Crocodiles! They’re everywhere in NZ writing right now: The Absolute Book, The Quick and the Dead, The Girl in the Mirror, Across the Risen Sea … (Photo: Getty)
Crocodiles! They’re everywhere in NZ writing right now: The Absolute Book, The Quick and the Dead, The Girl in the Mirror, Across the Risen Sea … (Photo: Getty)

BooksSeptember 18, 2020

The Unity Books bestseller chart for the week ending September 18

Crocodiles! They’re everywhere in NZ writing right now: The Absolute Book, The Quick and the Dead, The Girl in the Mirror, Across the Risen Sea … (Photo: Getty)
Crocodiles! They’re everywhere in NZ writing right now: The Absolute Book, The Quick and the Dead, The Girl in the Mirror, Across the Risen Sea … (Photo: Getty)

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  Hope in Hell: A Decade to Confront the Climate Emergency by Jonathon Porritt (Simon & Schuster, $38)

Consider it a helpful, solutions-based chaser to David Wallace-Wells’ 2019 fiery, befuddling shot, The Uninhabitable Earth.

2  Ottolenghi: Flavour by Yotam Ottolenghi and Ixta Belfrage (Ebury, $60)

Noor’s black lime tofu. Oven chips with curry leaf mayonnaise. Curried carrot mash with brown butter.

3  The Lying Life of Adults by Elena Ferrante (Europa Editions, $37)

“The new novel is suspenseful and propulsive; in style and theme, a sibling to her previous books. But it’s also a more vulnerable performance, less tightly woven and deliberately plotted, even turning uncharacteristically jagged at points as it explores some of the writer’s touchiest preoccupations.” – the New York Times

4  Intimations: Six Essays by Zadie Smith (Penguin General UK, $16)

“As a sort of post-postscript, Smith includes a numbered list of names, beginning with her parents and brothers and running through friends, lovers, her husband, her children, and such role models as Muhammad Ali, Lorraine Hansberry, and Virginia Woolf. Each name comes with description of the debts Smith owes that individual, from her father’s ‘readiness to admit failure and weakness’ (so that’s where that came from) to ‘Sistahood’ and the ‘practical morality’ of remembering and honoring everybody’s birthday. These are people too, she’s telling us, and look at the strength and love of which we are capable.” – Slate

5  Māori Made Fun by Stacey and Scotty Morrison (Penguin, $25)

A puzzle book. Stacey told RNZ: “[It helps us] realise that there’s playfulness in the reo … it’s one of the parts of the reo we sometimes miss. We talk about how deep it is, how spiritual it is, but it’s very playful and very fun.

‘Your kids will feel good that they know as much or even more than you. That’s the playfulness that we want to encourage … this gives you a chance to do something together where Māori is part of your life. It’s a tiny but impactful way that you can do that.”

6  Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell (Headline Publishing, $38)

Just-announced winner of the 2020 Women’s Prize for Fiction. From The Guardian:

“Hamnet beat novels including the third in Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall trilogy, The Mirror and the Light, and Bernardine Evaristo’s Booker prize-winning Girl, Woman, Other, to win the £30,000 award.

‘I keep thinking it must be some kind of elaborate prank. There wasn’t really any particle of me that thought it would happen. Being on the shortlist was kind of enough and it never occurred to me they would choose my book,’ said O’Farrell.”

7  The Girl in the Mirror by Rose Carlyle (Allen & Unwin, $33)

A thriller involving messed-up twins, a really messed-up will, crocs and a sailboat. (If you’re into crocodiles and sailing, might we also recommend Bren MacDibble’s new cli-fi, Across the Risen Sea.)

8  Searching for Charlie: In Pursuit of the Real Charles Upham VC & Bar by Tom Scott (Upstart Press, $50)

“I predict this book is going to become a best seller.” – NZ Booklovers

9  Humankind: A Hopeful History by Rutger Bregman (Bloomsbury, $34)

Counterpoint: JK Rowling.

10 Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds and Shape Our Futures by Merlin Sheldrake (Bodley Head, $40)

Merlin Sheldrake.


1  Bill & Shirley: A Memoir by Keith Ovenden (Massey University Press, $35)

“As she aged, adrift on a sea of melancholy mixed with bitterness, and occasionally anger about the past, she had not really looked after either herself or her possessions, chief among which were her papers, both professional and private. Stored unsorted in some 30 or 40 cardboard boxes, they were put into storage when her house was cleared, and it was not until 2007 that I was able to go through them and prepare those of any public interest to go to the Alexander Turnbull Library. They turned out to contain some surprises, many of them rather stimulating.”

2  Hiakai: New Māori Cuisine by Monique Fiso (Godwit, $65)

Rēwena flatbread with tītī fat butter. Crumbed avocado, karamū vinaigrette. Raw Bluff oysters, wakame, oyster emulsion.

3  Ottolenghi: Flavour by Yotam Ottolenghi and Ixta Belfrage (Ebury, $60)

The Lying Life of Adults by Elena Ferrante (Europa Editions, $37)

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

This book has been on the charts for so long now probably half of Aotearoa has a copy.

6  Māori Made Easy for Everyday Learners by Scotty Morrison (Penguin, $38)

Follow along with Ātea editor Leonie Hayden.

7  Tree of Strangers by Barbara Sumner (Massey University Press, $35)

Sumner is a filmmaker who lives in Napier; this is her memoir about growing up adopted and searching for her biological mother. It’s also a work of activism against the system that she argues “[denies] the rights of the adopted person”. And it’s gorgeous:

“I often wonder about touch. I remember the feel of each of my babies and their absolute softness. The little dip at the back of Bonnie’s neck. Rachel’s warm cheek, and the smattering of freckles down Ruth’s spine.And later, when Lili was born, that tiny fold behind her ears.

Each of them sought me out instinctually, turning towards my voice, their eyes widening at the smell of breast milk. Their fingers moving in the air as freely as dust motes.

I try to imagine Mavis holding me at ten days old. Her new mother nerves and the stranger child. Did she clasp me tight or hold me away from her body?”

8  The Girl in the Mirror by Rose Carlyle (Allen & Unwin, $33)

9  Piranesi by Susanna Clarke (Bloomsbury, $30)

After 15 years, a longed-for follow up to Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. Clarke, who has been mysteriously ill for much of that time, told The New Yorker: “Several people have pointed this out to me – that, having written a long book in which there was a nineteenth-century illness, I then had a nineteenth-century illness. Or that I wrote a long book in which there was this sort of enchantment, and then fell into this strange enchantment myself. It’s absolutely right.” She joked, “You really shouldn’t annoy fairies, or write about them – they don’t like it very much.”

10 The Kingdom by Jo Nesbo (Harvill Secker, $37)

A “twisty standalone”, per Publishers Weekly.

Keep going!