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Damon Salesa’s epic new book, An Indigenous Ocean.
Damon Salesa’s epic new book, An Indigenous Ocean.

BooksDecember 15, 2023

The Unity Books bestseller chart for the week ending December 15

Damon Salesa’s epic new book, An Indigenous Ocean.
Damon Salesa’s epic new book, An Indigenous Ocean.

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.

AUCKLAND

1 An Indigenous Ocean: Pacific Essays by Damon Salesa (BWB, $50)

A scan of the chapter headings for this immense new book from one of our leading scholars gives you some indication of the scope and energy of An Indigenous Ocean: Salesa covers the first indigenous populations of Oceania and traverses histories right up to today. This is essential reading and one of the most impactful history books of this year and next.

2  The Bee Sting by Paul Murray (Hamish Hamilton, $37)

Get this Booker runner-up on your Summer reading pile. Here’s an excerpt from the review in the New Yorker: “Early chapters are propelled by a sustained sense of revelation. As the details pile up, irony, both caustic and elegiac, flourishes in the knowledge gaps between characters. The contrapuntal format allows Murray to dramatize misunderstandings among the Barneses. Again and again, details “come back different,” reframed or reanimated by another perspective, and their repetition adds to the sense of spookiness, as if the book itself were haunted.”

3 The Year of the Locust by Terry Hayes (Bantam, $38)

A spy thriller for your poolside R & R.

4 Water by John Boyne (Doubleday, $35)

Boyne seems to be following fellow Irish writer Claire Keegan’s lead: Water is tiny but it packs a punch. Goodreads readers are well impressed, like Chris, who says: “Wow, this certainly is an impressive book. The characters feel natural and lifelike and the story itself is intense, disturbing and powerful. How Boyne ‘builds’ the story and how you learn more about the particulars of the scandal as you read on reminded me a bit of Claire Keegan’s novellas. Very well done. A brilliant novel.”

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

The book that launched a thousand prizes. Demon Copperhead (a re-telling of David Copperfield) scooped a swath of lit medals this year and it thoroughly deserved all of them. Another to slip into the pile for your summer.

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

We’re going to call it and say that according to this list at least, Keegan’s slim Christmas tale of faith in the goodness of people is the favourite of 2023. If you haven’t read it yet, now is the time.

7 Days at the Morisaki Bookshop by Satoshi Yagisawa (Bonnier Publishing, $32)

Delightful! Immersive, bookish, treat!

8 The Fraud by Zadie Smith (Hamish Hamilton, $37)

Smith’s first foray into historical fiction reveals the breadth and character of this author who is always in a process of pushing her craft. The Fraud is long but as this reviewer notes: “Every few pages I was struck by how light the novel feels, despite its length and epic themes. The short chapters glide tellingly between decades and scenes.”

9 The Wager: A Tale of Shipwreck, Mutiny and Murder by David Grann (Simon & Schuster, $40)

Who doesn’t live a maritime scandal? Grann is a spectacular writer and this is masterful nonfiction. Ideal for that family member who loves a documentary but likes it gripping, and with sailors. If you don’t believe us then here’s the tidy conclusion to the Guardian review. “There’s an expectation, in reviewing a book like The Wager, to balance its strengths with some discussion of its flaws. But The Wager is one of the finest nonfiction books I’ve ever read. I can only offer the highest praise a writer can give: endless envy, as deep and salty as the sea.”

10 Good Material by Dolly Alderton (Fig Tree, $37)

A very safe bet for a Boxing Day novel from the author of memoir Everything I Know about Love. Here’s the blurb:

“Andy’s story wasn’t meant to turn out this way. Living out of a suitcase in his best friends’ spare room, waiting for his career as a stand-up comedian to finally take off, he struggles to process the life-ruining end of his relationship with the only woman he’s ever truly loved.

As he tries to solve the seemingly unsolvable mystery of his broken relationship, he contends with career catastrophe, social media paranoia, a rapidly dwindling friendship group and the growing suspicion that, at 35, he really should have figured this all out by now.

Andy has a lot to learn, not least his ex-girlfriend’s side of the story.”

WELLINGTON

1  Prophet Song by Paul Lynch (Bloomsbury, $37)

While Auckland appears to be moving on from the Booker Prize winner, Wellingtonians are still on the case of this timely dystopia with its relentless, propulsive plot and it’s unflinching unspooling … We recommend.

2 The Year of the Locust by Terry Hayes (Bantam, $38)

3 The Bee Sting by Paul Murray (Hamish Hamilton, $37)

4 Unruly: A History of England’s Kings & Queens by David Mitchell (Michael Joseph, $42)

Messy royals make for much fun from sharp comedy king, Mitchell.

5 The Hundred Years War on Palestine: A History of Settler Colonialism & Resistance, 1917—2017 by Rashid Khalidi (Profile Books, $35)

The atrocities continue in Gaza. This book could not be more timely. For further reading, see our Palestine reading guide, here.

6 Heartstopper #5 by Alice Oseman (Hodder, $23)

The extraordinary series of coming-of-age graphic novels about the blooming love between Charlie and Nick. Absolutely gorgeous reading for everyone. Here’s the blurb for volume five: “Nick and Charlie are very much in love. They’ve finally said those three little words, and Charlie has almost persuaded his mum to let him sleep over at Nick’s house … But with Nick going off to university next year, is everything about to change?”

7 Normal Women by Philippa Gregory (William Collins, $40)

This book is monumental. Gregory is known for her historical novels but this stonking thing is a 650 page+ work of archival exploration to pull out women from over 900 years of British history. It’s an eye-burningly huge piece of work and has already won a ton of prizes. It’s full of fascinating facts that will revise any notion that it was men that did all the things (it wasn’t).

8 Question 7 by Richard Flanagan (Knopf, $40)

The latest from acclaimed Australian novelist. He did an excellent interview with Kim Hill recently (for her final show) which you can listen to here.

9 The Observologist: A Handbook for Mounting Very Small Scientific Expeditions by Giselle Clarkson (Gecko Press, $45)

One of the best nonfiction books of the year! Buzzing with ideas, information, jokes, and a genuine eye for the natural world in all its quirks and oddness, this book is for the whole family. Find out more about its brilliant author over on The Spinoff Books Confessional, here.

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

One of the biggest books of the year: also a safe bet for a Boxing Day lie down.

Keep going!