(Photo: Nazar Abbas Photography via Getty)
(Photo: Nazar Abbas Photography via Getty)

BooksJuly 23, 2021

The Unity Books bestseller chart for the week ending July 23

(Photo: Nazar Abbas Photography via Getty)
(Photo: Nazar Abbas Photography via Getty)

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  In Our Own Backyard by Anne Kayes (Bateman, $22)

This YA novel ties together Covid-19, Black Lives Matter and the 1981 Springbok Tour. It launched (and sold) in spectacular fashion at Unity Auckland the other day, with speeches by Chlöe Swarbrick, John Minto and the author’s friend Tui Matelau-Doherty, a Māori, Tongan researcher who examines Māori and Pacific identity. From her speech:

“When I think about this time in NZ history I wonder what it must have been like to construct a sense of who you are as a Māori or Pacific person when your lived experience as a brown person was considered less important than a rugby game.

“When as a Pacific person you were painted as a burden on society who didn’t deserve to be here. What impact did that have? What impact does it continue to have? And how does work, like Anne’s beautiful book, In Our Own Backyard, change that?”

2  Effortless: Make It Easier to Do What Matters Most by Greg McKeown (Virgin Books, $38)

How can we do important things without collapsing from exhaustion or burning out? Greg McKeown has taught his methods to all the Silicon Valley monsters – Apple, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Twitter – and now he’s teaching us, too.

3  Aroha: Māori Wisdom for a Contented Life Lived in Harmony with our Planet by Hinemoa Elder (Penguin Random House, $30)

Wisdom never goes out of style.

4  Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro (Faber & Faber, $37)

The Frederick News-Post, a local county paper in Maryland, says: “One would expect that a story told from the perspective of a robot would be dull and lifeless, but that is not so in Kazuo Ishiguro’s Klara and the Sun. In fact, the book is often full of life and heartbreaking.”

We concur with Maryland.

5  The Bomber Mafia: A Story Set in War by Malcolm Gladwell (Allen Lane, $40)

What is The Bomber Mafia, you ask? During World War Two, it was an influential group of officers at the Alabama Air Corps who advocated precision bombing as a more moral option than broad-stroke area bombing. Want to know more? You’re in luck. Malcolm Gladwell has written a book about them.

6  The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (Bloomsbury, $25)

Miller’s has made herself over as a superstar on BookTok and it shows: this book was published a decade ago, yet here it is, back in the charts.

7  Labour Saving: A Memoir by Michael Cullen (Allen & Unwin, $50)

“On balance, the country is better off from Cullen’s dedication to public service. Even compared with prime ministers of the time, he could be regarded as the most widely admired politician. It can also be said Cullen achieved this without rancour or regret, though many who are the subjects of his acid wit may disagree. He leaves an enviable legacy for others who might want to emulate him” – NBR review

8  Bug Week & Other Stories by Airini Beautrais (Victoria University Press, $30)

This year’s Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction winner!

9  The Midnight Library by Matt Haig (Canongate, $33)

Entertainment Weekly describes Matt Haig’s bestselling novel as “the literary version of Arrival meeting that really eerie bookshelf in Interstellar.” That’s a pretty questionable description, so luckily E Weekly also asked Haig to write a movie poster tagline for the book, where he said: “One library. Infinite lives.” Clear as mud.

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

Last year’s Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction winner!


1  Helen Kelly: Her Life by Rebecca Macfie (Awa Press, $50)

Helen Kelly was the first female head of Aotearoa’s trade union movement. Stuff reports that the book covers not only Kelly’s life, but the “carnage caused by Rogernomics and New Zealand’s descent into a low-waged, unequal society.” We reported that the Chinese censors were very not into it.

2  The Commercial Hotel by John Summers (Victoria University Press, $30)

Tom Doig interviewed John Summers this week, and had a few delightful things to say about the book, too:

“Meticulously researched, gorgeously written and endlessly surprising, The Commercial Hotel is a compendium of sparkling oddities. The 21 essays and sketches are the sum-total of five years rummaging in rural New Zealand, with a focus on the neglected towns of the lower North Island … He captures poignant glimpses of a world before the climate crisis, an Aotearoa before social media flame wars; a world that is sometimes actually still here, if only we could tear ourselves away from our screens long enough to recognise it.”

3  Potiki by Patricia Grace (Penguin, $30)

We rightly exalt Auē for sticking like superglue to the charts more than a year after sweeping the Ockhams. Now here’s Potiki on the list, 34 years after winning its accolades and 28 years before “Ockham” meant anything more than Big Property.

Ironically, Potiki is about a small coastal town that is threatened by developers.

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

Here are some embarrassing idioms one could use to describe Imagining Decolonisation: “the bee’s knees”, “the biz”, “the bomb”, “the best thing since sliced bread”. We have a review slash retrospective underway.

5  The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich (Little, Brown, $25)

People ask Google, “What happens in The Night Watchman?” Amazon (rather incoherently) says, “Vera may have disappeared; she hasn’t been in touch in months, and is rumored to have had a baby. Determined to find Vera and her child, Patrice makes a fateful trip to Minnesota that introduces her to unexpected forms of exploitation and violence, and endangers her life.”

People also ask, “Is The Night Watchman based on a true story?” The Chicago Tribune (even more incoherently) says, “The Night Watchman is a blend of truth and fiction, real people and real events matched up with make-believe. The boxing match that Thomas organises to raise money for the trip to Washington? True.”

Confused? Us too. Better just read the novel and be done with it.

6  Labour Saving: A Memoir by Michael Cullen (Allen & Unwin, $50)

7  The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett (Dialogue Books, $25)

The Guardian says that The Vanishing Half “amplifies the trope of the ‘tragic mulatto’ (a self-loathing mixed-race American) by sharing the dilemma of ‘passing’ with identical twin characters, Stella and Desiree.”

8  Aroha: Māori Wisdom for a Contented Life Lived in Harmony with our Planet by Hinemoa Elder (Penguin Random House, $30)

9  Three Women by Lisa Taddeo (Bloomsbury, $25)

One of the big nonfiction reads from 2019, covering the sexual lives of three women. Lisa Taddeo has also just released her debut novel, Animal, which likely explains this one’s resurgence.

10  Bug Week & Other Stories by Airini Beautrais (Victoria University Press, $30)

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
The Spinoff has covered the news that matters in 2021, most recently the delta outbreak. Help us continue this coverage, and so much more, by supporting The Spinoff Members.Madeleine Chapman, EditorJoin Members

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