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The Unity Books bestseller chart for the week ending July 16

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  Play and the City: How to Create Places and Spaces to Help Us Thrive by Alex Bonham (Robinson, $38)

New nonfiction. The publisher’s blurb says: “A city that is enjoyable to live in – that provides welcoming spaces, plentiful resources, and an attitude of ‘yes, you can’ – is a playful city. A city that is good for eight-year-olds as well as 80-year-olds is a city that’s good for all of us. 

“By looking at how different cities across space and time have sought to encourage and facilitate play, Bonham shows us how to conceptualise our own contemporary city as a game, and encourages us to become participants rather than spectators.”

2  Rangikura by Tayi Tibble (Victoria University Press, $25)

“I didn’t intend to write a hagiography … but here we are. Is it inappropriate for me to say that reading Rangikura saved me, in a way? Or that it stoked the last few embers of my charcoal heart, reminding me that actually, poetry can be fucking good? Poetry can, in fact, be revolutionary.” Wonderful words by Faith Wilson (you can find even more of them by clicking that link).

3  The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (Bloomsbury, $25)

OK, for a while we’ve tried to play off the appearance on this list of both The Song of Achilles and Circe as “they’re fun, it’s winter, why not!” But now it’s just getting … weird. Song of Achilles was published in 2011, and while it may be good, is it really number-three-a-decade-later good? Enough is enough. It might be time to do some serious investigative journalism. 

4  The Bomber Mafia: A Story Set in War by Malcolm Gladwell (Allen Lane, $40)

New World War Two nonfiction about precision bombing, from the author of Blink and Outliers.

5  House of Kwa by Mimi Kwa (Harper Collins, $38)

The publisher’s blurb tantalisingly describes House of Kwa as “Wild Swans meets Educated”. It then continues, equally tantalisingly, “Mimi Kwa ignored the letter for days. When she finally opened it, the news was so shocking her hair turned grey. Why would a father sue his own daughter?

“The collision was over the estate of Mimi’s beloved Aunt Theresa, but its seed had been sown long ago. In an attempt to understand how it had come to this, Mimi unspools her rich family history in House of Kwa.”

6  The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy (Ebury Press, $40)

Imagine a more sophisticated, beautifully illustrated Winnie the Pooh: delightful, childish, but somehow wise and eternal. This book regularly appears on the Unity children’s bestsellers list, too. 

7  Alexandria: The Quest for the Lost City by Edmund Richardson (Bloomsbury, $33)

New nonfiction about enigmatic archaeologist Charles Masson, who uncovered the legendary lost city of Alexandria Beneath the Mountains. The Guardian says, “Only now, with this superb biography, is Masson’s tale told in full for the first time. The result, evocatively written, impeccably researched and minutely footnoted, but with the pace and deftly woven plot complexity of a John le Carré novel, is a small masterpiece. It solves most of the mysteries of Masson’s story and deserves all the acclaim it will undoubtedly win.”

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

At what point do we alert Penguin Random House that it’s time to create an orange Popular Penguin edition for this modern classic? 

9  Circe by Madeline Miller (Bloomsbury, $22)

Suspect number two in the Madeline Miller mystery. 

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

Oh, thank goodness! We didn’t want to alarm anyone at the time, but last week Auē was not actually on the bestseller list. It was perhaps as perturbing as seeing no toilet paper in the supermarket for the first time ever before lockdown.


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

2  Labour Saving: A Memoir by Michael Cullen (Allen & Unwin, $50)

Sir Michael Cullen writes about his career as a major Labour Party politician, and calls Helen Clark a workhorse (our words) and Winston Peters a “quandary” (his). 

3  Aroha: Māori Wisdom for a Contented Life Lived in Harmony with our Planet by Hinemoa Elder (Penguin Random House, $30)

Pages of wisdom, loved by all (including Oprah). 

4  Three Women by Lisa Taddeo (Bloomsbury, $25)

One of 2019’s big nonfiction bestsellers, covering the emotional and sexual lives of, yes, you guessed it – three women. 

5  Animal: A Novel by Lisa Taddeo (Bloomsbury, $35)

The new, debut novel by the very same Lisa Taddeo! The Guardian says, “Animal is about a world that concentrates sexual abuse on the vulnerable, then treats their resulting dysfunction as an invitation to more sexual abuse.” Some light reading, then. 

6  The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett (Dialogue Books, $25)

A novel about twin sisters who grow up in a small, Black town where people obsess over maintaining the community’s lighter skin tone. One sister remains in the town, while the other grows up to escape her upbringing and “pass” for white. 

7  Rangikura by Tayi Tibble (Victoria University Press, $25)

8  The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich (Little, Brown, $25)

The Times says, “A moving account of people trying to cling on to their identity in a hostile world.”

The New York Times says, “For 450 pages, we are grateful to be allowed into this world.”

TIME says, “Erdrich describes the Turtle Mountain Reservation in North Dakota in rich detail and illustrates the lengths that some will go to protect the ones they care for.”

And yes, those reviews were selected because they are all from different times. Sorry, that was a terrible joke, but it’s getting near the end of the list and we’re getting sleepy. 

9  Māori Philosophy: Indigenous Thinking From Aotearoa by Georgina Stewart (Bloomsbury, $39)

“This book is an anthropology of Māori philosophy, a journey following Māori thought and metaphysics as it wrestles with the dictates of coloniality/modernity” – Garrick Cooper, senior lecturer of Māori and Indigenous Studies at the University of Canterbury.

10  Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro (Faber & Faber, $37)

Number 10! Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Kidding! We only tease Ishiguro because the Nobel Prize winner can handle it. 

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