(Photo: Cavan Images via Getty ; Design: Tina Tiller)
(Photo: Cavan Images via Getty ; Design: Tina Tiller)

BooksDecember 17, 2021

The Unity Books bestseller chart for the week ending December 17

(Photo: Cavan Images via Getty ; Design: Tina Tiller)
(Photo: Cavan Images via Getty ; Design: 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  Shifting Grounds: Deep Histories of Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland by Lucy Mackintosh (Bridget Williams Books, $60)

Answer to the question “What do I buy an Aucklander for Christmas if I want them to think I’m Number One?”

Oh, you want to know more than that? Okay. In the Herald, Simon Wilson calls Shifting Ground “a tremendous read”. More words follow: “It’s a history of the city focused on what we can learn by studying ‘place’. Landscapes, locations and the secrets and counter-narratives they reveal. Not history as we learn it from the written word, she says, so much as history that comes out of the ground. ‘Start with what’s under our feet,’ she says, and inform it with ‘mātauranga Māori, archaeology, geography, botany and material culture’. And, I would add, the arts of storytelling. The book is full of stories at the edge of stories, stories buried by the heavier tales of prevailing cultural understanding, stories that make you think again.”

2  Oh William! by Elizabeth Strout (Viking, $35)

Lucy Barton stars in her third excellent novel. What an attention seeker.

3  Ottolenghi Test Kitchen: Shelf Love by Yotam Ottolenghi and Noor Murad (Ebury Press, $55)

A delicious addition to any shelf. The Guardian gives a sweet summary: “In 2020, most of us finally turned to that ‘one shelf in the pantry’, the one full of overlooked ingredients, and tried to make a meal. The shelves of Yotam Ottolenghi and his test kitchen team, led by Noor Murad, may have been better equipped than most, but in this guide to making the most of what you have, it’s inspiration that shines, rather than reliance on fancy ingredients.”

4  The Promise by Damon Galgut (Chatto & Windus, $37)

This year’s Booker winner.

5  Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr (Simon & Schuster, $35)

The book that forced Books editor Catherine Woulfe to use the word “uplifting”. In situ: “I hate the word ‘uplifting’ but really there’s no other word for it – the reading of this book lifted me up, left me more hopeful, more peaceful. It’s been weeks now and that feeling has lingered. It is exactly the book I needed.” 

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

What more can we ask for over Christmas than Aroha? 

7  These Precious Days by Ann Patchett (Bloomsbury, $33)

A new essay collection by the mastermind author of Bel Canto. Patchett shares stories and thoughts about her family, friendship and cancer, her decision not to have children, and appreciating the precious moments of life. The title essay was first published in Harper’s Magazine, if you want to try before you buy. 

8  The Sweetness of Water by Nathan Harris (Tinder Press, $35)

Historical fiction set at the end of the American Civil War. It was longlisted for the Booker, is part of both Oprah’s Book Club and Obama’s Summer Reading 2021 Selection, and Harris has been compared to Colson Whitehead. Accolades out its ears, basically. 

9  Snow Country by Sebastian Faulks (Hutchinson, $37)

A new novel that loosely follows Faulk’s 2005 book Human Traces.

10  Things I Learned at Art School by Megan Dunn (Penguin, $35)

Megan Dunn is a delight of a local writer, and her book of essays and memoir is one of our favourites this year. It’s filled with lines like, “The [high school] library was organised by the Dewey Decimal System and raging with prepubescent curiosity” and “The Mammoth Hunters. Not sure, never read it. Pretty sure it involved mammoths though.” And that’s within 200 words of this excerpt – serious bang for your buck.


1  Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr (Simon & Schuster, $35)

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

3  Ottolenghi Test Kitchen: Shelf Love by Yotam Ottolenghi and Noor Murad (Ebury Press, $55)

4  The Promise by Damon Galgut (Chatto & Windus, $37)

5  Dune by Frank Herbert (Hodder, $28)

The 1965 sci-fi classic, whose new movie counterpart is currently gracing our big screens.

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

A little book with big staying power. It has been a turbulent shocker of a year, quite frankly, but Imagining Decolonisation has been as steadily and stubbornly on the bestseller list as one thing chemically fused to … something else. (Sorry, but it is nearly Christmas.)

7  Silverview by John le Carré (Viking, $35)

Le Carré’s final novel. RIP, spymaster.

8  These Precious Days by Ann Patchett (Bloomsbury, $33)

9  Beautiful World, Where Are You by Sally Rooney (Faber, $33)

The newest of the Rooneys.

10  Taste: My Life Through Food by Stanley Tucci (Fig Tree, $45)

Another lovely Guardian summary: “The actor Stanley Tucci is a famously charming man and in Taste, his belly-led memoir, he has written an utterly charming book. Happily, it is short on actorly anecdote and long on tips and recipes for the rustic pasta dishes that he grew up with as an Italian American in upstate New York, as well as the stories that underpin them.”

Bridget Jones (the one from Stuff, not the one from the brain of Helen Fielding) says reading it is “like a meal with a mate”.

The Spinoff Review of Books is proudly brought to you by Unity Books, recently named 2020 International Book Store of the Year, London Book Fair, and Creative New Zealand. Visit Unity Books Wellington or Unity Books Auckland online stores today. 

Mad Chapman, Editor
Aotearoa continues to adapt to a new reality and The Spinoff is right there, sorting fact from fiction to bring you the latest updates and biggest stories. Help us continue this coverage, and so much more, by supporting The Spinoff Members.Madeleine Chapman, EditorJoin Members

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