Doug Stuart on big screen during Booker Prize 2020 ceremony
Bernardine Evaristo watches Doug Stuart speak during the 2020 Booker Prize winner's ceremony, held this morning (Photo: BBC)

The Unity Books bestseller chart for the week ending November 20

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 Promised Land by Barack Obama (Penguin Random House, $70)

If you see Danyl Mclauchlan not reading this memoir over the next few days please make him a coffee and get him back on task.

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

“The recesses of the heart hide so much. When I think of the corners of my own heart, there are many stories and names and scars. There are experiences, bruises and unfulfilled hopes in my heart which I may never speak of again.”

3  Hiakai: New Māori Cuisine by Monique Fiso (Penguin Random House, $65)

Te Tangaroa Turnbull did a beautiful job of reviewing the book for us; last week, Lonely Planet picked Fiso’s restaurant (also called Hiakai) as the best indigenous food experience in the world.

4  Ghosts by Dolly Alderton (Fig Tree, $37)

“Quick-witted Nina Dean, the heroine of journalist Dolly Alderton’s debut novel, is a likable food writer who lives in north London. The challenges she faces as a privileged single thirtysomething may, at first glance, seem like familiar terrain … Nina wrestles with generational conflict with her parents; the difficulties of maintaining friendships when husbands and babies arrive; and the quiet thrum of the biological clock alongside the vagaries of online dating and, more broadly, of a life increasingly played out online.” – the Guardian

5  Trio by William Boyd (Viking, $37)

We asked the Christmas angels at Unity: what should we buy for someone who wants the new Ian Rankin? Trio by William Boyd, the angels said.

6  Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo (Penguin Random House, $24)

Joint winner of the 2019 Booker Prize; the 2020 winner, announced in one of those strange, semi-online, semi-social-distanced events this morning, is Scottish writer Douglas Stuart for Shuggie Bain. Chair of judges Margaret Busby said:

“Shuggie Bain is destined to be a classic – a moving, immersive and nuanced portrait of a tight-knit social world, its people and its values. The heart-wrenching story tells of the unconditional love between Agnes Bain – set on a descent into alcoholism by the tough circumstances life has dealt her – and her youngest son. Shuggie struggles with responsibilities beyond his years to save his mother from herself, at the same time as dealing with burgeoning feelings and questions about his own otherness. Gracefully and powerfully written, this is a novel that has impact because of its many emotional registers and its compassionately realised characters. The poetry in Douglas Stuart’s descriptions and the precision of his observations stand out: nothing is wasted.”

7  Ralph Hotere: The Dark is Light Enough by Vincent O’Sullivan (Penguin Random House, $45)

Before you read it, read this careful, clear reporting on its origin story, by Mike White for Sunday magazine.

8  Life On Our Planet: My Witness Statement and Vision for the Planet by David Attenborough (Ebury Press, $45)

The book of the Netflix doco; presumably both will be loaded onto whatever time capsule/memorial thing we leave behind at the end of all this.

9  Navigating the Stars: Māori Creation Myths by Witi Ihimaera (Vintage, $45)

We published an extract in which Ihimaera sets out his case for the redemption of Hine-nui-te-pō.

10 Inside Story by Martin Amis (Jonathan Cape, $37)

“‘Who cares’ is my informed position on what’s fiction and what’s not in Inside Story” – the New York Times


1  Railways Studios: How A Government Design Studio Helped Build New Zealand by Peter Alsop, Neill Atkinson, Katherine Milburn and Richard Wolfe (Te Papa Press, $70)

A big colourful hardback full of pictures of trains and scenery and women in pinnies and men in suits or singlets, smoking, which begins:

“It would make for an unbelievable story now: a government department establishes an advertising and design studio, serving any-and-all clients, which is so successful that it survives several challenges and restructures and lasts for 67 years. Such is the story of Railways Studios – a unit of the Railways Department established in 1920 – the most prodigious producer of outdoor advertising in New Zealand’s history, and the creator, arguably, of our richest reservoir of commercial art.”

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

3  Letters to Young People by Glenn Colquhoun (Old King Press, $35)

Poems, gifts, acts of compassion and medicine. More on this collection soon.

4  The Promised Land by Barack Obama (Viking Penguin, $70)

5  Monsters in the Garden: An Anthology of Aotearoa New Zealand Science Fiction & Fantasy edited by Elizabeth Knox & David Larsen (Victoria University Press, $35)

Reviewed for us this week, most excellently, by Alexander Stronach (they write as Sascha Stronach and just won the Sir Julius Vogel Award for their sci-fi fungi novel, The Dawnhounds).

6  Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo (Penguin, $24)

7  Goddess Muscle by Karlo Mila (Huia Publishers, $35)

“In my dream / Jacinda is walking in knee-high gumboots, / the tall, skinny, expensive kind / you used to have to order from Great Britain / and that I could never pull over my big Tongan calves. / She is wearing a red, red raincoat, / not like a Kathmandu one with a zip. / It’s more of a cape, / fire-truck red, lipstick-red, Labour-party-red. / More of a Red-Riding-Hood cape / and it is billowing in the whipping wind.”

– from Moemoeā, composed for poets for Ihumātao.

8  Auē by Becky Manawatu (Makaro Press, $35)

9  Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art by James Nestor (Penguin, $38)

In, out.

10 Birds of New Zealand: Collective Nouns by Melissa Boardman (HarperCollins, $30)

“An ecstasy of tūī.”

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