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BooksJanuary 14, 2022

The Unity Books bestseller chart for the week ending January 14

Woman ecstatically reading on beach - she's sitting cross-legged, wearing a giant hat, holding a book in one hand and cocktail in the other.
(Photo: Kundoy via Getty; Design: Tina Tiller)

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 Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (Bloomsbury, $25)

It’s a fresh new year, so Aucklanders are starting off 2022 … with a novel published over a decade ago, set in ancient Greece. Nostalgia for a simpler past, we can only assume. (Also it’s luminous and compelling and a beautiful love story.)

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

If you run an eye over this list, you’ll notice that there’s only one thing – one book, we mean – which Auckland and Wellington readers can agree on.

3  Circe by Madeline Miller (Bloomsbury, $22)

Because one Madeline Miller book just isn’t enough.

4  The Midnight Library by Matt Haig (Canongate, $33)

Nielsen has recently revealed its UK book sales data for 2021, with The Midnight Library as the third biggest seller of the year. Good job, Matt Haig – and good job, Brits, for apparently reading 20% more than in 2019. 

7  Silverview by John le Carré (Viking, $35)

The last, but reportedly not the absolute very best, le Carré. 

6  The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity by David Graeber and David Wengrow (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $66)

A book that has been compared to the work of Galileo and Darwin. No, really – take a look at these mighty statements from Jacobin: “An instant classic … Fatalistic sentiments about human nature melt away upon turning the pages … [The Dawn of Everything] sits in a different class to all the other volumes on world history we are accustomed to reading … If comparisons must be made, they should be made with works of similar caliber in other fields, most credibly, I venture, with the works of Galileo or Darwin. Graeber and Wengrow do to human history what the first two did to astronomy and biology respectively.” 

7  Taste: My Life Through Food by Stanley Tucci (Fig Tree, $45)

A memoir by one of the world’s most charming actors, which charmingly also includes 25 recipes. The perfect melding of comfort reading and comfort food. 

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

Nothing wrong with starting the year with some aroha.

9  Exercised: The Science of Physical Activity, Rest and Health by Daniel Lieberman (Penguin, $48)

Harvard professor of human evolutionary biology Daniel Lieberman has an important message for everyone signing up for the gym as part of their 2022 resolutions: “we never evolved to exercise.” Some more context, from the publisher’s blurb: “We are hardwired for moderate exertion throughout each day, not triathlons or treadmills. Drawing on over a decade of high-level scientific research and eye-opening insights from evolutionary biology and anthropology, Lieberman explains precisely how exercise can promote health; debunks persistent myths about sitting, speed, strength and endurance; and points the way towards more enjoyable and physically active living in the modern world.”

10  Big Panda and Tiny Dragon by James Norbury (Michael Joseph, $35)

A gorgeous, illustrated hardback about two unlikely friends (one, a tiny dragon, being more unlikely than the other). Inspired by Buddhist philosophy, Norbury created the book to help others through difficult times. Naw.


1  Dune by Frank Herbert (Hodder, $28)

The 1965 sci-fi classic was recently made into a movie – well, the first half of it was – springing the book into Welly’s most coveted position. (The book, by the way, is just as amazing as the movie.)

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

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

Your newest Booker winner.

4  Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason (HarperCollins, $35)

A fantastic novel which we love dearly. Jean Sergent reviewed Sorrow and Bliss over a year ago, and there’s one line we now need to disagree with: “It’s a book to read on holiday – not a beach holiday in the summertime, bare legs and mimosas; but a winter holiday at a wood-panelled AirBnB in Taupō, lying on a leather sectional under a sculpture made of old gardening implements.”

Go forth and read Sorrow and Bliss on summer holiday! If, that is, you’re still fortunate enough to be on one. 

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

So begins Imagining Decolonisation’s third annum as Queen of the List. 

6  Ottolenghi Test Kitchen: Shelf Love by Yotam Ottolenghi and Noor Murad (Ebury Press, $55)

The cookbook to make your kitchen cupboard essentials really sing. 

7  Beautiful World, Where Are You by Sally Rooney (Faber, $33)

A thoughtful review of the It Book from the Dhaka Tribune: “Sally Rooney became not only the generator of discourse but the discourse itself. Sometimes vitriol remarks and often over the top commendation on the books made her into a literary poster girl for the millennials. Vitriol remarks that declared her writing not worthy of a serious read and seemed almost angry at her success. Over the top commendation on the other hand announced she is the Jane Austen of today or Salinger for the Snapchat generation … Sally Rooney is not the author for the millennials, she is just an author, writing what she wants to write. And when the majority of the western literary magazines say things like that, who are they referring to? What millennials exactly are they talking about? It is safe to say I think, they are talking about millennials who look like Rooney.”

8  The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich (Little, Brown, $25)

Your newest Pulitzer Prize winner. 

9  The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles (Hutchinson, $37)

An American roadtrip romp by the author of A Gentleman in Moscow and The Rules of Civility.

10  Tikanga: An Introduction to Te Ao Māori by Keri Opai (Upstart Press, $40)

“The book we’ve all been needing for decades – a unique explanation of the Māori world for Pakeha, and for Māori people wishing to learn more about tikanga. With simple lucidity and great expertise, Keri Opai shares the spirit and meaning of what it is to be Māori in the 21st century, dispelling myths and misconceptions and providing a solid introduction to the Māori way of life.” Thanks, publisher’s blurb.

Keep going!