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Photograph of a middle-aged woman sitting in front of a sunlit bookcase.
Sue Orr (Photo: Ebony Lamb)

BooksJune 18, 2021

The Unity Books bestseller chart for the week ending 18 June

Photograph of a middle-aged woman sitting in front of a sunlit bookcase.
Sue Orr (Photo: Ebony Lamb)

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  The Neil Gaiman Reader: Selected Fiction by Neil Gaiman (Headline Publishing, $60)

The ultimate feast, with nearly 50 short stories and novellas, and excerpts from five Gaiman novels. It’s been out for a while; we suspect it’s topping the list because the other day Gaiman popped into Unity and signed every copy in the store, then tweeted about it. 

For superfans – a sneak preview of Netflix’s adaptation of The Sandman has also just been released. 

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

The Guardian puts Ishiguro on its top 50 summer (summer – if only) hottest (now you’re just teasing) list: 

“Klara, the ‘artificial friend’ to sickly teenager Josie, is our naive guide through Ishiguro’s uneasy near-future, in which AI and genetic enhancement threaten to create a human underclass. Klara’s quest to understand the people and systems around her, and to protect Josie at all costs, illuminates what it means to love, to care – to be human.”

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

Fifty-two whakataukī to improve your life, and Oprah’s.

4  Noise: A Flaw in Human Judgment by Daniel Kahneman, Olivier Sibony & Cass R. Sunstein (HarperCollins, $40) 

The authors of Nudge and Thinking Fast and Slow have new thoughts and research to share. This time it’s about why hunger, Wednesdays, or a bad sleep have such huge impacts on court judgements and medical diagnoses (true story), and what we can do about it (read to find out). 

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

This week, Faith Wilson responded to Tayi’s second book of poetry, writing, “As I drank every word of Rangikura, then back to Poūkangatus then back to Rangikura again, I felt myself defrost. Yes, poetry can be fucking good, can be genius even. That this enigmatic kid from Porirua, this Māori Mona Lisa, was out here, walking over the words of the dead white poets in stiletto heels and dripping gold, was doing her own kanikani, the one only she knows, evolved from ancestral blessedness, showing the world, showing me, showing you, how it’s done.”

6  Bug Week & Other Stories by Airini Beautrais (Victoria University Press, $30)

As winner of Aoteatoa’s biggest fiction prize, clearly the Ockham judges say two thumbs up. But what do the judges of Goodreads have to say?

Amelia said, “I haven’t read many short story collections, but out of the few I have – this is by FAR my favourite!”

Rosie said, “It’s exactly my kind of stories. Raw, edgy, brutally honest. God there’s nothing I love more than a writer that’s not afraid to say what they think.”

7  The Mirror Book by Charlotte Grimshaw (Vintage, $38)

We love The Mirror Book. But for a more … critical take, Off the Tracks has written a biting review where Grimshaw’s memoir is called, among other things, “Literary Elder Abuse.” Ouch. 

8  Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell (Tinder Press, $25)

Historical fiction about the death of Shakespeare’s young son.

9  The Savage Coloniser Book by Tusiata Avia (Victoria University Press, $25)

New poetry from the brilliant author of Fale Aitu | Spirit House and Wild Dogs Under My Skirt, last month this collection won Avia the Mary and Peter Biggs Award for Poetry. The highlight of the awards ceremony was Avia on stage, reading a poem about James Cook. “FUCK YOU UP, BITCH,” she crooned, with precision and relish. Repeatedly.

The publisher’s blurb reads: “Avia addresses James Cook in fury. She unravels the 2019 Christchurch massacre, walking us back to the beginning. She describes the contortions we make to avoid blame. And she locates the many voices that offer hope. The Savage Coloniser Book is a personal and political reckoning. As it holds history accountable, it rises in power.” 

10  Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters (Serpents Tail, $23)

The Guardian suggests that Detransition, Baby is perhaps “the first great trans realist novel”, while Andrea Lawlor says it “might destroy your book club, but in a good way.”


1  Loop Tracks by Sue Orr (Victoria University Press, $35)

An intergenerational novel set in Auckland and Wellington, written against the backdrop of Covid-19, the election, and the euthanasia referendum. VUP is calling it a “major New Zealand novel”, which is something they don’t do often. 

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

The book that’s here to stay. 

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

4  To Be Fair: Confessions of a District Court Judge by Rosemary Riddell (Upstart Press, $40)

“Retired judge Rosemary Riddell shares her reminiscences of life on the bench, complete with its humour, frustrations and poignant moments. A unique glimpse into a world most of us can only imagine, her story is a fascinating commentary on New Zealand life from the point of view of a woman involved in the top levels of our justice system” – from the publisher’s blurb.

5  Helen Kelly: Her Life by Rebecca Macfie (Awa Press, $50)

The Otago Daily Times says, “Moments in the book may bring you to tears, but more often readers will be in awe of this whirlwind of a woman who died from lung cancer in 2016 at 52. They will also have a better understanding of the injustices she railed so tirelessly against and be able to share her frustration and indignation.”

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

The bestselling novel about identical twins that explores what it means to “pass” as white – now in a smaller, cuter, cheaper edition. Click here to death scroll through endless praise. 

7  From the Centre: A Writer’s Life by Patricia Grace (Penguin, $40)

“If Māori readers did not relate to my writing, or if they rejected it, I would not do it.”

8  Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell (Tinder Press, $25)

9  Bug Week & Other Stories by Airini Beautrais (Victoria University Press, $30)

10  Māori Made Easy: For Everyday Learners of the Māori Language by Scotty Morrison (Penguin, $38)

The absolute go-to book for anyone wanting to learn te reo.

Keep going!