Wild, Wild Women by Janis Freegard enters the charts.
Wild, Wild Women by Janis Freegard enters the charts.

BooksJune 21, 2024

The Unity Books bestseller chart for the week ending June 21

Wild, Wild Women by Janis Freegard enters the charts.
Wild, Wild Women by Janis Freegard enters the charts.

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.

First, a quick PSA: Unity Books has a flash new website that lets you search and purchase from both Unity Books Auckland and Wellington – and the search function is impeccable!


1 Long Island by Colm Tóibín (Picador, $38)

Please enjoy this video of Colm Tóibín’s first ever visit to a Costco in the US.

2 Lioness by Emily Perkins (Bloomsbury Circus, $25)

Here are the opening paragraphs from The Spinoff’s glowing review of Lioness: “Ever since Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, the word “of” has taken on an indelibly sinister dimension. Offred is the handmaid’s name while she’s in Gilead, meaning she is Of Fred, meaning she is one of his array of properties designed to furnish the distinguished man’s life with attributes that he can’t manage all on his own. 

Late in Emily Perkins’ Lioness, the main character, Therese Thorne, considers: ‘The personal touch had been key to our early success: young entrepreneur with her successful older husband, being a good sport on the yacht. Whether Trevor was there or not, I existed in relationship to him. Sun, moon. Oat, sapling. Wife. Of. Had I started the company on my own, no one would have taken any notice. Even my lucky looks, enough to jailbreak me from my childhood, would not have drawn attention without him.’”

3 Blue Sisters by Coco Mellors (Fourth Estate, $38)

The latest from author of BookTok sensation Cleopatra & Frankenstein. Here’s the blurb for Blue Sisters: “Three estranged siblings return to their family home in New York after their beloved sister’s death in this unforgettable story of grief, identity, and the complexities of family.

The three Blue sisters are exceptional – and exceptionally different. Avery, the eldest and a recovering heroin addict turned strait-laced lawyer, lives with her wife in London; Bonnie, a former boxer, works as a bouncer in Los Angeles following a devastating defeat; and Lucky, the youngest, models in Paris while trying to outrun her hard-partying ways. They also had a fourth sister, Nicky, whose unexpected death left Avery, Bonnie, and Lucky reeling. A year later, as they each navigate grief, addiction, and ambition, they find they must return to New York to stop the sale of the apartment they were raised in.

But coming home is never as easy as it seems. As the sisters reckon with the disappointments of their childhood and the loss of the only person who held them together, they realise the greatest secrets they’ve been keeping might not have been from each other, but from themselves.”

4 Kairos by Jenny Erpenbeck (Granta, $28)

Love this opening for the New York Times review: “The first thing to know about Jenny Erpenbeck’s new novel, Kairos, is that it’s a wallow. I was in the mood for one. It’s a cathartic leak of a novel, a beautiful bummer, and the floodgates open early.”

5 Prophet Song by Paul Lynch (Oneworld Publications, $25)

Look out for a beautiful essay on dystopian fiction on The Spinoff today in which Lynch’s Booker-prize winning sort-of dystopia is discussed.

6 The Creative Act: A Way of Being by Rick Rubin (Canongate, $55)

Welcome back to a stalwart of the top 10. Excellent time of the year to hunker down and drawn on your inner reserves of creative genius.

7 All Fours by Miranda July (Canongate, $37)

A true original has published a truly original novel about radical change amid midlife.

8 James by Percival Everett (Mantle, $38)

Extremely funny, extremely good.

9 Wifedom: Mrs Orwell’s Invisible Life by Anna Funder (Allen & Unwin, $40)

The first paragraph of a review on The Guardian sets up this brilliant, brilliant book very well: “In the summer of 2017, Anna Funder found herself sinking under the weight of a to-do list that would be familiar to any working mother: three children; house repairs; elderly relatives; visiting family – all with ‘work deadlines ticking under every waking minute’. Seeking respite from this domestic ‘peak overload’, Funder – a human-rights lawyer whose first nonfiction book, Stasiland, won the Samuel Johnson prize in 2004 and whose novel All That I Am was shortlisted for the Impac Dublin award and the Commonwealth Book prize – is drawn back to George Orwell, a writer she has ‘long loved’. She turns to Orwell’s life and work in the hope of boosting her own flagging writerly mojo, but her attention snags unexpectedly on a previously unremarked absence: the figure of his wife, Eileen O’Shaughnessy. ‘How is it that she remains invisible?'”

10 Invisible Doctrine: Understanding Neoliberalism by George Monbiot & Peter Hutchinson (Allen Lane $40)

“Guardian columnist George Monbiot and film-maker Peter Hutchison have set out to lift the veil on this “invisible doctrine”. The result is a passionate, informed polemic that is short but packed with detail and incisive analysis.” Read more here.


1 Wild, Wild Women by Janis Freegard (At The Bay | I Te Kokoru, $25)

Local legend Janis Freegard just launched a gorgeous book of short stories with a series of exuberant endorsements like this one from Sarah Laing: “I loved Janis Freegard’s compulsive and strange stories. Populated by mermaids, punks, tea leaf readers, vintage car lovers and people figuring out their inner fish, these stories crackle with energy, pathos and wit. The women are fierce and don’t always make the right decisions, but they’ll take you on a wildly enjoyable ride.”

2 Interesting Times: Some New Zealanders in Republican China by Chris Elder (Te Herenga Waka University Press, $40)

A big month of releases from THWUP includes this book, the blurb for which reads: “The era of Republican China began with the fall of the Qing (Manchu) Dynasty in 1912, and came to an end in 1949, when Mao Tse-tung declared the People’s Republic of China.

The 37 years in between were marked by power struggles between competing warlords, anti-foreign riots, floods and widespread famine, an eight-year conflict with Japan, and the depredations of an ongoing civil war. For the Chinese people, and for foreigners living in China, these were indeed interesting times.

Some New Zealanders were drawn to China by missionary zeal or humanitarian concern, others by commercial opportunities, still others by political curiosity or simply by their appetite for risk. In this book, famous figures like Rewi Alley, James Bertram and Iris Wilkinson (Robin Hyde) rub shoulders with long-term China hands like the YWCA secretary Agnes Moncrieff and the missionary Alice Cook. Based on a series of interviews carried out in 1985–86, and supplemented by wide reading and archival research, Interesting Times is a fascinating introduction to a group of extraordinary New Zealanders.”

3 Lioness by Emily Perkins (Bloomsbury Circus, $25)

4 Blue Sisters by Coco Mellors (Fourth Estate, $38)

5 Long Island by Colm Tóibín (Picador, $38)

6 A Brilliant Life: My Mother’s Inspiring Story of Surviving the Holocaust by Rachelle Unreich (Hachette, $40)

GoodReads readers are giving this one five stars and reviews like this: “Definitely one of my favourite reads of 2024. The author has great insight. It’s a record of Mira’s life told by her daughter, Rachelle, who interviewed her as a journalist. Mira is a Holocaust survivor. Throughout her life, Mira chose happiness. She never held a grudge, where many of us would. She was like a ray of sunshine. She was shown great kindness and mercy during the war years, from her captors and fellow Jews. This book also taught me a great deal about Jewish customs, a faith I have always respected and admired. At the end of the book, Rachelle describes grief, this is the best description I’ve ever read. This is a book I will reread. Highly recommend.” 

7 Parade by Rachel Cusk (Faber, $37)

Cusk fans all over the world are settling in with crisp white wines hoping that the harsher reviewers are quite, quite wrong. Here’s a snippet from the NY Times’ appraisal: “Sterile, ostentatious and essentially plotless, Parade is an antinovel, a little black box of a book. It fails the Hardwick Test. The sole burden of an antinovel, the critic Elizabeth Hardwick wrote, is that it must be consistently (‘each page, each paragraph’) interesting.

Parade is set in the art world. Most of its characters are painters or sculptors. They are identified by the same initial — G. One G is a domineering male painter who begins painting images upside down on his canvases. A second G is a female sculptor whose hallmark images, in the manner of the artist Louise Bourgeois, are of ‘giant forms of black spiders, balanced on stiletto-like feet.’”

8 All Fours by Miranda July (Canongate, $37)

9 Brotherless Night by  V. V. Ganeshananthan (Penguin, $32)

Winner of the 2024 Women’s Fiction prize! Here is the blurb: “Sixteen-year-old Sashi wants to become a doctor. But over the next decade, as a vicious civil war subsumes Sri Lanka, her dream takes her on a different path as she watches those around her, including her four beloved brothers and their best friend, get swept up in violent political ideologies and their consequences. She must ask herself: is it possible for anyone to move through life without doing harm?”

10 Kairos by Jenny Erpenbeck (Granta, $28)

Keep going!