Whiti Hereaka, dressed as her bird-woman Kurangaituku (Photo: Tabitha Arthur; design: Archi Banal)
Whiti Hereaka, dressed as her bird-woman Kurangaituku (Photo: Tabitha Arthur; design: Archi Banal)

BooksMarch 11, 2022

The Unity Books bestseller chart for the week ending March 11

Whiti Hereaka, dressed as her bird-woman Kurangaituku (Photo: Tabitha Arthur; design: Archi Banal)
Whiti Hereaka, dressed as her bird-woman Kurangaituku (Photo: Tabitha Arthur; design: 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.


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

An excellent start to a list full of local writing stars. Greta & Valdin is one of our two favourites to win the biggest local writing prize of the year, the Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction, for being light and funny and comforting and quirky. Exactly what you need right now, eh? 

2  The Library of Unfinished Business by Patricia Bell (Cloud Ink Press, $35)

The novel debut by Auckland writer Patricia Bell sounds delightfully like The Good Place: “Maurice, a small-town librarian, dies one Monday morning in a fiery car crash, and finds himself in a very unexpected afterlife, in which naked people host cocktail parties and an angelic mafia calls the shots … As Andy comes closer to discovering a long-hidden secret, Maurice and Kit uncover a terrifying heavenly plot, and for the first time ever Maurice must decide: will he stand and fight for something … or risk losing everything?” Thanks, publisher’s blurb – truly a pleasure. 

3  To Paradise by Hanya Yanagihara (Picador, $38)

The newest novel by the author of A Little Life – heartily recommended. Read Sam Brooks’ recent essay for views on a woman writing about gay men, and whether Hanya Yanagihara is kinda a fanfic writer (spoiler: he argues “yes”).

4  Auē by Becky Manawatu (Mākaro Press, $35)

The winner of the 2020 Acorn Prize is back to join the party! How we love Auē. 

5  Kurangaituku by Whiti Hereaka (Huia Publishers, $35)

A brilliant sight! Even better to see Kurangaituku at number two in Welly. Kurangaituku is our top pick for the Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction – books ed Catherine Woulfe explains its wondrousness:

“If the judges are out to recognise innovation, audacity, brilliance, give the Acorn to Whiti Hereaka for this book she spent 10 years building. Kurangaituku is architecturally-designed fiction. Even the placement of the barcode on the covers feels exact and deliberate. It can be read from front or back – well, there is no front or back, rather a dark cover and a light cover (I recommend starting with the light). The two stories cross over towards the middle so you’re reading just the right side of each double-page spread; the text on the left is upside-down, a constant reminder of the way stories refract and distort. 

“Here, that story belongs to Kurangaituku, the bird-woman, the monstrous kōtuku, known for being bested by wily young warrior Hatupatu. She has a different version of the story. Terrible, vulnerable, lusty, a weaver, I adored her and remain in awe of her. Kura knows it, too. In sharing her story she is ‘making her nest in your brain’, she says. ‘I will lurk in the shadows of your mind.’ The designers at Huia have gone for elegant long em dashes and as I read I started to feel they were Kura’s kōtuku feet, stalking alongside me.”

6  Vā: Stories by Women of the Moana edited by Sisilia Eteuati & Lani Young (Tatou Publishing, $40)

Stories by 38 Māori and Pasifika women, and the first, beautiful book from new publisher Tatou Publishing. Sisilia Eteuati wrote for the Spinoff about beginning Tatou Publishing with Lani Young: “We want our Moana stories out there in the world in all their diversity. We stand fully with indigenous writers and storytellers getting their stories out in the world in any and every way. The world needs them.”

7  Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell (Tinder Press, $25)

The 2020 winner of the Women’s Prize for Fiction. The novel is about Shakespeare’s son Hamnet, who died at age 11.

(Congratulations to Catherine Chidgey and Meg Mason, whose novels Remote Sympathy and Sorrow and Bliss have just been named finalists for this year’s Women’s Prize. Woot!)

8  Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear (Random House Business, $40)

Make it your habit to continue this fab local book-buying trend. 

9  Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata (Granta Books, $23)

An old (if you think books the age of a toddler are old) favourite has returned. Like the narrator of her novel, award-winning author Sayaka Murata also works part-time in a supermarket.

10  Shelter by Douglas Lloyd Jenkins (Bateman Books, $35)

Another local debut novel, another publisher’s blurb that will have you scribbling the title on a scrap of paper with ‘To buy at Unity’ written at the top – and underlined twice.

“When 21-year-old builder Joe Wright meets Leo, he falls in love hard, and seemingly for ever. Mature, philosophical and intensely handsome, Leo teaches Joe an appreciation of music and literature, and, most importantly, a passion for the beautiful old buildings that are disappearing from Auckland’s central city. But when Leo suddenly vanishes from his life, then drifts back again years later, Joe – now a powerful developer of heritage architecture – is unable to move on from this first affair. As the years pass, and Leo stays just out of reach, can Joe open his eyes to new possibilities?”


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

2  Kurangaituku by Whiti Hereaka (Huia Publishers, $35)

It’s generally considered illegal for us to write two comments for the same book. But look at this! The glorious resurrection of Kura. She slipped off the list for a while but has clawed her way back and is now (nearly) on top.

3  To Paradise by Hanya Yanagihara (Picador, $38)

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

Rounding off the week of local superstars with the non-fiction all time favourite. 

5  Atlas of the Heart: Mapping Meaningful Connection and the Language of Human Experience by Brene Brown (Vermilion, $45)

Please enjoy this quote from a recent New Yorker profile of Brown, headlined “Brene Brown’s Empire of Emotion“:

“Brown took a stab at describing her emotions. ‘If I had an instrument right now, I would ask for a tuba,’ she said. ‘I would crawl inside of it and hide, and then I’d ask someone to push the tuba down the hill in our back yard and roll it into the lake.’ She paused. ‘I don’t even know where that came from.'”

6  The Promise by Damon Galgut (Chatto & Windus, $37)

The most recent Booker Prize winner.

7  Stolen Focus: Why You Can’t Pay Attention by Johann Hari (Bloomsbury, $35)

We don’t want to be presumptuous, but it could be something to do with the global pandemic … But who knows? Read the book to find out.

8  Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds and Shape Our Futures by Merlin Sheldrake (Vintage, $24)

Deep dive into the world of fungi with the most recent winner of the Royal Society Science Book Prize (it’s a big deal, and a great read).

9  Give Unto Others by Donna Leon (Hutchison, $35)

The newest Commissario Brunetti mystery novel. 

10  Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland by Patrick Radden Keefe (HarperCollins, $28)

A 2019 non-fiction bestseller about the unsolved abduction of Jean McConville and the Troubles. Stellar combination: Gillian Flynn calls it “a must read”, plus it was Amazon’s Best History Book of 2019. 

The Spinoff Review of Books is proudly brought to you by Unity Books, recently named 2020 International Book Store of the Year, London Book Fair, and Creative New Zealand. Visit Unity Books Wellington or Unity Books Auckland online stores today. 

Mad Chapman, Editor
Aotearoa continues to adapt to a new reality and The Spinoff is right there, sorting fact from fiction to bring you the latest updates and biggest stories. Help us continue this coverage, and so much more, by supporting The Spinoff Members.Madeleine Chapman, EditorJoin Members

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