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Wellington loves Joanna Cho’s People Person (Design: Archi Banal)
Wellington loves Joanna Cho’s People Person (Design: Archi Banal)

BooksOctober 21, 2022

The Unity Books bestseller chart for the week ending 21 October

Wellington loves Joanna Cho’s People Person (Design: Archi Banal)
Wellington loves Joanna Cho’s People Person (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  Lessons by Ian McEwan (Jonathon Cape, $37)

For many authors, lockdown was the perfect escape to dive into their fictional world. McEwan clearly loved it: “Towards the end of 2019, I’d been doing a lot of travelling… And I formed the ambition, come 2020, that I really just wanted to stay home and immerse myself completely in slow time, in a long novel which was just beginning to take shape in my mind. Then came the first lockdown. So I could do just what I’d hoped to do, which was to expand into a novel.” Hats off to the Globe and Mail. 

2  Straight Up by Ruby Tui (Allen & Unwin, $37)

The new memoir by rugby star and Olympian Ruby Tui. 

From RNZ: “A visit to the male-dominated rugby memoir section of a bookstore was what convinced New Zealand rugby star Ruby Tui to share her personal story. ‘I remember just standing in the bookshop and I was tearing up. I was like ‘this isn’t even about me, man. I gotta do this. If I want a women’s rugby bio to be on the shelf and I’ve got all these publishers breathing down my neck who am I to bloody not do this? It was extremely hard, it was one of the hardest things I’ve done, but at the same time that decision was made in that bookshop that day – quick as, easy as.’”

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

The Auckland-set novel that’s still warming our cockles. Claire wrote on Goodreads, “Reilly has written a rare beast, a contemporary New Zealand novel about early adulthood that is resonant, recognisable, and engaging. Tāmaki Makaurau is the living breathing heart of this story, brought to life in clever detail at every turn. … The real achievement here is how Reilly mixes some fairly searing social-political commentary, with humour and the drama of life. Her acerbic tone makes these critical observations cutting without pulling her reader out of the narrative. Greta and Valdin is a story about family, connection, and that pressure of early adulthood to know what you are doing. It is vibrant and clever. I loved every moment of it.”

4  Lucy by the Sea by Elizabeth Strout (Viking, $37)

Fresh new novel in the Pulitzer-winning Lucy Barton series. In Lucy by the Sea, it’s the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic and Lucy agrees to leave New York and stay with her ex-husband William in a coastal house in Maine. She assumes she’ll be away for a few weeks, and instead her time with William stretches out for months. The Guardian writes, “Catching in the very rhythm of narration the pressures of 2020, letting us listen as Lucy tries to make sense of relationships in lockdown and political tensions deepening across the country, Strout has written another wondrously living book, as fine a pandemic novel as one could hope for.”

5  Before Your Memory Fades by Toshikazu Kawaguchi (Picador, $25)

New novel is the Before the Coffee Gets Cold series. 

6  Cursed Bunny: Stories by Bora Chung (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, $34)

Korean author Bora Chung has been translated into English for the first time, and was immediately shortlisted for the International Booker Prize. Reviewers delight and quake in their boots:

“Nothing concentrates the mind like Chung’s terrors, which will shrivel you to a bouillon cube of your most primal instincts.” — Rhoda Feng, Vulture

“Cool, brilliantly demented K-horror—just the way I like it!” —Ed Park, author of Personal Days

“Whether borrowing from fable, folktale, speculative fiction, science fiction, or horror, Chung’s stories corkscrew toward devastating conclusions—bleak, yes, but also wise and honest about the nightmares of contemporary life.” — Kirkus Reviews

7  I’m Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy (Simon & Schuster, $45)

“She booked iCarly! She booked iCarly!”

Mom’s hand flies forward to accompany her woohoo in what can only be described as a questionable fist pump. Whatever it is, it takes her hand away from mine and my whole body feels that. But just for a second. Because then it hits me. I’ve booked my first series regular role.

Mom pulls into the Art Supply Warehouse parking lot while we both scream at the top of our lungs. She pulls into a reserved-for-handicapped space – she’s thrilled she has a handicapped card since her diverticulitis diagnosis. I unbuckle my seat belt as quickly as I can.

I jump into Mom’s arms. She squeezes me. I’m elated. Everything’s going to be different now. Everything’s going to be better. Mom will finally be happy. Her dream has come true.

8  Ithaca by Claire North (Orbit, $38)

Author of The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August has brought out a new historical novel about Penelope of Ithaca, the wife of Odysseus. 

9  We Don’t Know Ourselves by Fintan O’Toole (Head of Zeus, $37)

A memoir both of the author’s life and of modern Ireland. The Atlantic gives the green light, writing: “O’Toole’s sweeping, intimate book covers a lifetime of Ireland’s history: a period of six decades when the country transitioned from one thing to another with little understanding of where it had been or where it was going, and was content to wear blinkers. A dishonest deflection of important questions was a deep-seated habit. The years punctuated by the bombing of Nelson’s Pillar marked a turning point. Even a kid in short pants and knee socks could sense that something was up. … My own vivid, limited sense of that time and place—of a country watching itself change—is lodged in my memory like a single piece of a puzzle. O’Toole provides a place for that piece to go: the missing context in all directions.”

10  Exiles by Jane Harper (Macmillan, $38)

The Queen of Australian crime is at it again with a new Aaron Falk novel.


1  People Person by Joanna Cho (Te Herenga Waka University Press, $30)

One of our favourite things to see at number one: a debut poetry collection by a local author. Pip Adam says, “This book is taut and strong, rigorous and funny. With skill and care Joanna Cho has produced a work which envelopes and accommodates but never gives. And somehow, also, all this power makes room for hope and tears and a renewed sense of the world.”

This week we published an excerpt for your reading pleasure.

2  Pasolini’s miCat edited by Marco Sonzogni (The Cuba Press, $20)

Look, we’re not entirely sure what to make of this one. All the Cuba Press tells us is, “Translations of Pier Paolo Pasolini to mark his birth centenary, and the twenty-second edition of Italian Language Week in the World.”

3  Shrines of Gaiety by Kate Atkinson (Doubleday, $37)

New fiction from the author of Life After Life, Case Histories and A God in Ruins. Shrines of Gaiety is set in a Soho nightclub during post-Great War London, and the Guardian describes it as a “heady brew of crime, romance and satire set amid the sordid glitz of London nightlife in the 1920s.” 

4  Wawata – Moon Dreaming: Daily Wisdom Guided by Hina, the Māori Moon by Hinemoa Elder (Penguin, $30)

The day has finally come. New book by the author of Aroha, the bestselling non-fiction book of 2021. Buy a copy and fill your boots with wisdom. 

5  Lessons by Ian McEwan (Jonathon Cape, $37)

6  The Axeman’s Carnival by Catherine Chidgey (Te Herenga Waka University Press, $35)

The shiny new novel by the author of The Wish Child and Remote Sympathy. The novel’s hero is a talking magpie called Tama, rescued by a farmer’s wife. (Expect the unexpected when reading Catherine Chidgey). 

In what may be The Spinoff’s best book review of all time, we called upon writer Marty Smith to nudge her own magpie, Pecky, to respond to Chidgey’s work. A taste: “Keep to your kind, Tama. Like to like. When your birds turn their backs on you one by one, tainted Tama, oh, unease, unease — my heart grows small and hides. 

“Things do not go well for birds who go to humans of their own accord. (This is not true, says my human, those are other birds from far away.)”

7  Lucy by the Sea by Elizabeth Strout (Viking, $37)

8  Fake Believe: Conspiracy Theories in Aotearoa by Dylan Reeve (Upstart, $40)

Dylan Reeve wrote an essay for us this week about writing his new book. A nugget to gnaw on: 

“Vinny Eastwood is intelligent, logical and analytical – he is a good example of the general fact that conspiracy theorists, despite what many are quick to assume, are not ‘stupid’ or unwilling to think about their beliefs.

“Politically, Eastwood and I probably have fairly similar views about the world in many ways, but we have reached very different conclusions about what causes the problems we see. I’m still not exactly sure how though. Like, I’m not sure what has led him to trust the sources and ideas he does, and more significantly, I’m not sure what’s prevented me from doing the same. When I stop to think about these ideas, I can very easily imagine an alternative universe, not far removed from this one, where I too am deeply suspicious of the Rothschild family and believe the US government was behind 9/11.”

9  Crude Common Denominator Pleb Trash Baseline Urge Ass Poetry: Confessions from the Sick Bay by Max & Olive (5ever Books, $20)

Brought out at a double book launch alongside People Person at Unity Wellington earlier this week. The publisher’s blurb reads, “A collection of experimental poetic attempts and gestures: towards something big, deep, fundamental, sick. It paddles through art, pop culture, humour, lyric, psychology and the absurd on its long swim towards death.” Punchy.

10  A Heart Full of Headstones by Ian Rankin (Orion, $38) 

The 24th Inspector Rebus mystery novel has landed in bookstores, just when you were starting to worry about what to get Dad for Christmas. 

Keep going!