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 Grand: Becoming My Mother’s Daughter by Noelle McCarthy (Penguin, $35)
All of Auckland is reading about Noelle McCarthy and her complicated relationship with her mother, Carol. Diana Wichtel tells us why: “In this stunning reckoning with demons, McCarthy’s mammy, Carol, lands on the page with a hilarious, indelible, appalling vivacity, stealing every scene. The trajectory of their relationship – intense, literally tooth and claw, barely survivable – takes them, in the nick of time, to something fierce and unbreakable. Grand will have you reassessing the power of love; the deep and painful channels it can cut.”
If you’re not entirely sold, let books editor Catherine Woulfe convince you.
2 Greta & Valdin by Rebecca K Reilly (Te Herenga Waka University Press, $35)
Greta & Valdin is one of four finalists in the running to win the Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction, which will be awarded at a real-life ceremony in Auckland on 11 May. Here are some sparkling reviews to have you dashing to the bookshop.
“Greta & Valdin is a complete world. I was totally captivated. It is warm and funny, inventive and charming, with a genuine and earned tenderness at its heart” – Kate Duignan
“Delightful, funny, wonderful … I laughed my way through this book. An incredible novel from a young new writer. I heartily recommend it to everybody” – Claire Mabey
“Greta & Valdin is fresh, funny, tangled and brilliant. I can’t wait for someone to make the sitcom so I can keep Reilly’s characters in my life” – Hannah Tunnicliffe
3 Shifting Grounds: Deep Histories of Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland by Lucy Mackintosh (Bridget Williams Books, $60)
Another Ockham finalist, this time up for the Booksellers Aotearoa New Zealand Award for Illustrated Non-Fiction. Shifting Grounds is certainly winning bestselling illustrated non-fiction at Unity, but we’ll have to wait until May to see if that shifts (ha ha) into winning the $10K prize as well.
4 Kurangaituku by Whiti Hereaka (Huia Publishers, $35)
The third Ockham finalist on the list, and the one that we have ordered the judges to award with a crown: “give the Acorn to Whiti Hereaka”!
5 Young Mungo by Douglas Stuart (Picador, $38)
The Booker-winning author of Shuggie Bain has a new novel, and we are hyped. The Observer describes Young Mungo as “a gay Romeo and Juliet set in the brutal world of Glasgow’s housing estates.”
6 Actions & Travels: How Poetry Works by Anna Jackson (Auckland University Press, $35)
Anna Jackson, poet and associate professor in English literature at Vic, has written an introduction to poetry. Michael Hulse says, “Every sentence brims over with Anna Jackson’s informed love of poetry, its fun and its gravity, its wildness and its variety. Ranging from the ancient to the tweeted, she helps novices without sounding like a primer, and tosses the experts bones to quarrel over. If you read just one book about poetry this year, this should be the one.”
7 To Paradise by Hanya Yanagihara (Picador, $38)
The newest novel by the author of A Little Life. Sam Brooks has opinions.
8 Meat Lovers by Rebecca Hawkes (Auckland University Press, $25)
A new collection by Wellington poet and Canterbury farm-girl. Here’s a meaty morsel:
I am trying to go vegetarian but finding myself weak,
week to week browsing the meat aisle at a linger
close enough to chill my arms to gooseflesh. I only buy
stuff so processed it hardly makes sense to call it meat.
Saveloy, nugget, continental frankfurter;
whatever gets extruded pink beyond possible memory
of the preceding body.
9 The Candy House by Jennifer Egan (Simon and Schuster, $38)
Pulitzer-winning author Jennifer Egan brought us A Visit From the Goon Squad in 2011, and has now served up a highly-anticipated new novel. In The Candy House, tech billionaire Bix’s company enables every memory a person has to be accessed and exchanged at will (spoiler: not everyone likes this idea). In classic Egan style, the novel is built from multiple narratives that spin out over decades, with chapters ranging from omniscient, first person plural, epistolary, duet and tweet-only forms.
10 Toi Tū Toi Ora: Contemporary Māori Art by Nigel Borell (Penguin, $65)
The fantastic Toi Tū Toi Ora exhibition that lived at Auckland Art Gallery in 2021 has been captured to live forever in book form. The introduction is a long and wonderful essay by Moana Jackson; we have published part of it here.
1 Wellington Architecture: A Walking Guide by John Walsh & Patrick Reynolds (Massey University Press, $25)
Wellingtonians are learning about their city this week, building by building and step by step. Either that, or the Airbnb hosts of Wellington are stocking up their guest bedside table reading piles en masse.
2 Imagining Decolonisation by Rebecca Kiddle, Bianca Elkington, Moana Jackson, Ocean Ripeka Mercier, Mike Ross, Jennie Smeaton and Amanda Thomas (Bridget Williams Books, $15)
We keep on imagining, every week.
3 Meat Lovers by Rebecca Hawkes (Auckland University Press, $25)
4 So Far, For Now: On Journeys, Widowhood and Stories that are Never Over by Fiona Kidman (Vintage, $38)
A new memoir by one of Aotearoa’s greatest writers. We recently published an extract where Fiona Kidman reflects on literary festivals. A sample: “For the most part, writers have solitary lives, sitting alone in front of a computer. When we go to festivals, we are performing and selling our work and ourselves. The two merge into each other. We want to be liked. (Sometimes it is easier to be famous than it is to be loved.) For a short time, we enjoy the hospitality of people who, for the most part, are strangers. We are the outsiders looking in, just as we are when we sit down to create characters, people we know and can never entirely know, and will abandon when we start the next book.”
5 Dogs in Early New Zealand Photographs by Mike White (Te Papa Press, $35)
Want to ogle dog pics? This new and beautifully curated Te Papa Press collection brings together more than 100 historic photographs of New Zealand dogs from the 19th and 20th centuries.
6 Harbouring by Jenny Pattrick (Black Swan, $36)
New local fiction by the author of Landings, The Denniston Rose, and Skylark. The publisher’s blurb is here to do the rest of the heavy lifting for us: “It is 1839 and Huw Pengellin is desperate to find a better life for his family than the one he ekes out in Wales. His wife, Martha, is fully aware just how foolhardy Huw’s schemes can be, but she is keen to escape the foundry slums, as well as Huw’s brother Gareth, with his hot eyes and roving hands. Might Colonel Wakefield’s plans to take settlers to the distant shores of New Zealand offer a solution?
“On the other side of the world, watching the new arrivals, is Hineroa, who is also desperate to find a better life. Will she be a slave for ever, will she ever be reunited with her people, and will the ships that keep sailing into the bay bring further trouble?
“Change is underway, not just for these characters but also for the crescent of beach, thick bush and steep hills that are about to become the bustling settlement of Wellington.”
7 Young Mungo by Douglas Stuart (Picador, $38)
8 Experiences of Health Workers in the COVID-19 Pandemic: In Their Own Words by Marie Bismark, Karen Willis, Sophie Lewis & Natasha Smallwood (Routledge, $83)
A record of the experiences of over 9,000 frontline health workers in Australia, who were surveyed during the second wave of Covid-19 about the psychological, occupational and social impacts of the pandemic. Intensive care doctors, hospital cleaners, rural GPs, and aged care nurses all have their experiences represented to create a shared narrative. Essential reading for anyone wanting to learn from the pandemic and strengthen our health systems.
9 Greta & Valdin by Rebecca K Reilly (Te Herenga Waka University Press, $35)
10 The Bookseller at the End of the World by Ruth Shaw (Allen & Unwin, $37)
A new, local entry in the “lives of booksellers” memoir category, also populated by Shaun Bythell’s The Diary of a Bookseller and the Customer Service Wolf tumblr. Ruth Shaw runs two tiny bookshops in the deep south of Fiordland, and combines stories from her own life, those who visit her bookshops, and, of course, thoughts on her favourite books.
Booksellers’ Choice Australia has this to say: “Utterly charming and filled with equal measures of heartbreak and humour, Ruth Shaw’s memoir will have you booking the first flight to New Zealand to share a cup of tea at her Wee Bookshops. Shaw has been a cook, a nurse, sailor and world traveller, and endured immeasurable loss. But with Lance, the love of her life, Shaw has found her place bookselling in Fiordland.”
If you’re in Manapouri over the long weekends, pop into Wee Bookshops – you might just make it into memoir number two (aim for being the charming and interesting character, not the frightening oddball).