A man has set up a pup tent in the lounge of his apartment, arranged all his houseplants around it and is lying down reading inside. Weird lockdown vibe.
(Photo: Electravk E+ via Getty)

BooksOctober 15, 2021

The Unity Books bestseller chart for the week ending October 15

A man has set up a pup tent in the lounge of his apartment, arranged all his houseplants around it and is lying down reading inside. Weird lockdown vibe.
(Photo: Electravk E+ via Getty)

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 Raffles Affair: A Victoria West Mystery by Vicki Virtue (Penguin Random House, $37)

A modern whodunnit set at the glamorous Raffles Hotel in Singapore (escapism: check). New Zealander Vicki Virtue was the writer-in-residence at the Raffles Hotel, and now the hotel has created a range of cocktails inspired by the novel (alcohol: check). 

Tip: for the best experience, combine The Raffles Affair with a Negroni.

2  The Magician by Colm Tóibín (Picador, $38)

From Vulture: “[Thomas] Mann’s was a cinematic life — his politics alone made him an exile twice over (in Los Angeles, fleeing the Nazis, then in Switzerland, fleeing McCarthy). But The Magician, Colm Tóibín’s new novel about Mann, resists the shallow gestures of Hollywood biopics, reaching for something mainstream film couldn’t get at, or wouldn’t bother with. How does an artist create, and can a true artist live as the rest of us do?”

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

As Jordan Margetts says in his scalding and brilliant review, “Sally Rooney is a big deal. A new Rooney is pretty much as close to the blockbuster as the literary novel gets.” 

Unlike a blockbuster movie, we can expect this one on the bestsellers list for the next 12 months. 

4  Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr (Simon & Schuster, $35)

A new novel by the bestselling author of All the Light We Cannot See. On his author website, Doerr helpfully calls his new book a “literary-sci-fi-mystery-young-adult-historical-morality novel”, which should help readers to decide yay or nay on this one. 

Spanning thousands of years, Cloud Cuckoo Land’s characters include an orphan living in Constantinople during the last days of the Byzantine Empire, a modern-day American war veteran, and a teenage girl travelling on a spaceship to humanity’s new home.   

5  Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead (Fleet, $35)

After winning the Pulitzer Prize for his last two novels, The Underground Railroad and The Nickel Boys, Colson Whitehead returns with an engaging crime noir novel set in 1960s Harlem.

6  Bewilderment by Richard Powers (William Heinemann, $35)

Another tall poppy! Bewilderment has been shortlisted for the 2021 Booker, after Powers’ last novel The Overstory won the Pulitzer.

The publisher’s blurb does sound pretty compelling: “Theo Byrne is a promising young astrobiologist who has found a way to search for life on other planets dozens of light years away. He is also the widowed father of a most unusual nine-year-old. His son Robin is funny, loving, and filled with plans. … He is also on the verge of being expelled from third grade, for smashing his friend’s face with a metal thermos.

“What can a father do, when the only solution offered to his rare and troubled boy is to put him on psychoactive drugs? What can he say when his boy comes to him wanting an explanation for a world that is clearly in love with its own destruction? The only thing for it is to take the boy to other planets, while all the while fostering his son’s desperate campaign to help save this one.”

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

The home cooking sensation of the year has arrived. If you’re the enviable kind of person who starts Christmas shopping in October, you know what to do.

8  The Man Who Died Twice by Richard Osman (Viking, $37)

Yet another fun, twisty crime novel! It seems like everything at the moment is either “fun crime” or “glitzy awards”.

The Man Who Died Twice is the sequel to The Thursday Murder Club, about a group of seventy-somethings who solve mysteries. 

From the Guardian: “[Osman’s] formula is fiendishly clever: four senior-citizen friends living in a Kent retirement community have decided to eschew the usual 5,000-piece jigsaws to pool their intelligence and solve murders. It helps that their leader, Elizabeth Best, is ex-secret service, and is always having hilarious flashbacks to East Berlin in 1970. But the others possess useful, Avengers Assemble-type complementary gifts. Ron is a bolshie former union agitator who automatically disbelieves anything he’s told; Ibrahim is a highly organised retired psychiatrist, happy only when making lists or explaining something. Most memorable of all, however, is the cheerful, unshockable Joyce. A former nurse, Joyce is likely to comment favourably on the shade of someone’s blouse while in the presence of a headless corpse.”

9  A Passage North by Anuk Arudpragasam (Hogarth, $33)

Just to prove the point – another 2021 Booker finalist. How can we keep up?

From Mr Number Two (on the list, not in the toilet sense), Colm Tóibín: “Written with scrupulous attention to nuance and detail, A Passage North captures the rich interior of its protagonist’s mind but also contemporary Sri Lanka itself, war-scarred, traumatized. At its center is an exquisite form of noticing, a way of rendering consciousness and handling time that connects Arudpragasam to the great novelists of the past.”

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

In case the vortex of famous author names is alarming and confusing you this week, Amor Towles wrote bestsellers A Gentleman in Moscow and Rules of Civility. His new novel is set over ten days in 1954, and follows an eighteen-year-old boy who has just served a 15 month sentence for involuntary manslaughter. 


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

2  Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr (Simon & Schuster, $35)

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

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

The darling of Unity Welly. 

5  The Man Who Died Twice by Richard Osman (Viking, $37)

6  After the Tampa: From Afghanistan to New Zealand by Abbas Nazari (Allen & Unwin, $37)

The inspiring local memoir of 2021. You can read an excerpt here – consider it an amuse bouche before the real deal (that is, the whole book). 

7  Four Thousand Weeks by Oliver Burkeman (Bodley Head, $37)

Eighty years breaks down to just 4000 weeks. How should we spend those weeks?

Burkeman’s new non-fiction explores how we should spend our lives and reset our relationship with time. Spoiler: the answer isn’t more to-do lists.

8  The Magician by Colm Tóibín (Picador, $38)

9  Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead (Fleet, $35)

10  The Women of Troy by Pat Barker (Hamish Hamilton, $37)

Set after the Battle of Troy (and after Barker’s novel The Silence of the Girls), The Women of Troy takes a grisly look at the realities of war. In other words, not a fun romp.

Keep going!