One Question Quiz
Image: Archi Banal
Image: Archi Banal

BooksMay 19, 2023

The Unity Books bestseller chart for the week ending May 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.


1 Fungi of Aotearoa: A Curious Forager’s Field Guide by Liv Sisson (Penguin, $45)

From the introduction to this absolutely beautiful book (the photography is wild): “The fungi of Aotearoa are fascinating, freaky and fantastical. We have a powdery white fungus that hunts bugs. A basket-shaped species that can move around. A lichen named after Jacinda Ardern. And a blue mushroom on our $50 note. We have others that glow in the dark, and a few that can kill you, liquefy your liver or send you to outer space. And these are just the ones we know about. Like our flora and fauna, the fungi of Aotearoa have evolved in isolation. They feature brilliant hues, alien textures and unique personalities that often can’t be found anywhere else. Each fungus has a story to tell, and this book is a collection of those stories.”

2 There’s a Cure for This: A Memoir by Emma Espiner (Penguin Press, $35)

Read an extract from this book – one of the most highly anticipated memoirs of the year – here. A review of There’s a cure for this will be published here, next week.

3 Birnam Wood by Eleanor Catton (Victoria University Press, $38)

In a recently published interview between Catton and Claire Mabey, Catton said: “I didn’t want the book to be the kind where you vote for the nice parties in parliament and feel smug about your opinions. I didn’t want to flatter beliefs. I wanted everybody to feel uncomfortable when they read.”

Don’t let this put you off, however. Birnam Wood is a rip-roaring yarn. It’ll make you think but you’ll be grateful for the storytelling, and the timely politics, too.

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

What is a mole?

5 Cape to Bluff by Simon Devitt (Nationwide Books, $95)

New to the list, this lovely photobook is filled with stunning architecture in lush locations. From the blurb: “Weaving through dreamy and dramatic locations, including a crescent-moon shaped bach in Tutukaka and a bivvy house inspired by a goldminers hut overlooking Lake Wakatipu, Cape to Bluff tells not only the story of New Zealand’s fluctuating microclimate and how we respond to creative challenges, but also speaks to how we live today, and what we value.

Featuring the work of thirty of Aotearoa’s leading architects, some structures never seen in public before, Cape to Bluff is a celebration of the new dawn of New Zealand architecture, once outward looking and seeking inspiration – now self-assured, sensible, poetic and sustainable.” 

6 The Bookbinder of Jericho by Pip Williams (Affirm Press, $38)

Inspired by the lives of real-life bookbinders at Oxford University Press, this is a glorious book of craft and feminism. Anna from GoodReads is certainly a fan: “I was also completely conscious of the fact that I LOVED The Dictionary [of Lost Words]…I was expecting to come away a little anti climatic. But instead I’m a bigger Pip Williams fan. That was beautiful!!!!!!!!!!! There is so much going on in this novel; the exploration of knowledge and who has access to it.”

7 If We Were Villains by M. L. Rio (Affirm Press, $25)

Another fresh’un to the list. This one has tantalising shades of Tartt’s The Secret History: “On the day Oliver Marks is released from jail, the man who put him there is waiting at the door. Detective Colborne wants to know the truth, and after ten years, Oliver is finally ready to tell it.

A decade ago: Oliver is one of seven young Shakespearean actors at Dellecher Classical Conservatory, a place of keen ambition and fierce competition. In this secluded world of firelight and leather-bound books, Oliver and his friends play the same roles onstage and off: hero, villain, tyrant, temptress, ingénue, extras.

But in their fourth and final year, good-natured rivalries turn ugly, and on opening night real violence invades the students’ world of make-believe. In the morning, the fourth-years find themselves facing their very own tragedy, and their greatest acting challenge yet: convincing the police, each other, and themselves that they are innocent.”

8 Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver (Faber & Faber, $37)

This year’s Pulitzer Prize Winner! Kingsolver’s retelling of Dickens’ David Copperfield is a triumph.

9 Grand: Becoming My Mother’s Daughter by Noelle McCarthy (Penguin, $35)

Winner of the EH McCormick Prize for General Non-Fiction at this year’s Ockham New Zealand Book Awards! A beautifully written, eagle-eyed memoir about a daughter’s relationship to her mother, and all of the heart-tearing and heart-making complexities that it brings.

10 The Body Keeps the Score: Mind, Brain & Body in the Transformation of Trauma by Bessel van der Kolk (Penguin, $30)

A widely applauded book about trauma, written by a pioneer in the field.


1 Dream Girl by Joy Holley (Te Herenga Waka University Press, $30)

A terrific new collection of short stories, just released:

“Alice wants a heart-shaped bed. Mary, Genevieve and Angelica want to know the future. June says she wants Lena to rescue her from a rat, but really she wants Lena to make out with her. Eve wants to get Wallace alone at the strawberry farm. Olivia just wants to leave the haunted boarding school and go home.

Bittersweet and intimate, comic and gothic, Dream Girl is a collection of stories about young women navigating desire in all its manifestations. In stories of romance and bad driving, ghosts and ghosting, playlists and competitive pet ownership, love never fails to leave its mark.”

2 ‘A Bloody Difficult Subject’: Ruth Ross, te Tiriti o Waitangi and the Making of History by Bain Attwood (Auckland University Press, $60)

“In Bain Attwood’s brilliant and powerful telling, the story of Ruth Ross, the public historian whose commitment to historical truth helped to transform New Zealanders’ sense of themselves, becomes a captivating narrative that combines the thrills of historical research with challenging propositions about the relevance of academic history today.”— Dipesh Chakrabarty, University of Chicago

3 Birnam Wood by Eleanor Catton (Te Herenga Waka University Press, hardback $50, paperback $38)

4 Atlas The Story of Pa Salt (#8 Seven Sisters) by Lucinda Riley and Harry Whittaker (Macmillan, $38)

Fans of this hugely popular series have no doubt already finished this epic finale to the Seven Sisters series.

5 Katherine Mansfield’s Europe: Station to Station by Redmer Yska (Otago University Press, $50)

Yska traced Mansfield’s movements across Europe and the result is an inventive new approach to the acclaimed writer’s life. Watch out for a peek inside coming here soon.

6 Did I Ever Tell You This? by Sam Neill (Text, $55)

Here’s a cute lil vid in which Sam tells you why he wrote the book.

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

8 From There to Here by Joe Bennett (Harper Collins NZ, $35)

Joe Bennett has written over 20 books! He’s also a long-time columnist, and a teacher once, too, all covered in this often very funny and moving memoir.

9 There’s A Cure For This: A Memoir by Emma Espiner (Penguin, $35)

10 The Artist by Ruby Solly ((Te Herenga Waka University Press, $30)

Surely one of the most extraordinarily gifted artists in Aotearoa today, Ruby Solly (Kāi Tahu, Waitaha, Kāti Māmoe) just released this verse novel. The work is like nothing else we’ve seen: resounding with voices of land, people and time itself. More on this work, right here, next week.

Keep going!