Black Lives Matter March For Solidarity in Auckland on June 1, 2020 (Photo: Jihee Junn)

The Unity Books bestseller list for the week ending June 12

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  Auē by Becky Manawatu (Mākaro Press, $35)

Winner of the 2020 Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction. You can watch Manawatu, who is a total legend, in this video produced for the Auckland Writers Festival. (Other episodes also feature legends eg Amy McDaid, Olivia Hayfield, Bernardine Evaristo, Lisa Taddeo.)

2  Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo (Penguin Classics, $24)

Winner of the 2019 Booker Prize. The other day Evaristo tweeted: “I’ve just heard that I am the FIRST female writer of colour to top the UK fiction paperback chart. The only other writer of colour was my fellow Bookeree @MarlonJames in 2015. Astonishing. (Writer of colour, mind, not just black.)”

3  The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead (Hachette, $35)

Winner of the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction; reviewed for us by Aaron Smale, whose reporting on reform schools in New Zealand led to a Royal Commission of Inquiry. Whitehead also won the 2017 Pulitzer for The Underground Railroad.

4  Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi (Picador, $20)

Is one person buying this and then going back in time and buying it again and then going back in time and buying it again and then going back in time and buying it again ad infinitum, because otherwise we are at a loss to explain its continued presence in these charts.

5  Going Dark: The Secret Social Lives of Extremists by Julia Ebner (Bloomsbury, $33)

Includes a chapter called “Gamified Terrorism: Within the Subcultures Behind the New Zealand Attack” and another fairly horrifying one called “Ten Predictions for 2025”.

6  Apeirogon by Colum Mcann (Bloomsbury, $33)

“Colum McCann has written something he calls a ‘hybrid novel’, in which the form’s mutability, its stance on both sides and neither, is used to address the entrenched positions of the Middle East. The title is taken from the mathematical term for an object of an ‘observably infinite number of sides’, a shape that serves as a model for a new way of thinking about a conflict that is too often reduced to simple, opposed positions.” – the Guardian

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

Mike Ross and Amanda Thomas were on RNZ’s Saturday morning show last week. “So many of our systems are based entirely on a Pākehā way of seeing the world,” Thomas said.

8  Normal People by Sally Rooney (Faber & Faber, $23)

Sally Rooney Sally Rooney Sally Rooney.

9  Protest Tautohetohe: Objects of Resistance, Persistence & Defiance edited by Stephanie Gibson, Matariki Williams & Puawai Cairns (Te Papa Press, $70)

Winner of the illustrated non-fiction category at this year’s Ockham New Zealand Book Awards. Matariki Williams also contributed an essay to a wonderful book that released this week, Te Manu Huna A Tāne, about a group of women learning to pelt North Island kiwi. Read that piece here.

10 Boy Swallows Universe by Trent Dalton (Harper Collins, $25)

Narnia except instead of a magical land in the wardrobe there’s your family’s panic room (they need one due to all the heroin they’re dealing) and yeah, you’re still in Brisbane.


1  The Ratline: Love, Lies & Justice on the Trail of a Nazi Fugitive by Philippe Sands (Orion, $38)

“In The Ratline, as in his acclaimed bestseller East West Street, Sands plays several roles: historian, investigative reporter and, occasionally, psychotherapist and moral guide to the children of Nazi war criminals.” – Literary Revi

2  Three Women by Lisa Taddeo (Bloomsbury, $25)

Still thinking about this and marvelling over it even though I read it more than a year ago.

3  Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell (Tinder Press, $38)

A novel based on Shakespeare’s only son, Hamnet, who died aged 11 just a few years before the playwright wrote Hamlet.

The Irish Times mostly likes the book but gnashes and wails over O’Farrell’s “rule of three”: “Leaves are ‘restless, verdant, inconstant’. Wind ‘caresses, ruffles, disturbs’ them. The tree they are on is ‘bending and shuddering and tossing’ its branches – and these are all in the space of five lines. Once noticed, it becomes unignorable … ”


4  Not in Narrow Seas: The Economic History of Aotearoa New Zealand by Brian Easton (Victoria University Press, $60)

What does it say about the economy that there are evidently plenty of people choosing to spend $60 on a book about economics? We choose to think that it means everything is fine and wonderful. Yes.

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

6  The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel (Fourth Estate, $50)

“It feels redundant to state that The Mirror and the Light is a masterpiece.” – the Guardian

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

8  Recollections of My Non-Existence: A Memoir by Rebecca Solnit (Granta, $40)

“To be a young woman is to face your own annihilation in innumerable ways or to flee it or the knowledge of it, or all these things at once. ‘The death of a beautiful woman is, unquestionably, the most poetical topic in the world,’ said Edgar Allan Poe, who must not have imagined it from the perspective of women who prefer to live. I was trying not to be the subject of someone else’s poetry and not to get killed; I was trying to find a poetics of my own, with no maps, no guides, not much to go on. They might have been out there, but I hadn’t located them yet.”

9  The Absolute Book by Elizabeth Knox (Victoria University Press, $35)

Portals, ravens, libraries, hope – and an enormous crocodile.

10 All Who Live on Islands by Rose Lu (Victoria University Press, $30)

A comeback! Companion reading: this essay by Joanna Cho.

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