulas tell us exactly what to do. But in the real world people don’t make financial decisions on a spreadsheet. They make them at the dinner table, or in a meeting room, where personal history, your own unique view of the world, ego, pride, marketing, and odd incentives are scrambled together.

“In The Psychology of Money, award-winning author Morgan Housel shares 19 short stories exploring the strange ways people think about money and teaches you how to make better sense of one of life’s most important topics.”

8 Iron Flame by Rebecca Yarros (Sphere, $38)

The second novel in the dragon riding Empyrean series.

9 Haruki Murakami Manga Stories 1 by Haruki Murakami (Tuttle, $40)

The perfect treat for any Murakami fan – the first of three hardback graphic novels which transform the writer’s nine best short stories into manga. This first edition includes stories Super-Frog Saves Tokyo, Where I’m Likely to Find It, Birthday Girl, and the Seventh Man.

10 Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin (Vintage, $26)

It’s tomorrow once more.

WELLINGTON

1 Murray Ball: A Cartoonist’s Life by Mason Ball (HarperCollins, $45)

The new biography of cartoonist Murray Ball, creator of the iconic Footrot Flats. Written as a tribute by his son, Mason Ball, who told RNZ that he wanted to capture who his father was beyond the classic characters of farmer Wal and the Dog. 

2 Folly Journal 001 edited by Emily Broadmore (Folly Journal, $30)

Congratulations to new local publishing venture for launching their first ever journal. We’re looking forward to seeing if the journal is as provocative as the launch party invitation which (hilariously) peeved the literary community at large (our report, here).

3 Eden Vegan by Tess Eden (Penguin, $50)

A plant-based cookbook by Wellington-based influencer Tess Eden.

4 Iron Flame by Rebecca Yarros (Sphere, $38)

5 Other Stations Are Shit: Student Radio in Aotearoa New Zealand by Matt Mollgaard & Karen Neill (Freerange Press, $40)

A new book about the history and influence of student radio in Aotearoa. In a post on their website a year ago called “Who are we and what’s going on?”, the authors explain their book thusly: “In its over 50-year history student radio in Aotearoa has evolved into a key source of music, culture, information, and expression for young audiences across the country. It has survived unfriendly governments, earthquakes, funding cuts, student politics, budget blowouts and fierce competition to become one of the oldest and most influential media media platforms in Aotearoa. Many well-known media names got their start in student radio (Jeremy Wells, John Campbell, Tova O’Brien, Samantha Hayes and Marcus Lush for example) and many other high-profile people also did stints on air and behind the scenes (Chlöe Swarbrick, Shayne Carter, Steven Joyce, Otis Frizzell and Michael Laws to name a few).

“Student radio has also had a critical impact on New Zealand music of the past 50 years, and this cultural work will be a focus of the book, as well as the sector’s impact on political culture, social movements, and youth lifestyles in Aotearoa.”

6 Pacific Arts Aotearoa edited by Lana Lopesi (Penguin, $65)

A beautiful new book, spanning six decades of multi-disciplinary work from over 120 Pacific artists. You can read an excerpt from the book, by the brilliant poet Tusiata Avia, right here.

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

8 Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus (Doubleday, $26)

The novel everyone’s been reading – and now also watching, as a miniseries on Apple TV.

9 Emperor of Rome by Mary Beard (Profile Books, $75)

From the author of the bestselling SPQR, a new book about the emperors of Rome, their purpose in Ancient Roman society, and succession. From the New York Times: “[Mary Beard] does this now and again in the book, pausing to note that what we presume to know about Rome’s emperors often owes an awful lot to embellishment and propaganda designed to destroy (or burnish) reputations. The ‘good’ emperors are invariably wise, kind, prudent and generous, while the ‘bad’ ones are dim, disgusting, decadent and miserly. Did Caligula really want to appoint his horse to the senate? Did Elagabalus really arrange to smother his dinner guests to death by dropping rose petals from the ceiling? Beard encourages us to be skeptical of all the ‘preposterous anecdotes,’ even as she maintains that such demonizing can tell us something about how power works.”

“Besides, outlandish tales are undeniably memorable ones, and Beard, a consummate storyteller, finds ‘ancient gossip’ understandably hard to resist. Such stories also free her up to pursue her subject thematically instead of chronologically, pointing not just to differences among the emperors but also similarities. The question of succession was central, and because the Roman Empire wasn’t a strictly hereditary system — an emperor could adopt the man he wanted as his successor — this ‘flexibility’ also meant a ‘potential fight every time power changed hands,’ Beard writes. ‘The Roman Empire was a murderous world’ in which killing was a method of problem-solving.”

10 Lola in the Mirror by Trent Dalton (HarperCollins, $37)

The new novel from the Australian author of Boy Swallows Universe. Sharon Stephenson at Woman magazine thinks the bestselling author has done it again: “Trent holds a giant middle finger up to a world where so many fall between the cracks but no-one seems to care. Maybe after reading it, we will.

“Lock the doors, clear your weekend and get stuck in for a wild and beautiful ride.”

Keep going!