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Image: Archi Banal
Image: Archi Banal

BooksOctober 13, 2023

The Unity Books bestseller chart for the week ending October 13

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.


1  Backwaters by Emma Ling Sidnam (Text Publishing, $38)

The winner of the 2022 Michael Gifkins Prize! There’s a wonderful review of the novel on Aotearoa New Zealand Review of Books – here’s an excerpt: “P​​art One of Emma Ling Sidnam’s debut novel … opens with the query ‘So, where are you from, then?’ This is a thoughtless question from an English tourist at Auckland Art Gallery, where Sidnam’s protagonist and narrator Laura is working. Laura’s initial response is simple: ‘Here.’

“On the surface, it’s an act of defiance – an attempt to shut down the tired line of questioning with which people of colour in white-dominant societies are all too familiar, a desire to be seen as more than race, and to assert one’s place in their home country. However, as we learn more about the narrator, it’s evident this oblique answer is also a defence mechanism, because Laura really doesn’t know where she’s from; she’s a fourth-generation New Zealander and ethnically Chinese on both parents’ sides but can’t speak the language and never calls herself Chinese.”

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

A way of being, week after week. 

3  Days at the Morisaki Bookshop by Satoshi Yagisawa (Bonnier, $28)

A bestselling Japanese novel about a secondhand bookshop in Tokyo, and the family who has owned it for generations. 

4  Rewi: Āta haere, kia tere by Jade Kake & Jeremy Hansen (Massey University, $75)

A stunning tribute to the late architect Rewi Thompson (Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Raukawa). The lush book covers a range of Rewi’s architectural projects, from unique homes to conceptual dreamscapes.

5  Trust by Hernan Diaz (Picador, $28)

The depression-era novel that JUST won the Pulitzer Prize! Trust also won the Kirkus Prize and was longlisted for the Booker Prize this year, so quite the over-achiever. 

NPR writes, “Trust by Hernan Diaz is one of those novels that’s always pulling a fast one on a reader. Take the opening section: You settle in, become absorbed in the story and, then, 100 pages or so later — Boom! — the novel lurches into another narrative that upends the truth of everything that came before.”

6  Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan (Faber & Faber, $25)

Our little favourite.

7  If We Were Villains by M. L. Rio (Affirm Press, $25)

A debut novel, whose blurb opens with this intriguing line: “On the day Oliver Marks is released from jail, the man who put him there is waiting at the door. Detective Colborne wants to know the truth, and after ten years, Oliver is finally ready to tell it.”

8  Modern Chinese by Sam Low (Allen & Unwin, $50)

Sam Low, winner of MasterChef NZ, has a new modern Chinese cookbook – and we’re instantly drooling. Over 70 recipes for easy dinners and shared feasts, from dumplings and noodles to snacks and dessert. Feeling hungry? Charlotte Muru-Lanning spoke to him about it for The Boil Up last week – you can read their conversation here.

9  Smithy: Endless Winters & the Spring of ’22 by Wayne Smith & Phil Gifford (Upstart Press, $50)

“In this long-awaited memoir, Wayne Smith will tell his best, most entertaining, insightful, and amusing anecdotes from an amazing career in the game. We’ll look inside the Black Ferns’ World Cup triumph, which saw Wayne go from a man entitled to free bus rides with his Gold Card, to the dancing leader of a diverse, vibrant group of players and coaches who won all Kiwis’ hearts.”

10  The Goodbye Cat by Hiro Arikawa (Doubleday, $37)

The new novel for the cat fanatic in your life, from the author of The Travelling Cat Chronicles (also about cats). Reader reviews are cat-tastic: 

“Wonderful! These cats are charming and truly come alive. The book is full of human – or rather, cat kindness.”

“I’m glad I didn’t read it outside because I couldn’t stop crying. Truly life-enhancing.”


1  The Observologist: A Handbook for Mounting Very Small Scientific Expeditions by Giselle Clarkson (Gecko Press, $40)

A fun, illustrated guide for young natural scientists. We love the sound of this: “The Observologist puts over 100 small creatures and features of the natural world under the microscope, piquing our curiosity with only the most interesting facts. Subjects range from slugs, ants and seeds, fungi and flies through to bees and bird poop.

“But this is no everyday catalogue of creatures. It is an antidote to boredom, an invitation out of the digital world and screentime, an encouragement to observe our environment, with care and curiosity, wherever we are.”

2  She Is Not Your Rehab: One Man’s Journey to Healing and the Global Anti-Violence Movement He Inspired by Matt Brown with Sarah Brown (Penguin, $35)

A local self-help book and memoir from 2021, aimed at helping men to build healthy relationships. We reviewed it with many thumbs up back in the day. 

3  The Fraud by Zadie Smith (Hamish Hamilton, $37)

The new Zadie Smith novel is a work of historical fiction (and not everyone is convinced).

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

Did someone say tomorrow?

5  The Last Devil to Die by Richard Osman (Viking, $37)

The Thursday Murder Club gang, back at it for their forth adventure. 

6  Articulations by Henrietta Bollinger (Tender Press, $28)

The debut essay collection by local writer and disability advocate Henrietta Bollinger. Have a read here.

7  Bunny by Monica Awad (Head of Zeus, $25)

A bizarre, gothic novel set at an American college, about a group of girlfriends who call each other, yes – bunny

8  The Running Grave by Robert Galbraith (Sphere, $40)

Book number seven in the Cormoran Strike series. 

9  Urgent Moments: Art & Social Change: the Letting Space Projects 2010-2020 by Mark Amery, Amber Clausner & Sophie Jerram (Massey University Press, $65)

A beautiful, fresh book about public art from the 2010s. This week, co-editor Mark Amery wrote for The Spinoff about the new book and the beginning of a National-led government back in 2011. Here’s a taste: “Rather than just a catalogue of public art projects or art essays, the book attempts to put these artists’ responses to the world in context. A social history – not of the baby boomers’ 60s and 70s (still evergreen popular) or our naive 80s and 90s – but of the 2010s. Such an approach felt appropriate for a public art project that aimed to step outside the so-called insulation of the gallery to deal with the complexities of being part of the street and its community. 

“It was our attempt, as climate action leader Mike Smith urged at Nui te Kōrero (a Creative New Zealand conference in Taranaki this month), to use ‘art as a crucible for change’.”  

10  Unruly: The Ridiculous History of England’s Kings and Queens by David Mitchell (Crown, $42)

British comedian and actor David Mitchell has a rollicking new book about England’s monarchs. Let us provide a humorous excerpt from The Guardian about this humorous book. 

“Unruly is part Horrible Histories, part jolly romp guided by Alan Bennett’s view that history has no sense but is ‘just one fucking thing after another’. But it is mostly – this being a history of England – swearing.

“Mitchell doubts, for instance, that Henry II actually said: ‘Who will rid me of this troublesome priest?’ before Becket was terminated in Canterbury Cathedral. ‘It was something more along the lines of “What sort of a bunch of saps have I surrounded myself with that they let me get treated like shit by this fucking oik?”’

“…The divine right of kings, heraldry, primogeniture and porphyrogeniture (the hilarious rule of succession whereby the son born to a king in office has first dibs on the throne over older siblings born before daddy took office) are, to Mitchell, really devices to retrospectively justify power grabs by inbred sociopaths or their mums.”

Keep going!