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Tusiata Avia’s new poetry collection hits the charts (Image: Tina Tiller)
Tusiata Avia’s new poetry collection hits the charts (Image: Tina Tiller)

BooksNovember 17, 2023

The Unity Books bestseller chart for the week ending November 17

Tusiata Avia’s new poetry collection hits the charts (Image: Tina Tiller)
Tusiata Avia’s new poetry collection hits the charts (Image: Tina Tiller)

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

A new novel from the author of the young woman’s bible, Everything I Know About Love. Good Material has been likened to the work of Nick Hornby and Helen Fielding; it’s the story of Andy, a 35-year-old man, recently left heartbroken. The Guardian writes, “This anatomisation of a breakup and its aftermath is daring, not, as one might expect, for Alderton’s decision to channel a male voice for the bulk of the text. The challenge here is the sustained smallness of the canvas she adopts: the intensely limited focus on Andy and his bungled attempts to understand the unexpected shaking of his world, to crawl out of his misery and to get his girl back.”

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

You may recall, back in 2013, everyone reading a cliff-hanging spy thriller called I Am Pilgrim. It’s taken a decade, but Terry Hayes’ follow up and second novel has finally landed. The Times says The Year of the Locust is “an often captivating, mass-market adventure story that’s mostly more treat than trick. Just watch out for the zombies.” If that speaks to you – you know what to do.

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

Lovely and little and perfect. A film starring Cillian Murphy is in the works, and we can’t wait.

4 The Queen of Dirt Island by Donal Ryan (Penguin, $26)

A new novel about four generations of women by the Irish author of Strange Flowers. Other writers love it completely:

“One of the finest novelists writing today… a haunting, exquisite masterpiece” – Rachel Joyce

“A generous mosaic of a novel about the staying power of love and pride and history and family” – Colum McCann

“Beautiful, compassionate … Donal Ryan at his inimitable best.” Maggie O’Farrell

“His paragraphs are unnoticeably beautiful, his heart always on show” – Anne Enright

5 Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami (Vintage, $27)

A 1987 novel that was a bestseller then – and now.

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

Shortlisted for the Booker (winner announced on the 26th), and adored by us. Our pick for the big juicy read of the summer.

7 Iron Flame by Rebecca Yarros (Sphere, $38)

Book two in the fantasy world of Empyrean.

8 Before We Say Goodbye by Toshikazu Kawaguchi (Picador, $25) 

The fourth novel in the ever-popular Before the Coffee Gets Cold series.

9 Surrounded by Idiots by Thomas Erikson (Vermilion, $30)

A Swedish phenomenon which teaches you how to manage and communicate with other humans – even those you find incomprehensible or thick beyond belief. From the publisher’s blurb: “Erikson will help you understand yourself better, hone communication and social skills, handle conflict with confidence, improve dynamics with your boss and team, and get the best out of the people you deal with and manage.”

It’s obvious why this one is in the bestsellers again: workplace Secret Santa is approaching.

10 The Creative Act: A Way of Being by Rick Rubin (Canongate, $50)

Sam Brooks of The Spinoff recently expressed his thoughts on The Creative Act – which is brilliant, because we finally have something new to say about this won’t-leave-the-bestsellers-list-bestseller. Here’s that something new: “If you’re feeling blocked, this book is probably for you. If you want a winding pathway to your own creativity, this book is definitely for you. If you’re an artist with your own creative practice but feeling a bit lost, you probably can’t afford this book ($50!) but should put a hold on it at your local library. If you just want to understand creativity a little bit better, and look at the world around you, and the creativity that inhabits it with clearer eyes, this book is for you.”


1 Big Fat Brown Bitch by Tusiata Avia (Te Herenga Waka University Press, $30)

Oooooh! Brand new poetry from the wondrous author of Ockham-award-winning The Savage Coloniser Book had its first outing at Verb Readers & Writers Festival last weekend. Fellow local poet Courtney Sina Meredith writes: “A book of poetry as angry as it is beautiful, a study on hate as much as it is a circling of the wound with sea-salt kisses (think diving into the wreck a la Adrienne Rich, but very brown) . . . This poet is in expert control. It’s a raw and hard-won wisdom between the lines, a sense of looking back over her battles and her treasures: a masterpiece of radical self-acceptance.”

Tusiata Avia reading from her magnificent new poetry collection at Verb Readers & Writers Festival in Wellington. (Photo: Rebecca McMillan Photography)

2 A Feeling for Food by Lis Cowey (The Cuba Press, $45)

“A Feeling for Food began as a letter to two sons leaving home, giving them the recipes of the food they’d grown up with so they could feed themselves, but Lis Cowey soon realised she was giving them another kind of nourishment that was all about who they were, where they’d come from and the adventures awaiting them. For behind every recipe there’s a story about where Lis found it, who cooked it and why, and each story provides a thread linking a table of food in front of her with a table of food in the past made by other hands, or one on the far side of the world. From Great-Granny Nelson’s relish to their uncle Paul’s fluffy pancakes, from the bacon and egg pie that always goes on picnics to the bagels Lis ate in New York and the tarte Tatin in France that she simply had to learn to make, Lis asks Fred and Carlo and her other readers to pay attention as a way to discover their own food stories and fortify themselves body and soul in a big wide hungry world.” 

Thanks, publisher’s blurb!

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

4 Spoiled Fruit edited by Damien Levi & Amber Esau (Āporo Press, $30)

A new anthology of queer poetry from Aotearoa. Editors Damien Levi and Amber Esau recently shared with The Spinoff the 10 lessons they learnt from publishing their first book, which you can read all about here.

5 Turncoat by Tīhema Baker (Lawrence & Gibson, $35)

In Turncoat, aliens are governing Earth and breaking their treaty promises, and narrator Daniel is one of the few people who doesn’t like it. In a recent Spinoff review, Shanti Mathias wrote: “Turncoat … is in some ways a straightforward satire about what it’s like for Māori to work within a system that constantly breaches Te Tiriti o Waitangi. … I have mixed feelings about high-concept satire like this. Sometimes there’s no insight to be drawn from committing to the bit of a weird comparison for something in the real world. Excessively po-faced satire is exhausting, not finely observed. … At its best, though, satire has the freedom to be deeply silly. Stuck in the seriousness of, say, profoundly unequal Treaty relations, it can be hard to laugh about all the things that are, frankly, hilarious. But Turncoat has this in droves.”

6 The Woman in Me by Britney Spears (Simon & Schuster, $55)

The Britney Spears story, finally told by Britney herself. Our review coming soon.

7 One of Them by Shaneel Lal (Allen & Unwin, $37)

Not everyone can write a bestselling memoir before they turn 24. Activist, writer, model and Young New Zealander of the Year Shaneel Lal has. 

8 Articulations by Henrietta Bollinger (Tender Press, $28)

A stunning collection of personal essays by writer, artist and disability advocate Henrietta Bollinger. Read an excerpt, and prepare to be moved, compelled and maybe even challenged.

9 Pet by Catherine Chidgey (Te Herenga Waka University Press, $38)

Chidgey is just a star, isn’t she?

10 Modern Chinese by Sam Low (Allen & Unwin, $50)

A fresh cookbook is always a great Christmas gift (yes, sorry, the “C” word again – but somehow it’s just around the corner!), and Masterchef NZ Winner Sam Low’s first cookbook is full of delectable modern Chinese recipes. Best purchased for someone you love who will cook dinner for you. 

Sam Low hands his cookbook to Wellington on a Plate’s Beth Brash, at Verb Readers & Writers Festival. (Photo: Rebecca McMillan Photography)
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