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BooksJuly 14, 2023

The Unity Books bestseller chart for the week ending July 14


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. Mānawatia a Matariki!


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

One of the best-selling books of the year is perfect for a holiday weekend at home. Though short, this compact novel packs an emotional punch and will leave you valuing the essence of a good life: family, kindness, standing up for what is right.

2 Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver (Faber & Faber, $28)

“An angry, powerful book seething with love and outrage for a community too often stereotyped or ignored.” says Kirkus Reviews who love this book as much as everyone else, including the Pulitzer and Women’s Prize judges. Kingsolver’s re-telling of Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield is a masterpiece and a must-read this Matariki.

3 The Covenant of Water by Abraham Verghese (Grove Press, $38)

Slowly making its way up the charts we suspect this book is finding an audience via word of mouth as more and more readers cotton on to Verghese’s brilliance. From the publisher’s blurb: “Spanning the years 1900 to 1977, The Covenant of Water is set in Kerala, on South India’s Malabar Coast, and follows three generations of a family that suffers a peculiar affliction: in every generation, at least one person dies by drowning—and in Kerala, water is everywhere. The family is part of a Christian community that traces itself to the time of the apostles, but times are shifting, and the matriarch of this family, known as Big Ammachi—literally “Big Mother”—will witness unthinkable changes at home and at large over the span of her extraordinary life. All of Verghese’s great gifts are on display in this new work: there are astonishing scenes of medical ingenuity, fantastic moments of humor, a surprising and deeply moving story, and characters imbued with the essence of life.”

4 When McKinsey Comes to Town: The Hidden Influence of the World’s Most Powerful Consulting Firm by Walt Bogdanich & Michael Forsythe (Jonathan Cape, $40)

News to the list this week, this non-fiction book sounds like an absolutely fascinating investigative take-down. For a fulsome review, here’s The Guardian’s take.

5 Atomic Habits by James Clear (Random House, $40)

The book about changing your life via tiny tweaks.

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

One of the best-selling novels of the year is another ideal holiday read, even if just to find out what all the fuss is about.

7 Be Mine by Richard Ford (Bloomsbury, $37)

The latest novel (and apparently the final) in literary giant Richard Ford’s Frank Bascombe series is, apparently, another quite good, close look at America through the eyes of an ageing boomer. The LA Times review does call the action of the book “deflating”, however, so proceed with caution.

8 Fungi of Aotearoa: A Curious Forager’s Field Guide by Liv Sisson (Penguin, $45)

The brightest, weirdest, most informative book about our mushrooms is back on the list. Sisson’s work is thorough, accessible and extremely interesting. You’ll be tempted to head out on a shroom forage this long weekend to see if you too can spy a mycena roseoflava, or a black earth tongue. To get a feel, here’s an excerpt that we published.

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

A tactile (don’t you just love a cloth-bound book), covetable tome by music genius Rick Rubin. We suspect that many a stifled creative is either buying this as a present-to-self, or purchasing for a fellow stifled creative. 

10 Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus (Transworld, $26)

Another evergreen novel for 2023 returns! For those needing a reminder of what this novel is about, here’s the publisher’s blurb: “Chemist Elizabeth Zott is not your average woman. In fact, Elizabeth Zott would be the first to point out that there is no such thing.

But it’s the early 1960s and her all-male team at Hastings Research Institute take a very unscientific view of equality. Forced to resign, she reluctantly signs on as the host of a cooking show, Supper at Six. But her revolutionary approach to cooking, fuelled by scientific and rational commentary, grabs the attention of a nation.

Soon, a legion of overlooked housewives find themselves daring to change the status quo. One molecule at a time.”


1 Birdspeak by Arihia Latham (Anahera Press, $25)

This is a stunning debut poetry collection from Arihia Latham who is a much-loved regular on the poetry scene in Pōneke. Read one of the poems from Birdspeak alongside an interview with Latham (and Ruby Solly), right here.

2 Lioness by Emily Perkins (Bloomsbury, $37)

An un-put-downable new novel about the fragility of the male ego, among other things, from Emily Perkins, one of Aotearoa’s top novelists. We’ll be publishing a review here soon, but in the meantime, here’s the publisher’s blurb to hook you right in:

“From humble beginnings, Therese has let herself grow used to a life of luxury after marrying into an empire-building family. But when rumours of corruption gather around her husband’s latest development, the social opprobrium is shocking, the fallout swift, and Therese begins to look at her privileged and insular world with new eyes.

In the flat below Therese, something else is brewing. Her neighbour Claire believes she’s discovered the secret to living with freedom and authenticity, freeing herself from the mundanity of domesticity. Therese finds herself enchanted by the lure of the permissive zone Claire creates in her apartment – a place of ecstatic release.

All too quickly, Therese is forced to confront herself and her choices – just how did she become this person? And what exactly should she do about it?”

3 The Front Lawn’s Songs from the Front Lawn by Matthew Bannister (Bloomsbury, $28)

Gosh they were clever. Harry Sinclair, Don McGlashan and then Jennifer Ward-Lealand started something entirely unique with the mix of music, comedy, theatre and film that was The Front Lawn. This book is a social and cultural history of the New Zealand of the 1970s and 80s which formed the backdrop to the group. A must-have for any fan. Sidenote: Harry Sinclair is the mastermind of hit children’s show Kiri & Lou which you can delve into via our Kiri & Lou song ranking, here.

4 Women Will Rise!: Recalling the Working Women’s Charter by Marie Russell, Gay Simpkin et al (Steele Roberts, $30)

This new entry to the list comes from legendary indie publisher Steele Roberts. Women Will Rise! is about the Working Women’s Charter created in the late 1970s in New Zealand. It covered things like: the right to work; equal pay; an end to discrimination at work; better conditions, family leave, flexible work arrangements; free, quality childcare; and reproductive rights.

This book looks back at the conditions that generated the Charter and what has changed (and what hasn’t), since.

5 Pet by Catherine Chidgey (Te Herenga Waka University Press, hardback $50, paperback $38)

The fantastically gripping new novel from prolific writer Catherine Chidgey. Our own Sam Brooks is a big fan: read his review of Pet, here.

6 Fungi of Aotearoa: A Curious Forager’s Field Guide by Liv Sissons (Penguin NZ, $45)

7 Axeman’s Carnival by Catherine Chidgey (Te Herenga Waka University Press, $35)

Chidgey’s Ockham-award winning novel destined to be a classic in the Aotearoa gothic tradition. Please enjoy this rather special review by magpie, Becky Sharp.

8 Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver (Faber, $28)

9 Waiter in Paris by Edward Chisholm (Monoray, $28)

By all accounts a mesmerising memoir that will embroil you in the heady realm of hospo in one of the world’s most finnickety cities for customer service: Paris. “He inhabits a world of inhuman hours, snatched sleep and dive bars; scraping by on coffee, bread and cigarettes, often under sadistic managers, with a wage so low you’re fighting your colleagues for tips. Colleagues – including thieves, narcissists, ex-Legionnaires, paperless immigrants, wannabe actors and drug dealers – who are the closest thing to family that you’ve got.”

10 Under the Weather: A Future Forecast for New Zealand by James Renwick (HarperCollins, $40)

A timely and urgent call for climate action from an expert in the field. Our own Shanti Mathias talked to Renwick just last week and you can read the results right here.

Keep going!