Karlo Mila, poet (Photo: Supplied; design work: Leonie Hayden)
Karlo Mila, poet (Photo: Supplied; design work: Leonie Hayden)

BooksNovember 13, 2020

The Unity Books bestseller chart for the week ending November 13

Karlo Mila, poet (Photo: Supplied; design work: Leonie Hayden)
Karlo Mila, poet (Photo: Supplied; design work: Leonie Hayden)

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  The Future We Choose: Surviving The Climate Crisis by Christiana Figueres (Bonnier Publishing, $33)

Figueres lead the 2015 Paris Accord. She was interviewed by the Guardian in February, and asked to explain a central tenet of the book – that we must strive to be citizens, not consumers – she replied:

“The very concept of being a consumer already points us in the direction of consuming irresponsibly. We have to be able at some point, particularly in developed countries, to get to the point where we say ‘enough is enough’. Before you make a purchase, or an investment, or any kind of decision that impacts on the planet and on other people, the question should be: ‘Do I really need this and is this actually conducive to furthering the quality of life on this planet?'”

In all seriousness, this sounds like a calm and clear-minded way to pitch to your family the concept of stopping Christmas shopping, forever.

2  The Savage Coloniser Book by Tusiata Avia (Victoria University Press, $25)

Brilliantly reviewed by Selina Tusitala Marsh over at the Academy of New Zealand Literature; here’s a taster:

“I remember listening to a Radio New Zealand review of Tusiata Avia’s third book, Fale Aitu/Spirit House. The reviewer, a well-known Pākehā male poet, said the word ‘dark’ over and over again. That adjective ‘dark’, and its mantra-like repetition, undermined what was otherwise a strong review of Avia’s poetry …

In case any other critics leap on the ‘dark’ bandwagon for her latest collection, The Savage Coloniser Book, Avia wants to help. The first line of the final poem, titled ‘Some Notes for Critics’, reads: ‘Yeah, sometimes my poems are dark’.  It’s hilarious, an example of Avia’s characteristic knowing, sideways glance, like one of those kitsch dusky-maiden velvet paintings, or her Carmen Miranda-esque author photo at the back of the book where her hair holds the entire world, or the contents of her bedroom.”

3  A Life On Our Planet by David Attenborough (Ebury Press, $45)

“Recognising that we are at a tipping point, Attenborough is refreshingly optimistic, noting that one thing humans do well is solve problems” – Kirkus Reviews

4  Ralph Hotere: The Dark is Light Enough by Vincent O’Sullivan (Penguin Random House, $45)

“What bothered him was that explaining a work so woodenly moved it from the artist’s living conception to the critic’s confining domain. An image showed what it intended to show, neither more nor less. Start talking about it, and something else is taking place, one medium usurping another.”

5  Inside Story by Martin Amis (Jonathan Cape, $37)

“A seamless, insouciant mashup of autofiction and imagination” – Vanity Fair

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

“It is said that if one woman told the truth about her life, the world would split open. It feels like our world may already be splitting open and maybe that is why we often keep our own counsel, but the world needs to be opened up to the reality of the secrets of our hearts.”

7  One Year Wiser: 365 Illustrated Meditations by Mike Medaglia (Self Made Hero, $35)

“A visual guide to the spiritual teachings of thinkers as diverse as the Dalai Lama, Virginia Woolf, Albert Einstein, Seneca, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Marcus Aurelius, and Mark Twain” – blurb

8  Intimations: Six Essays by Zadie Smith (Penguin, $16)


9  The Survivors by Jane Harper (PanMacmillan, $35)

Seaside crime in small-town Australia.

10 Ko Aotearoa Tātou / We Are New Zealand edited by Michelle Elvy, Paula Morris, and James Norcliffe (Otago University Press, $40)

Art and poetry and essays, stories and chants and gasps, all pulled together in the wake of the March 15 terrorist attack.


1  Goddess Muscle by Karlo Mila (Huia Publishers, $35)

These are poems saturated with colour and rooted to the land and to this moment. Accomplished, passionate, quenching.

From ‘Oceania’:

Some days

I’ve been

on dry land

for too long


my ache

for ocean

so great

my eyes weep



my mouth mudflats

popping with

groping breath

of crabs

2  Wow by Bill Manhire (Victoria University Press, $25)

“I’ve begun to notice a particular character turning up in my poems… He’s not a particularly stable figure, this man, but in various guises he steps into several of the poems I’ve written in the last 10 years. I never know what to call him, but he’s my favourite supposed person.

He’s certainly a male New Zealander. He might once have been a jockey. Or maybe he’s rural, maybe a retired farmer; or he might have worked on the railways and now be living in a caravan in someone’s backyard. He might be a distant cousin of Sir Edmund Hillary – not very articulate, yet determinedly laconic, opinionated, alive in the vernacular.” – Manhire, writing for The Carcanet Blog

3  Hiakai: Modern Māori Cuisine by Monique Fiso (Godwit, $65)

Reviewed for The Spinoff, with bravery and sincerity, by Māori chef Te Tangaroa Turnbull.

4  Women Don’t Owe You Pretty by Florence Given (Cassell, $38)

They do not.

5  Birds of New Zealand: Collective Nouns by Melissa Boardman (HarperCollins, $30)

“A loot of weka.”

6  Escape Path Lighting by John Newton (Victoria University Press, $25)

“Escape Path Lighting is set on Rock Oyster Island, a place bearing suspicious similarities to Waiheke in the Hauraki Gulf – though whether the island actually requires satire is a moot point” – David Herkt, writing for Kete Books

7  The Residents: Made in Wellington by Lucy Revill (Hiding Place, $60)

Self-published off the back of a blog, thanks to a crowdfunding campaign that netted $37,000. “Features some well-known locals,” said the Dom Post piece, “Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Sir Richard Taylor, Chris ‘Mu’ Faiumu, Monique Fiso. But, importantly, as far as Revill is concerned, some lesser-known but equally fascinating folks – DJ Christopher Tubbs, Vijay Parbhu of Dixon St Shoe Repairs, Sophie Kasoylides from the Greek Food Truck.”

8  A Life on Our Planet by David Attenborough (Ebury Press, $45)

9  Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart (Picador, $38)

“When the book came out in February, it had a warm but rather quiet reception. Now, it is being celebrated as one of this year’s most accomplished debuts.

It was named as a finalist for both the National Book Award and the Booker Prize, two of the most prestigious literary prizes in the world. It has drawn comparisons to D.H. Lawrence, James Joyce and Frank McCourt” – the New York Times

10 The 99% Invisible City: A Field Guide to the Hidden World of Everyday Design by Roman Mars & Kurt Kohlstedt (Hodder & Stoughton, $45)

“I feel like this book was intended as just a signal, ‘I’m so cool I own this book’ and not actually to be read. The sections are so short as to barely convey any interesting information (the opposite of why the podcast is so good), and in dozens of places a picture or image of the thing they’re talking about would be enormously helpful but none are included (the art is fine but is rarely useful)” – Nathan, on Goodreads

Keep going!