Jordan Hamel, poet of the moment (Photo: Supplied; Design: Archi Banal)
Jordan Hamel, poet of the moment (Photo: Supplied; Design: Archi Banal)

BooksMay 20, 2022

The Unity Books bestseller chart for the week ending 20 May

Jordan Hamel, poet of the moment (Photo: Supplied; Design: Archi Banal)
Jordan Hamel, poet of the moment (Photo: Supplied; Design: 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  Embedded by David Burt (Mary Egan Publishing $30)

A debut thriller by a local writer, set across Afghanistan, New Zealand and New York.

2  How to Loiter in a Turf War by Coco Solid (Penguin, $28)

Let the lists of glorious adjectives begin: New, local, genre-bending, autobiographical fiction. Musician, artist, advocate and writer Coco Solid combines words with photography and line drawings to create something new and fresh – we have many more things to say about her new novel in a coming-up-soon interview, so will bite our collective tongues for now. 

Meanwhile here’s a link to one of Coco’s recent music videos.

3  Kurangaituku by Whiti Hereaka (Huia Publishers, $35)

The spectacular novel which last week won the 2022 Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction! We couldn’t be more pleased. Back in January we published a response from essa may ranapiri: “Kurangaituku allowed me to see myself within te ao Māori in a way I hadn’t before. Kurangaituku is unambiguously queer and perhaps ambiguously a woman and definitely a story-teller. There are so many scenes across this book that set a fire in me.”

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

The local It Memoir, absolutely gushed over in our recent review. 

5  Greta & Valdin by Rebecca K Reilly (Te Herenga Waka University Press, $35)

Well-deserving winner of the Crystal Arts Trust Best First Book Award at the Ockham’s. Unwind and enjoy this bitingly clever, funny novel. 

6  Voices from the New Zealand Wars / He Reo nō ngā Pakanga o Aotearoa by Vincent O’Malley (Bridget Williams Books, $50)

Another Ockham’s prizewinner rightfully starring in the bestsellers this week – Vincent O’Malley won the General Non-Fiction Award, and with it $10,000. Minor controversy: it was up against Charlotte Grimshaw’s memoir The Mirror Book and Patricia Grace’s From the Centre, which is like comparing oranges to a medium-rare steak, or maybe miso soup – that is, not particularly fair or logical.

Books editor Catherine Woulfe graciously, please and thank you, requests a new Ockham’s category for 2023. 

7  Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear (Random House Business, $40)

You know the desire to self-improve isn’t just a summer fling when you buy Atomic Habits in May.

8  Young Mungo by Douglas Stuart (Picador, $38)

Think Romeo and Juliet-level romance and tragedy, but Romeo is a teenage boy living in Glasgow’s rough, working class housing estates, and so is Juliet.

9  The Palace Papers: Inside the House of Windsor, the Truth and the Turmoil by Tina Brown (Century, $40)

Linda Burgess is reviewing this one for us soon. “God I loved it. Are you loving it?” she emailed this morning, and oh yes, yes we are.

10  Freezing Order: A True Story of Money Laundering, Murder, and Surviving Vladimir Putin’s Wrath by Bill Browder (Simon & Schuster, $38)

Following on from the bestselling Red Notice, Bill Browder’s account of a life (his own, that is) of being persecuted by Putin continues in Freezing Order. A terrifying, all-too-real thriller.


1  Everyone is Everyone Except You by Jordan Hamel (Dead Bird Books, $30)

A debut poetry collection which has earned red-hot-ember-glowing reviews from Aotearoa’s literary queens:

“Both emotionally-wrong footed and diabolically sincere, a brilliant & compulsive read” — Hera Lindsay Bird

“Completely batshit, whip smart and spit-out-your-Tui or VB crack up … but mostly it’s full of heart and all the trouble the heart demands” — Tayi Tibble

“Jams the machinery of algorithmic life, makes toxic masculinity its sex toy and scripture its Netflix re-runs. Hamel is the captain of a new breed with deadly mouths, slick-as-hell footwork and heavyweight hearts. Jesus doesn’t love him but I do” — Tracey Slaughter

Ho-ly – what a reception!

Hamel joins the formidable phalanx of local poets to have hit the top 10s hard over the last few months: Khadro Mohamed was #1 last week with We’re All Made of Lightning, Rebecca Hawkes’ Meat Lovers spent a good few weeks in the top three, Chris Tse’s Super Model Minority debuted at #1 and so did Francis Samuel’s collection, Museum. Yahoo!

2  Kurangaituku by Whiti Hereaka (Huia Publishers, $35)

3  Wellington Architecture: A Walking Guide by John Walsh & Patrick Reynolds (Massey University Press, $25)

Wellingtonians: please stop buying this book, so we can stop rehashing the same joke about you all loving Wellington and walking around. 

4  Fragments from a Contested Past: Remembrance, Denial and New Zealand History by Joanna Kidman, Vincent O’Malley, Liana MacDonald, Tom Roa and Keziah Wallis (Bridget Williams Books, $15)


The flip side of remembrance is forgetting, something that connotes not merely the absence of memory but often a conscious decision not to speak of particular events, a “disinclination to remember”, or a burying of secrets. Scholars have noted that there is a particular “art of forgetting” – a process involving the “deliberate, purposeful, and regulated” judgement about what, at a collective level, a nation, society or group wishes “to keep, and what to let go, to salvage or to shred or shelve, to memorialise or anathematise”. And it should come as no surprise that in making such calls, groups more often than not prefer to remember episodes thought to portray them in a positive light … An alternative approach to dealing with difficult histories might be to misremember them – that is, through distorted or false memories, including various myths, which in New Zealand have taken the form of beliefs that the country was colonised peacefully and long had the best “race relations” in the world.

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

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

No need to imagine: Imagining Decolonisation is here all week, every week. 

7  Greta & Valdin by Rebecca K Reilly (Te Herenga Waka University Press, $35)

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

The winner of the 2021 Booker prize, set in South Africa at the end of apartheid.

9  The Expectation Effect: How Your Mindset Can Transform Your Life by David Robson (Canongate, $37)

People who believe ageing brings wisdom live longer.

Lucky charms really do improve an athlete’s performance.

Taking a placebo, even when you know it is a placebo, can still improve your health.

Welcome to The Expectation Effect.

Thanks, publisher’s blurb, for bringing the drama.

10  Conversations With Friends by Sally Rooney (Faber, $23)

The eldest Rooney offspring boomerangs back into the spotlight with the release of the TV series. The Guardian gave the show three stars out of five, with the headline “TV so slow it must be trolling us”, followed up with this: “Sally Rooney’s second TV adaptation is an aggressively uneventful affair stuffed with meaningful looks and strained silences. Why doesn’t anyone speak? Why can’t anything happen?” 

Far better to switch off the telly and pick up a book of poetry.

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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