The top 10 best-sellers of the year at Unity Books in High St, Auckland.
1 Hit and Run: The New Zealand SAS in Afghanistan & the Meaning of Honour by Nicky Hager & Jon Stephenson (Potton & Burton, $35)
God, really? The bulk of the sales must have been in the opening week, or fortnight, or however long that halcyon period lasted until the New Zealand Defence Force successfully derailed the book, and its central accusation that the SAS caused the deaths of civilians in Afghanistan, by pointing out what may or may not have been incidental errors. The authors tried to explain, which was at once the only thing they could do and the wrong thing to do; we all learned during the Key Years that explaining is losing. The book died a death after that and seeing it in this chart is like coming across a museum curio. And yet it remains a strong, powerful piece of investigative reporting by our two most distinguished independent journalists.
2 Driving to Treblinka: A Long Search for a Lost Father by Diana Wichtel (Awa Press, $45)
Readers of the Listener have long known that staff writer Diana Wichtel is a genius. It took the initiative of Wellington publisher Awa Press to finally take her in hand and make her write a book. Driving to Treblinka is a book she would probably rather not have written and definitely not lived. It’s a harrowing family memoir, and a kind of literary detective work, about her father, Ben Wichtel, a Warsaw Jew who jumped out of a train that took his family to the Nazi death camps – he survived, he got to Canada, he had a family and a business, but there was no happy ending and the horror of it was unknown to his daughter Diana until she came to research her book. It’s longlisted for the 2018 Ockham New Zealand national book awards and is the favourite to win by a landslide. Named the best book of 2017 by the Spinoff; “It is a story that will make all who read it a better human being,” wrote reviewer Dr David Galler.
3 Solar Bones by Mike McCormack (Canongate, $23)
This is that novel written in a single motherfucking sentence.
4 The Wish Child by Catherine Chidgey (Victoria University Press, $30)
Fruity historical melodrama, winner of the 2017 Ockham New Zealand national book award for best novel.
5 Mythos: A Retelling of the Myths of Ancient Greece by Stephen Fry (Michael Joseph, $37)
Mildly entertaining trash.
6 Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders (Bloomsbury, $33)
Saunders was known to approximately 17 readers who all thought of him as a complete genius, until Lincoln in the Bardo came out and was an instant literary hit, earning dazed reviews and eventually winning the 2017 Man Booker award. It’s a book of the dead, or the undead, of ghostly voices in a cemetery, of the spirit of honest Abe Lincoln – was part of the book’s deep appeal that its central character lives with such force in contrast to the present White House incumbent, that sonofabitch Trump? Probably not. It’s simply a work of complete genius.
7 The Power by Naomi Alderman (Penguin, $26)
Before #MeToo, before the fall of the house of Weinstein, there was The Power, Alderman’s thrilling feminist sci-fi novel about women who can summon bolts of electricity to shoot forth from their fingertips and kill motherfuckers dead. Hell of an idea, hell of a read. Named the sixth best book of 2017 at the Spinoff; “Representative of the zeitgeist,” wrote reviewer Andra Jenkin.
8 The New Zealand Project by Max Harris (Bridget Williams Books, $40)
Max! The 28-year-old hit a nerve with his idealistic polemic; suddenly, after years of meaninglessness in New Zealand politics during the happy, mindless reign of Key, here was a guy who wanted real thinking, real issues, real progress.
9 Tears of Rangi: Experiments Across Worlds by Anne Salmond (Auckland University Press, $65)
There was a fascinating skirmish at the Spinoff, when Buddy Mikaere trashed Salmond’s latest history lesson and the author immediately wrote an imperious, patronising response which sought to send him on his way for his foolishness. It kind of worked: more people read Salmond’s response than Mikaere’s review.
10 La Belle Sauvage: The Book of Dust by Philip Pullman (David Fickling Books, $35)
Book one of Pullman’s fantasy trilogy in the making, and immediately, instantly hailed as a masterpiece. Named the third best book of 2017 at the Spinoff; “Just about perfect,” wrote reviewer Scarlett Cayford.
See the Top 10 bestsellers of 2017 at Unity Books Wellington here.
The Spinoff Review of Books is proudly brought to you by Unity Books.
Subscribe to Rec Room a weekly newsletter delivering The Spinoff’s latest videos, podcasts and other recommendations straight to your inbox.