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(Image: Archi Banal)
(Image: Archi Banal)

BooksJanuary 19, 2024

The Unity Books bestseller chart for the week ending January 19

(Image: Archi Banal)
(Image: Archi Banal)

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.

AUCKLAND

1 The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida by Shehan Karunatilaka (Sort of Books, $28)

Booker Prize winner Shehan Karunatilaka might belong to Whanganui but Auckland readers are winning when it comes to this extraordinary epic novel set in the afterlife. Himali McInnes wrote a glowing review of the novel here, and Brannavan Gnanalingam’s interview with Karunatilaka gives even more insight into the making of this untraditional ghost story.

2 Atomic Habits by James Clear (Random House, $40)

January is the self-helpiest month and given Clear’s Atomic Habits was one of the bestselling books of 2023 we’re not at all surprised to see it’s still going strong in this early slice of 2024.

3 Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus (Transworld, $26)

Welcome to 2024 Elizabeth Zott! A perfect holiday read.

4 Days at the Morisaki Bookshop by Satoshi Yagisawa (Bonnier Publishing, $32)

I mean, just look at this publisher’s blurb: if you’re in any way struggling with back-to-work pains then this is a bookish hug and a cup of tea in bed: “Hidden in Jimbocho, Tokyo, is a booklover’s paradise. On a quiet corner in an old wooden building lies a shop filled with hundreds of second-hand books. Twenty-five-year-old Takako has never liked reading, although the Morisaki bookshop has been in her family for three generations. It is the pride and joy of her uncle Satoru, who has devoted his life to the bookshop since his wife Momoko left him five years earlier. When Takako’s boyfriend reveals he’s marrying someone else, she reluctantly accepts her eccentric uncle’s offer to live rent-free in the tiny room above the shop. Hoping to nurse her broken heart in peace, Takako is surprised to encounter new worlds within the stacks of books lining the Morisaki bookshop.”

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

Welcome back Rick Rubin! The cloth-bound, boob-encrusted stalwart of 2023 is back. The Spinoff’s Sam Brooks gave this a hoon last year with amusing results: read here.

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

The Good Reads community is going off about this one. Some samples:

“Fucking excellent. Loathed the first 200 pages – I now realise it’s because I absolutely hated the Andy character, and it was the point. Last 150 pages were a joy, couldn’t put it down. Dolly has the most unreal ability to put the female experience into such articulate writing that has you thinking ‘yes yes this!!!!!’ after every single sentence. And her acknowledgements at the end always make me cry. Love love love”

“I can honestly say this is the best romcom book I have read in a very long time!! The only fault I can find is I wanted more at the end…but is that really a fault?”

“there’s too much on my mind right now to go deep into this, but dolly is such a girl’s girl and this book has proven this once again. it reassured me of being by myself and how much of a nuisance men can be”

7 Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin (Vintage, $26)

Welcome back to Tomorrow, etc.

8 Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver (Faber & Faber, $28)

Welcome back Demon Copperhead!

9 The Axeman’s Carnival by Catherine Chidgey (Te Herenga Waka, $35)

Catherine Chidgey has just been nominated TWICE for the 2024 Dublin Literary Award – the world’s most valuable annual prize for a work of fiction published in English. The Axeman’s Carnival, and her latest novel, Pet, are up for the  €100,000 ( $176,921) prize money. Her novels are up against 68 other works from 35 countries, including Eleanor Catton’s novel Birnam Wood. Good luck both!

10 Knowledge is a Blessing by Anne Salmond (Auckland Uni Press, $65)

In our 2023 round up of best NZ books, Tīhema Baker (author of the brilliant novel, Turncoat), said of this book: “How refreshing to read something by someone who actually understands te Tiriti o Waitangi and isn’t hell-bent on re-writing it. This book reminded me that there are still Pākehā who seek to understand te ao Māori, and stand with us against ongoing attempts to colonise it – and, in Dame Anne Salmond’s case, have been doing so since well before I was born. An academic but timely read by one of our foremost Pākehā thinkers and writers.”

WELLINGTON

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

An absolute triumph. This book is long but once you’re in, you’re so very in. This segment from a review on The Guardian captures some of this book’s charm, depth and brilliance: “Murray is exploring the way families can always sense the emotional temperature, even if they don’t know where the fire is coming from. He is brilliant on fathers and sons, sibling rivalry, grief, self-sabotage and self-denial, as well as the terrible weakness humans have for magical thinking, not least in regard to the climate crisis. He can also create a laugh-out-loud moment from a buttock tattoo or the simple sentence, “He said he was thinking of only listening to Angolan music from now on.”

2 Prophet Song by Paul Lynch (Oneworld, $37)

The 2024 winner of the Booker Prize is another exceptional Irish novel (see number one, above) and a gripping dystopia that centres on one woman’s struggle to protect her family. A must read.

3 Psychology of Money by Morgan Housel (Macmillan, $35)

Another sure sign that it’s January when this hugely popular book on “Timeless Lessons on Wealth, Greed, and Happiness” surges up the list. The Good Reads folk are sold on this one with a over 80,000 five-star reviews, including: 

“This is very good mostly because it’s very simple. Twenty common-sense ideas that are so absurdly obvious if you think about but are hardly ever engaged with, seriously, basically account for all successes and failures when it comes to money.”

“I’ve read Housel’s content for years and years. I can’t recommend this book and its absurd density of insight enough. Don’t let the title fool you: this book is just as much about designing a good life. For example, that a nice new car impresses yourself more than anyone else. On one of the first pages Morgan writes that “financial success is a soft skill, not a hard skill.” That about sets the stage.”

Though there are a fair few bewildered two and three stars there too: “Easy, fast to read and some advice (jump to chapter 19 to save yourself). Yet, this book is hyped for nothing. I wonder if ratings have been bought just to kick sales.”

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

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

Welcome back to the very slim novel that could! Has anyone not read this book now? Clearly still a few. 

6 Everything I Know About Love by Dolly Alderton (Fig Tree, $28)

No doubt getting a boost from the release of Alderton’s other title on this list (see item four above), this is the writer’s much-loved memoir.

7 Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin (Vintage, $26)

8 Atomic Habits by James Clear (Century, $40)

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

10 Yellowface by Rebecca Kuang (Borough Press, $37)

Brilliant to see this excoriating novel back on this list: if you’d like a book that skewers the publishing industry in a hugely entertaining and intelligent way then this is it.

Keep going!