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BooksMay 17, 2024

The Unity Books bestseller chart for the week ending May 17


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  Slow Productivity by Cal Newport (Penguin, $40)

Taking out the top spot in Auckland this week is Slow Productivity, a manifesto against hustle culture by Cal Newport, the author of Deep Work. The central thesis; that better and more meaningful work can be accomplished by following the example of the tortoise rather than the hare, takes the form of a series of interlinked biographical anecdotes about successful public figures such as Jewel, Stephanie Meyer, Galileo and Benjamin Franklin. For those who are too busy to read Newport’s advice, the book can be summed up with the motto “do less better.” 

2  Caledonian Road by Andrew O’Hagan (Faber & Faber, $40)

From the bestselling author of Mayflies, Caledonian Road is described by the Guardian as a “pitch-perfect tragicomedy of manners,” about a celebrity art historian’s fall from grace. A great state-of-the-nation novel, with a sprawling, Dickensian cast of characters, illuminating an incendiary London year, full of “crimes, secrets and scandals.”

3  First Things: A Memoir by Harry Ricketts (Te Herenga Waka, $35)

Hot off the press! A memoir by Wellington poet and former lecturer Harry Rickets, which “chronicles his early life through the lens of ‘firsts’: those moments that can hold their detail and potency across a lifetime. Set mostly in Hong Kong and Oxford, these bright fragments include the places, people, writers, encounters and obsessions that have shaped Ricketts’ world, from his first friends and rivals to his first time being caned by a teacher and his first time dropping acid.”

4  Butter by Asako Yuzuki (Fourth Estate, $35)

Butter is back! A Japanese feminist bestseller based on the real-life story of the “Konkatsu Killer” – a talented con woman and home cook, accused of poisoning three male lovers. The book investigates the role of women in contemporary Japanese culture, and insatiable hunger, in all its forms. 

5  Vulture Capitalism by Grace Blakeley (Bloomsbury, $39)

A searing and galvanising expose of the predatory machinations of neoliberal capitalism, by journalist Grace Blakeley. Endorsed by Yanis Varoufakis and Naomi Klein, this is a powerful and prescient investigation into the inner workings of free-market capitalism, and how the ultra-rich have exploited our democratic institutions to create a new plutocracy. 

6  The Garden Against Time: In Search of Common Paradise by Olivia Laing (Picador, $55)

The Garden Against Time by critically acclaimed essayist and art writer, Olivia Laing, is a characteristically digressive memoir about Laing’s restoration of a walled garden in Suffolk. Drawing from a rich canon of garden-based art and literature, such as Milton, William Morris and Derek Jarman, Laing is one of those authors who can make almost any subject interesting, but there’s a visceral, almost hypnotic satisfaction in Laing’s descriptions of potting, pruning and propagating while dealing with personal crises. For adult fans of The Secret Garden. 

7  Lioness by Emily Perkins (Bloomsbury Circus, $25)

The brand new winner of the Ockhams’ fiction category! You can read Spinoff editor Madeleine Chapman’s recent interview with Emily here, published the morning after her win. 

8  Hine Toa by Ngāhuia te Awekōtuku (Harper Collins, $40)

The memoir of one of our brightest scholars and activists, which more or less blew reviewer Matariki Williams’ mind. Read all about that here

9  The Financial Colonisation of Aotearoa by Catherine Comyn (Economic & Social Research Aotearoa, $30)

A brilliant look at the role economics played in the colonisation of Aotearoa. Read Charlotte Muru-Lanning’s interview with author Catherine Comyn here

10  The Bee Sting by Paul Murray (Penguin, $55)

An utterly delightful, foul-mouthed and deeply moving saga of an Irish family in crisis. Murray is a triple threat: he has a deep emotional intelligence, can craft an irresistible sentence, and has a true talent for ventriloquism. Told from four different perspectives – husband and wife, daughter and son, the size of the book may initially seem daunting, but you’ll be sorry when it’s over! 


1  Consolations of Insignificance: A NZ Diplomatic Memoir by Terence O’Brien (Te Herenga Waka University Press, $40)

This recently published memoir by former diplomat Terence O’Brien is the perfect read for policy wonks. The memoir recounts a long and eventful career working in Asia, Europe and the South Pacific. Some of O’Brien’s achievements include “establishing New Zealand’s first embassy in China, securing trade agreements with the United Kingdom after it joined the EEC, dealing with the fallout from New Zealand’s nuclear-free policy, directing New Zealand diplomacy during the Fiji coups, and gaining a seat on the UN Security Council during the turbulent early 1990s.” 

2  Hagstone by Sinead Gleeson (4th Estate, $37 Paperback/$49 Hardback)

A “haunting and sexy debut” by Irish writer Sinead Gleeson, glowingly reviewed by books editor Claire Mabey.

3  First Things by Harry Ricketts (Te Herenga Waka University Press, $35)

4  Manuail’i  by Rex Letoa-Paget (Saufo’i Press, $30)

 A fresh and heartfelt new poetry collection “dancing on the delicate tightrope of here, the past, and an imagined future,” which deals with grief,  gender identity and contemporary life.

5  Garden Against Time: In Search of a Common Paradise by Olivia Laing (Picador, $56)

6  Last Secret Agent: My Untold Story of Life as a Spy Behind Nazi Enemy Lines by Pippa Latour with Jude Dobson (Allen & Unwin, $38)

An astonishing true story of “one of the last female special operations agents in France to get out alive after its liberation in WWII.” 

From the publisher’s website: “Pippa knew she could be instantly shot if her cover was blown – she concealed her codes on a piece of silk that she threaded through a shoelace and wore as a hair tie. She bicycled around the region, often sleeping rough and foraging for food. For decades, Pippa told no one – not even her family – of her incredible feats during WWII.” 

7  Prophet Song by Paul Lynch (Oneworld, $25)

The Irish dystopian novel that won the 2023 Booker Prize. A claustrophobic and terrifying novel about a family trying to survive in a totalitarian future Ireland. As quoted in the Guardian, Lynch says: “This idea of the armageddon is actually a fantasy; the idea that the world is going to end in some sudden event in your lifetime. But the world is always ending over and over again. It comes to your town, and it knocks on your door.”

8  Ans Westra: A Life in Photography by Paul Moon (Massey University Press, $50)

A biography of prolific and sometimes controversial photographer Ans Westra. From the publisher’s website: “Her dedication and determination sometimes came at a cost but she was focused and driven, overcoming a difficult childhood in the Netherlands and later complex adult relationships to forge her own path. Warm, engaging and sympathetic, this richly illustrated biography interrogates her remarkable – and at times controversial – practice and a life that always put photography first.”

9  Strong Female Character by Fern Brady (Brazen, $28)

A funny and moving memoir from Scottish comedian and Taskmaster legend Fern Brady, about her comedy career, and late-in-life autism diagnosis. 

10  Ash by Louise Wallace (Te Herenga Waka University Press, $30)

An explosive debut novel from local talent Louise Wallace, about motherhood, natural disasters and female rage. Enjoyed immensely by books editor Claire Mabey

Keep going!