The top ten best-sellers of 2018 at the Unity store in Willis St, Wellington.
1 Less by Andrew Sean Greer (Little, Brown, $35)
The most popular book of the year was a novel about gay writer Arthur Less as he travels the world on a literary tour and dreads his looming 50th birthday. It won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction and earned rave reviews but the best commentary came from David Sedaris. In a Q + A with the Financial Review, he was asked, “What’s the best book you’ve read in the past year and why?” He replied, “Less by Andrew Sean Greer. It just seemed kind of breezy for a great deal of it – just funny. I laughed out loud. And the writing was always good. He’s just a really good nuts-and-bolts writer. So just when it seemed completely enjoyable, all of a sudden it was like that sensation you have when you’re in the ocean and you go out and it’s only up to your knees. And then you take another step, and all of a sudden, you’re up to your neck. It was just so profound. And you didn’t expect it. You didn’t see it coming.”
2 Normal People by Sally Rooney (Faber & Faber, $33)
Named the best book of 2018 by The Spinoff Review of Books. Kim Hill reviewed it, and loved it. John Campbell wanted to review it, and loved it. Everyone loved it. You’ll love it! Buy the Irish novelist’s love story for yourself or as a gift; it’s the best $33 you’ll spend in a bookstore this Xmas.
3 Simple by Yotam Ottolenghi (Ebury Press, $65)
Cookbook, named the fourth best book of 2018 at The Spinoff Review of Books. Naturally, we got Linda Burgess to review it. “Inspiring,” said she.
4 Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking by Samin Nosrat (Canongate, $55)
Another cookbook! It flew out the door at incredible rates when Nosrat made guest appearances at the New Zealand Festival’s writers and readers festival in March. People loved her. Linda Burgess, naturally, was there, and reported: “Nosrat was so endearing. Plump, generous, garrulous, beaming inclusively at panel mates Martin Bosley and Annabel Langbein, she’s the new best friend we’ve always wanted.” People also loved the book. Linda Burgess, reviewing it at The Spinoff Review of Books: “It’s for people who love cooking and want to know more about how and why certain things work. Though it could well act as inspiration for those at the beginning of learning to cook. Nosrat just wants people to get away from processed foods and cook fresh at home.”
5 The Subtle Art of Not Giving A Fuck by Mark Manson (MacMillan, $35)
Self-help in the Age of Trump. Manson’s book really hit a nerve, and kept pressing it all throughout the year; there was barely a week when The Subtle Art wasn’t in the top 10 best-seller list in Wellington. And by God it was such an Wellington book, although Spinoff reviewer John Summers didn’t see that coming – he had it down as an Auckland book, but it also appealed to the capital’s young urban professional on the make. It appealed to the ambitious, the independently minded, the choose-your-own-destiny types – oh let’s just cut to the chase and state that it appealed to men. It was just about the most popular men’s read since the heyday of Playboy, and had similar appeals – pleasure, the good life, the unworried conscience. If 2018 political correctness was a sickness, The Subtle Art offered a cure. From John Summers’ review: “Manson rails at the modern culture of narcissism, but his book is about the individual, and the neoliberal notion that we only have ourselves to thank or to blame for our lot in life…It’s essentially about deciding what’s truly important to you, what’s worth the inevitable stress and what’s not.” It’s destined for the trash heap of history but in 2018, Manson’s book did something all writers want for their books: it spoke.
6 Women, Equality, Power: Selected Speeches from a Life of Leadership by Helen Clark (Allen & Unwin, $45)
Only in Wellington.
7 Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman (HarperCollins, $25)
Women’s fiction about a solitary eccentric; it sold nearly 450,000 copies in 30 countries, won the book of the year at the British Book Awards, and Reese Witherspoon bought the film rights.
8 Warlight by Michael Ondaatje (Jonathan Cape, $35)
Three words: The English Patient. As the author of a modern masterpiece, Ondaatje will always be revered, always be read, always be taken seriously. Warlight, set in post-war London, was almost completely humourless and yet also atmospheric, complex, and moving. A master at work.
9 Milkman by Anna Burns (Faber & Faber, $33)
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No one wanted a bar of it till it won the 2018 Man Booker Prize and suddenly it started flying out the door and has continued to do so as word of mouth has spread about the joys of this novel set in Ireland during the Troubles.
10 Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari (Vintage, $30)
“Harari is the most lucid and effective communicator of challenging ideas since Bertrand Russell,” stated Danyl McLauchlan in his review at The Spinoff. But whatever happened to Russell? Who reads him now, who even remembers that white-haired old duffer with his no-nukes placards, his sex talk, his benevolent patrician revolution? Harari may well end up on the trash heap of history, too. Isn’t much of his thinking actually kind of… cod, pat, banal? From Danyl’s review: “Harari writes we should learn to think critically, to out seek new ideas, new ways of living and relating to each other. But to do this, we need to know more about ourselves and who we really are.” Yeah? And? Harari then whips the curtain back, and reveals what works for him: meditation. O Maharashi! O just another dear old Sexy Sadie. But his book spoke to now, and appealed to the thoughtful, the considered, the big-picture-thinkers – oh let’s just cut to the chase. It appealed to men. 2018, the year of the guy book.
All titles are available at our wonderful and life-giving sponsor Unity Books.
The Spinoff Review of Books is proudly brought to you by Unity Books.