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(Photo: Betsie Van Der Meer via Getty)
(Photo: Betsie Van Der Meer via Getty)

BooksAugust 14, 2020

The Unity Books bestseller chart for the strange week ending August 14

(Photo: Betsie Van Der Meer via Getty)
(Photo: Betsie Van Der Meer via Getty)

Before we get to the top 10s, a note from the good folk at Unity Auckland: 

Wednesday, first thing, we found people knocking on the shop door before we had a chance to flick the lights on. This time around folk were not going to be without their reading materials. There was lovely Judith, who got her highlights done while we hunted out the last copy of Girl in the Mirror; a gang of the sweetest children, intent on getting the next Harry Potter book; a surprising number of crime fiction fans, some climate change cheer sold, and everything in between.

A big thanks from us retail workers to the many people learning how to use the Covid tracer app and no regrets to the “conspiracy theory Ken” who refused to sign in and therefore left empty-handed. We look forward to getting your emails and phone requests for your reading needs over the next wee while.


1  Believer: Conversations with Mike Moore by Peter Parussini (Upstart Press, $40)

Recorded the week before he died, in February, approximately a century ago.

2  The Girl in the Mirror by Rose Carlyle (Allen & Unwin, $33)

An exceptional thriller written by Rose and her sister: sunshine and envy and a cracker of an ending, do not finish it right before bed like I did.

3  The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead (Hachette Aus, $25)

Winner of the Pulitzer prize for fiction, Whitehead’s second.

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

Time travel. Insipid, said our reviewer. Terrible, no good, very bad, said Ralph McAllister on RNZ.

5  Humankind: A Hopeful History by Rutger Bregman (Bloomsbury, $34)

Counterpoint: queue jumpers.

6  Chasing the Light: Writing, Directing, and Surviving Platoon, Midnight Express, Scarface, and the Movie Game by Oliver Stone (Octopus Publishing, $38)

“This book — ‘a story about cutting corners, improvising, hustling … about lying outrageously, gritting it out with sweat and tears … about growing up,’ as he describes it in his introduction — neatly sets the stage for the possibility of that rarest of Stone productions: a sequel.” – the New York Times

7  Observations of a Rural Nurse by Sara McIntyre (Massey University Press, $55)

A thick book of astonishing photographs taken in the King Country, flicking through feels like going for a walk just after it’s stopped raining.

8  How Do We Know We’re Doing it Right? Essays on Modern Life by Pandora Sykes (Penguin Random House, $40)

Stay home. Wash your hands. Wear a mask. Get tested.

9  The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy (Penguin Random House, $40)

Gentle pencil drawings matched with small wisdoms.

10 Utopia Avenue by David Mitchell (Hodder & Stoughton, $38)

The bad reviews have generally centred on the number of real-life music god cameos Mitchell injected. The New Yorker reviewer found these cameos “mortifying”.

“It is one thing to stick into the mouth of a character of your own invention a clichéd line of dialogue such as ‘Problem is, if fame is a drug, it’s hard to kick,’ but quite another, especially if you care about music at all, when Gene Clark, of the Byrds – Gene Clark, who wrote ‘I’ll Feel a Whole Lot Better’! – is made to say it. Or when Bowie says to a member of Utopia Avenue, ‘We met on the stairs last time, too … I was on my way up, then. Now I’m going down. Is that a metaphor?'”


1  The Inkberg Enigma by Jonathan King (Gecko Press, $30)

Graphic novel in which Miro, boy detective, pawns stuff from his attic – and spends the money on books.

Very good, carry on.

2  Fridays with Jim: Conversations about Our Country with Jim Bolger by David Cohen (Massey University Press, $45)

“Given the current instability in many countries it would be wise to call to mind the words of Aristotle: ‘Inequality is the chief cause of revolution.’ Looking across the world, gross inequality raises its head everywhere — including in New Zealand. The coronavirus has already caused a revolution on a scale no one would have contemplated a few months back, including strict controls on everyone’s civil rights. Looking forward, no matter who leads the next Government, more focus is required on policies to reduce inequality.”

3  The Girl in the Mirror by Rose Carlyle (Allen & Unwin, $33)

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

Fifteen bucks! Buy three!

5  I Am A Human Being by Jackson Nieuwland (Compound Press, $20)

Poems. From the publisher: “Take part in a new transformation with every new page as the speaker becomes by turns an egg, multiple trees, a town crier, a needle in a haystack, and a cone of blue light in this incisive and pathos-filled exploration of what it means to be anything at all.”

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

Joint winner of the 2019 Booker Prize.

7  Midnight Sun by Stephenie Meyer (Atom, $38)

This is the Twilight story told from Edward’s perspective; Meyer told The Spinoff “working around an old creation was often extremely frustrating. All of my favorite parts of Midnight Sun are the places where I could be freer in my creation – the places where Bella was ‘off stage’, the places where Edward retreats into his memories. Those are the moments when the writing flowed.”

8  Utopia Avenue by David Mitchell (Sceptre, $38)

9  Humankind: A Hopeful History by Rutger Bregman (Bloomsbury, $35)

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

If you buy one book off these charts, make it Auē.

Keep going!