Our to-read pile circa right now (Photo: funky-data via Getty Images)
Our to-read pile circa right now (Photo: funky-data via Getty Images)

BooksMay 21, 2021

The Unity Books bestseller chart for the week ending May 21

Our to-read pile circa right now (Photo: funky-data via Getty Images)
Our to-read pile circa right now (Photo: funky-data via Getty Images)

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  Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro (Faber & Faber, $37)

In Ishiguro’s excellent new novel, Klara is a solar-powered “artificial friend”, chosen as a companion by an unwell girl called Josie. 

2  The Mirror Book by Charlotte Grimshaw (Vintage, $38)

“I tried to get a fix on the haze of my childhood. Were my recollections real, or had I read them in a book?”

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

The people of Aotearoa New Zealand are imagining a less colonised world every day.

(Unity Wellington had a shindig a few weeks back to celebrate this book’s remarkable foothold on the charts; Moana Jackson spoke at length and BWB recorded the whole thing).

4  Bug Week & Other Stories by Airini Beautrais (Victoria University Press, $30)

This year’s winner of the Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction! Aka the Ockham, aka that big New Zealand fiction prize, aka $57,000. 

Read an essay by Beautrais here, and our reaction to the awards here.

5  The Forager’s Treasury: The Essential Guide to Finding and Using Wild Plants in Aotearoa by Johanna Knox (Allen & Unwin, $45)

A book that tells you which of the weeds in your garden are actually a nutritious snack, and which will come in handy in dying your t-shirts, or making your own lip balm.   

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

The people of Aotearoa New Zealand are growing wiser and more content every day, too. 

7  Greta & Valdin by Rebecca K Reilly (Victoria University Press, $35)

“From their Auckland apartment, brother and sister must navigate the intricate paths of modern romance as well as weather the small storms of their eccentric Māori-Russian-Catalonian family. This beguiling and hilarious novel by Adam Foundation Prize winner Rebecca K Reilly owes as much to Shakespeare as it does to Tinder” – from the publisher’s blurb

8  Lonely Castle in the Mirror by Mizuki Tsujimura (Doubleday, $37)

Uh oh… The first thing Google says is: “For fans of BEFORE THE COFFEE GETS COLD.” The publisher instead (wisely) compares it to Convenience Store Woman “with a fantasy twist”.  

9  Shuggie Bain by Stuart Douglas (Pan Macmillan, $38)

The tragic Booker-winning novel about a boy trying to save his mother from alcoholism. 

10  One: Pot, Pan, Planet: A Greener Way to Cook for You, Your Family and the Planet by Anna Jones (4th Estate, $55)

Anna Jones always includes lovely little anecdotes in her recipes, like “These are what we ate the day after we got married. One of the amazing people who cooked our wedding feast, Bea (@bmangobajito), is from Venezuela and she made the most perfect arepas – feather light but hearty enough to soak up a few wines from the night before.” You can find her arepas recipe here.

WELLINGTON

1  Fifty Years A Feminist by Sue Kedgley (Massey University Press, $40)

Blurb: “In this direct, energetic and focused autobiography, Kedgley tracks the development of feminism over the last five decades and its intersection with her life, describing how she went from debutante to stroppy activist, journalist, safe-food activist and Green politician.”

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

3  The Mirror Book by Charlotte Grimshaw (Vintage, $38)

4  From the Centre: A Writer’s Life by Patricia Grace (Penguin, $40)

The brand new memoir from Patricia Grace – one of Aotearoa’s favourite writers, and legendary for being the first Māori woman to publish a short story collection.

In two separate sessions at the Auckland Writers Festival Grace made a point about pushing back on that “first” label and the problem, in general, of asserting “firsts”. Grace noted that Jacquie Sturm was writing before she was, and had once “ticked her off” about it. She wanted to acknowledge Sturm, other Māori writers, and her own tīpuna, who composed waiata that are still performed today.

5  Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro (Faber & Faber, $37)

6  Vunimaqo and Me: Mango Tree Collections by Daren Kamali (Kava Bowl Media, $20)

A new poetry collection based on the author’s childhood in Suva, Fiji. Per the publisher, his work “[channels] the many voices and the stories of those who found connection and shelter by the mango tree.” 

7  The Alarmist by Dave Lowe (Victoria University Press, $40)

Young glaciologist Clarrie Macklin wrote about The Alarmist this week on The Spinoff:

“It amazes me to read about Lowe chatting to people about climate issues at student parties in the 1960s and 70s. In murky student flats on our somewhat remote Pacific island, he talked about what would eventually become the most discussed environmental catastrophe to face humankind. Yet, when he brings up carbon in the atmosphere, people simply have no idea what he’s on about.

In 2018, when I was doing my thesis, people knew exactly what I was talking about. At parties, my glacier chats earned me the title of Ice Man, Mr Ice Cold, or simply Dr Freeze. People would ask, ‘Hey, how are those glaciers doing?’ To which I’d say, ‘Aw, yeah, a bit melty, actually.’ ‘Oh. How fucked are we?’ they’d ask, casually anticipating Earth’s collapse.”

8  Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell (Tinder Press, $25)

People ask Google, “Is Hamnet based on a true story?” Yes. “Did Hamnet die of Plague?” Spoilers! Simply couldn’t say. “Is Hamnet a good book?” Good enough to win the Women’s Prize for Fiction, loiter on the bestsellers list for months, and make one Goodreads reviewer call it “an absolute must read” – bold included. 

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

10  Unsheltered by Clare Moleta (Simon & Schuster, $35)

Clare Moleta wrote an essay for us about what drove her to write her novel:

“They kept me awake at night, those vanished kids. There were too many of them to hold onto. The idea of them was overwhelming, numbing, until I decided to try to bring one child into focus. And in the grief of the loss of that one child, I found the question that came to haunt the rest of the book: how to be a parent when you’ve lost faith in the future.”

Next week we’ll also have an appreciation of Unsheltered, by one Elizabeth Knox.

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. 

Illustrations by Sharon Lam

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