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Lockdown, last time, in Christchurch (Photo: Sanka Vidanagama/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Lockdown, last time, in Christchurch (Photo: Sanka Vidanagama/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

BooksAugust 21, 2020

The Unity Books bestseller chart for the strange week ending August 21

Lockdown, last time, in Christchurch (Photo: Sanka Vidanagama/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Lockdown, last time, in Christchurch (Photo: Sanka Vidanagama/NurPhoto 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.


First, a word from the team at Unity Auckland:

This second week of Lockdown 2.0 has seen us readjust nicely into the swing of closed-door processes. The deliveries keep pouring in, the website is popping off and we’ve even joined the Cult of Zoom to do some collective plotting and scheming. The masks are many and varied, the playlist is suitably peppy (with an agreed-upon 12.55pm switch to RNZ for the 1pm Show) and spirits remain high.
As ever, thanks so much to everyone for a) keeping our wee teams beavering away with orders and queries and b) being gracious and understanding in the time of contactless payments and pick-ups. Don’t forget to bring your pay-wave cards and move back as we lovingly place your bag o’ books on the steps.

1  Humankind: A Hopeful History by Rutger Bregman (Bloomsbury, $34)

Counterpoint: Pete Evans.

2  How Do We Know We’re Doing it Right? Essays on Modern Life by Pandora Sykes (Penguin Random House, $40)

Antonia on Goodreads: “Bought this to hate-read it and didn’t fully hate it.”

3  Olive by Emma Gannon (HarperCollins, $33)

Novel about a young woman at a crossroads, where the crossroads = children.

Elizabeth Gilbert, Marian Keyes, Sophie Kinsella and Emma Jane Unsworth are all extremely into it.

4  Utopia Avenue by David Mitchell (Hodder & Stoughton, $38)

“At one point in UTOPIA AVENUE, Janis Joplin appears and says, ‘It’s reefer o’clock.'” – someone called @JoelGord, on Twitter

5  Apeirogon by Colum McCann (Bloomsbury, $32)

“Apeirogon is a geometric shape with an infinite number of countable sides. It is also the title of Colum McCann’s latest novel, a kind of infinite boost to Israel’s ‘two sides’ discourse.

The novel is more of a biography than fiction. It is based on the real-life story of a friendship between a Palestinian and an Israeli – Bassam Aramin, a Palestinian whose daughter, Abir, was shot in the head by an Israeli soldier in 2007 and Rami Elhanan, an Israeli whose daughter, Smadar, was killed in a suicide bombing in 1997.

Its central message is about the power of empathy, and both men are fully supportive of the book.” – Al Jazeera

6  Mauri Ora: Wisdom from the Māori World by Peter Alsop & Te Rau Kupenga (Potton & Burton, $40)

“The six themes in the book are mātauranga/wisdom, māia/courage, atawhai/compassion, ngākau tapatahi/integrity, whakahautanga/self-mastery and whakapono/belief … I was transfixed, and have gone slowly through the book, looking at the images and whakataukī together and leaving with a deeper sense of understanding.” – Booksellers NZ

7  Hope in Hell: Confronting the Climate Emergency by Jonathon Porritt (Simon & Schuster, $38)

“Sir Jonathon Porritt has been on the green scene for as long as anybody can remember. He campaigns, he agitates and he demands, but he has always been on the herbivorous wing of environmentalism — a baronet, Eton-Oxford, a respectable man, a safe pair of hands. With Hope in Hell he abandons all that. Suddenly it’s no more Mr Nice Green.” – The Times

8  Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi (Picador, UK, $20)

Time travel. Maintains a relentless presence on this chart despite a rare slamming by Ralph McAllister on RNZ and a scalding take by Sam Brooks, here.

9  A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles (Windmill Books, $26)

A novel about being stuck in a fancy hotel. You know, in case you’re really keen to double down on the whole lockdown thing.

10 The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead (Hachette Aus, $25)

Won him the second of two Pulitzer Prizes.


First, a word from Tilly Lloyd:

Version two level two stage two in Willis Street is like being in Wellington Paranormal: the lights blaze alarmingly hot and then it all goes noir. One minute it’s Friday/Saturday and we are pleading with customers to forgo frottage, and the next minute it’s Monday afternoon and the biggest action on the carpet is a loose association of blow-ins: elm leaves, Flavorwire types, people discussing the aged Ricoh printer at Rebel Press. All at two metres. Our heavily curated events are postponed and rolling forward. Our music is still lamentable. Our art table is tapping impatiently for new Thames and Hudson/Rizzoli/Phaidon/Mörel deliveries.

Let’s be honest with you, Auckland – version two level two stage two is a mixed bag. It’s level lite compared with you but Willis Street without all the smart and virile office people is like RNZ without Nick Bollinger. We ring those smart and virile office people at their home offices just to hear their barking schnauzers, their howling anarcho-kids, their inventive excuses about Zoom. Meanwhile we host singers and signing authors, shufflers wanting unobtainable first editions, the crypto scene, the tattoo fetishists, the royal biography set, the nerds of mercury, microbiology and spring, and the silver foxes of speculative fiction. And the blow-in linden leaves. And soon it’ll be Saturday again, and soon after that we’ll be awaiting a verdict about whether we’ve really quelled this round of Covid, really.

1  Searching for Charlie: In Pursuit of the Real Charles Upham VC & Bar by Tom Scott (Upstart, $50)

Per the Herald:

“Scott is convinced that, despite accusations, Charles Hazlitt Upham was no psychopath: instead he was a modest, if determined, Kiwi bloke.

Scott’s world-roaming quest is to find the source of Upham’s extraordinary courage … If you’re going to have a war at all, Charlie Upham was the type of soldier you wanted in the frontline. He really did knock out, single-handedly, enemy machine-gun posts and strong points in the counter-attack on Maleme airfield in Crete.”

2  Auē by Becky Manawatu (Mākaro Press, $35)

Runaway winner of the Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction. Up for a couple of Ngaio Marsh Awards now, too.

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

Winner of the 2019 Booker Prize.

4  The Girl in the Mirror by Rose Carlyle (Allen & Unwin, $33)

Blurbed by AJ Finn, author of phenomenon The Woman in the Window, thusly: “Ferociously entertaining. A novel like a triathlon: part evil-twin thriller, part howdunit (or did-she-do-it?), part juicy family drama. Drop Knives Out and Double Indemnity into the blender, shake some Dead Calm over the froth, power it on, and you’ve got a cocktail like The Girl in the Mirror – fresh, flavourful, and utterly intoxicating.”

You might enjoy this New Yorker piece about Finn.

5  The Body: A Guide for Occupants by Bill Bryson (Black Swan, $26)

“I am loving this book but I think I’ve found a mistake? There is a picture in the book of a chest X-ray of a child who had swallowed (or fed by her sister) four open safety pins. It says it was taken in 1071 but X-rays weren’t discovered until 1895?? 

I don’t know how to get this to Bill Bryson or his associates so I will leave it here and see what transpires.” – Google review by one Poppy Duff, three weeks ago. 

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

Fifteen of bucks.

7  Utopia Avenue by David Mitchell (Sceptre, $38)

8  The Swimmers by Chloe Lane (Victoria University Press, $30)

Chloe wrote for us about the artwork on the cover of her novel, which is about euthanasia: “I don’t think of these paintings as comic paintings, but as with good literature, a bit of levity can contribute a lot to the emotional weight of a dramatic scene.”

9  Mophead by Selina Tusitala Marsh (Auckland University Press, $25)

Your freshly crowned 2020 Margaret Mahy Book of the Year; we published a wrap of the awards and a piece about Mophead and big hair.

10  Midnight Sun by Stephenie Meyer (Little, Brown, $38)

Twilight forever.

We raved and we swooned: “Meyer’s counting on the fact that readers will come to Midnight Sun frothing, fanatical: that they are so thoroughly hooked on the original story they will tolerate being hauled through tangle after tangle to get to more. Fresh content, we crave it, we cannot get enough.”

Also, The Spinoff was the only media outlet in New Zealand or (we’re pretty sure) Australia to secure any kind of interview with Meyer. Here tis.

Keep going!