A Cluster of Stars, A Cluster of Stories: Matariki Around the World (Image: Tina Tiller)
A Cluster of Stars, A Cluster of Stories: Matariki Around the World (Image: Tina Tiller)

BooksJune 23, 2022

The Unity Books bestseller chart for the week ending June 25

A Cluster of Stars, A Cluster of Stories: Matariki Around the World (Image: Tina Tiller)
A Cluster of Stars, A Cluster of Stories: Matariki Around the World (Image: Tina Tiller)

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  How to Loiter in a Turf War by Coco Solid (Penguin, $28)

Semi-autobiographical novel by polymath Jessica Hansell (Ngāpuhi/Sāmoa). Here’s one typically terrific paragraph:

“Everyone in the family loves Sheena. A cute kid, a job with family discounts, she’s good at violent sports and she’s a charismatic drunk. Sheena was also born into what Q calls ‘invisible elderdom’ meaning she was somehow always allowed to put people in their place ever since she was a child. It’s probably why she bums people out for a living now and why defending Q is like breathing to her.”

2  Freezing Order: A True Story of Money Laundering, Murder, and Surviving Vladimir Putin’s Wrath by Bill Browder (Simon & Schuster, $38)

NPR: I have to ask, how are you still with us, given the history Vladimir Putin has of how he settled scores with adversaries?

BROWDER: Well, he’s definitely wanted to kill me. He’s threatened me with death, with kidnapping. There have been eight Interpol arrest warrants issued for me. I was even arrested in Madrid a couple of years ago. The reason that I’m still here is that in the midst of all this, Putin was always keeping one foot in the civilized world and one foot in the criminal world. He wanted to be going to the G-20 conference. He wanted to be hosting international sports events and so on. And even though he was actively plotting assassinations, including my own, the – I guess at some point he decided that killing me would probably hurt his chances of being in that civilized world. And so he didn’t do anything outrageous during that period of time. Now he’s got both feet in the criminal world by launching this unbelievable murderous invasion of Ukraine. And so my own personal risk has gone up exponentially.

3  Russia: Revolution and Civil War, 1917-1921 by Antony Beevor (Viking, $60) 

Via the Guardian:

“The military historian Antony Beevor is best known for his books Stalingrad and Berlin, which, as their titles suggest, focused on a single location and two clearly defined sets of combatants. The dimensions of his undertaking with Russia: Revolution and Civil War 1917-1921 are on a far larger and more daunting scale.

He is, however, a wonderfully lucid writer who marshals the extensive material with great verve and understanding.”

4  First Person Singular by Haruki Murakami (Arrow Books, $24)
Has Haruki recovered from that time Michelle Langstone brutally, beautifully broke up with him?
5  Kurangaituku by Whiti Hereaka (Huia Publishers, $35)
Rightful winner of this year’s Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction; also a story that will, as the narrator (a monstrous bird-woman) warns, make a nest in your brain.

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

The voice is the thing in this wondrous debut novel; to get a sense of it, here’s Reilly in a recent essay on Shortland Street:

“I don’t remember a time where we ever didn’t watch Shortland Street. We watched it on our 14-inch TV which didn’t have a remote and was later stolen while we were at Christmas in the Park. We watched it on our replacement 14-inch TV with remote, which I remember picking up from Bond+Bond with the insurance payment, feeling very glamorous to have been robbed and to be getting a new TV out of it. We’d watch it on holiday at the Motel Six in Hamilton or at my gran’s house. After the landlord sold our unit, we moved to Whenuapai and I briefly became interested in the outdoors (rollerblading in a circle on the deck and taking my scooter to the dairy) but I was always back inside for Shortland Street, even though there was bad reception there and you had to hold the aerial in the right place.”

7  Horse by Geraldine Brooks (Hachette, $38)

Standfirsts are supposed to sum it all up so here’s one from The Washington Post:

“Pulitzer winner Geraldine Brooks’ latest book is a sweeping tale that uses the true story of a famous 19th-century racehorse to explore the roots and legacy of enslavement.”

8  Elizabeth Finch by Julian Barnes (Jonathan Cape UK, $40)

A novel about an inspirational teacher, sort of. Here’s the very good last line of a very good Guardian review: “Elizabeth Finch is a work stubbornly determined to deny us its pleasures, even as it hints at what they could have been.”

9  Happy-Go-Lucky by David Sedaris (Little, Brown, $35)

A counter to the state of things, perhaps?

10 The Dawnhounds by Sascha Stronach (Simon & Schuster, $35)

Stronach’s a favourite of this here Spinoff and we love the rebooted version of his debut, a sci-fi fantasy built around fungi and pirates – so did Tamsyn Muir:

“Soon I stopped patronisingly thinking about how brave it was and started thinking about how good it was. The Dawnhounds is a homecoming for New Zealand fantasy. Certainly it stands on the shoulders of extant Kiwi giants, but it is part of a brave new generation that is sticking its middle fingers at the American SFF market and fighting copyeditors for every single Australasian phrase or idiom.”


1  A Cluster of Stars, A Cluster of Stories: Matariki Around the World by Rangi Matamua and Miriama Kamo, illustrated by Isobel Joy Te Aho-White (Scholastic, $35)

A radically beautiful children’s book, big and hard-backed, full of science and stars. And what an absolute dream to have Isobel on illos – she’s god tier.

2  A Gentle Radical: The Life of Jeanette Fitzsimons by Gareth Hughes (Allen & Unwin, $40)

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

It is the week for imagining, after all.

4  Russia: Revolution and Civil War, 1917-1921 by Antony Beevor (Viking, $60) 

5  Freezing Order: A True Story of Money Laundering, Murder, and Surviving Vladimir Putin’s Wrath by Bill Browder (Simon & Schuster, $38)

6  Wellington Architecture: A Walking Guide by John Walsh & Patrick Reynolds (Massey University Press, $25)

Left, right, left, right …

7  Matariki: The Star of the Year by Rangi Matamua (Huia Publishers, $35)

Via the indomitable Huia Publishers:

“What is Matariki? Why did Māori observe Matariki? How did Māori traditionally celebrate Matariki? When and how should Matariki be celebrated?

Based on research and interviews with Māori experts, this book seeks answers to these questions and explores what Matariki was in a traditional sense so it can be understood and celebrated in contemporary society.”

8  Happy-Go-Lucky by David Sedaris (Little, Brown, $35)

9  Harbouring by Jenny Pattrick (Black Swan, $36)

Via Kete Books:

“Acclaimed writer of historical fiction Jenny Pattrick returns with her 10th novel, which starts with Martha and Huw Pengellin, a young couple in Newport, Wales in the late 1830s, barely getting by, living in one of many identical, rat-infested ‘hovels’ with their baby Alfie.”

10 The Book of Form and Emptiness by Ruth Ozeki (Text, $40)

Via the New York Times:

“The Japanese American novelist Ruth Ozeki is an animator. I don’t mean that she produces graphic novels or manga or anime, although her work does have the fairy-tale feel of some anime movies. I mean that she endows objects and animals with anima, the breath of life. Adept at magical realist fiction, Ozeki ensouls the world. Everything in her universe, down to a windowpane and a widget, has a psyche and a certain amount of agency and can communicate, if only with the few human beings granted the power to understand them.”

The Spinoff Review of Books is proudly brought to you by Unity Books, recently named 2020 International Book Store of the Year, London Book Fair, and Creative New Zealand. Visit Unity Books Wellington or Unity Books Auckland online stores today. 

Mad Chapman, Editor
Aotearoa continues to adapt to a new reality and The Spinoff is right there, sorting fact from fiction to bring you the latest updates and biggest stories. Help us continue this coverage, and so much more, by supporting The Spinoff Members.Madeleine Chapman, EditorJoin Members

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