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Image: Archi Banal
Image: Archi Banal

BooksFebruary 24, 2023

The Unity Books bestseller chart for the week ending February 24

Image: Archi Banal
Image: 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  Birnam Wood by Eleanor Catton (Te Herenga Waka University Press, $38)

A masterful new novel that we heartily recommend to one and all. This from books editor Claire Mabey’s recent review: “Catton is an immersion artist. The deftness with which Catton’s third book – coming 10 years after The Luminaries won the Booker Prize – plunges us into the calamitous depths of our nature is freshly astonishing. When I began reading Birnam Wood I started to asterisk sentences that stood out to me as leggy, multi-parenthetic, joyrides of perfection. After the first few pages I realised that the book would soon become a constellation of blazing stars. Catton’s prose brings to mind Austen and Woolf and Mantel. She is among that echelon of literary mastery. Her sentences are the stuff of dreams: of ten-course degustations that give you the satisfaction of home cooking at its finest. In Catton’s hands the descent into character is so complete, so startlingly multi-dimensional, that the ride cannot help but be exhilarating and entirely consuming.”

2  The Creative Act: A Way of Being by Rick Rubin (Penguin Press, $50)

A new book about creativity by legendary music producer Rick Rubin.

3 The Happiness Trap: Stop Struggling, Start Living by Russ Harris (Exisle Publishing, $35)

After a catastrophic summer, a spot of self-help isn’t the worst idea in the world. The Happiness Trap is based on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, with chapter titles including “The Dirty Dog”, “If You’re Breathing, You’re Alive”, “Staring Down Demons” and the much fun “More Demons”. After only reading the contents page, we feel slightly better.

4  The Dangers of Smoking in Bed by Mariana Enríquez (Granta, $23)

A short story collection of psychological horror, first published in Argentina in 2009 and shortlisted for the 2021 International Booker. From the Guardian: “While much of horror’s subject matter is universal – a fear of spiders, or being pursued, or, of course, death – it’s often the culturally specific elements that make it memorable… ‘When I make horror,’ Enríquez said in a recent interview, ‘I try to make it Latin American. To reimagine the subjects in accordance with our realities, to include indigenous mythologies, local urban legends, pagan saints, local murderers, the violence we live with, the social problems we suffer.’ Many of these elements are present here: an isolated shrine to the Afro-Brazilian spirit Pomba-Gira; the sex workers of Constitución, one of Buenos Aires’s most dangerous neighbourhoods; the heavily polluted waters of the Riachuelo river.”

5  Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan (Grove Press, $25)

Our bittersweet little favourite.

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

Narrated by a talking magpie and set on a struggling sheep farm in Central Otago, local author Catherine Chidgey’s new novel is beloved by us (of course) but also has a ridiculously high 4.6 rating on Goodreads. Reviewer Courtney writes, “The book is a striking and evocative portrait of the pressures and isolation of farming life, and I found myself following Rob in the book with welling of empathy for all those farming men I’ve ever known. Victim to the weather, to the regulators, to those buggers in the city. Falling meat prices, falling wool prices, threat of drought: Rob is watching his own life play out in the same worn tracks as those of his parents farming the same resistant land, searching for rain, searching for a break on the global markets, the sheer unfairness of busting a gut from before dawn to after dark every day of the year and still living on a knife’s edge of liquid cash. The hardness this breeds, the inarticulate resentment of a life that feels so out of your control, the deep responsibility for this bloody piece of land your family worked, and yet the love and the fierce pride also.”

7  The Cat Who Saved Books by Sosuke Natsukawa (Picador, $20)

A bestselling Japanese novel widely described as “heartwarming” and “endearing”. It involves a talking tabby, magical adventures, and a tiny secondhand bookshop, so that checks out.

8  Circe by Madeline Miller (Bloomsbury, $22)

A retelling of Greek mythology, centred on the witch Circe.

9  The Man Who Died Twice by Richard Osman (Viking, $26)

Sequel to The Thursday Murder Club.

10 Cursed Bunny by Bora Chung (Honford Star, $38)

A collection of 10 short stories by Korean writer Bora Chung, traversing science fiction, horror and magical realism. From the New York Times (also hold your breath, because the layered quotation marks are about to get out of control):

“Few story collections greet their reader with an introductory sequence as disarmingly gross as the one in Cursed Bunny. ‘The Head’ begins:

“‘She was about to flush the toilet.


“‘She looked back. There was a head popping out of the toilet, calling for her.’

“The talking head is revealed to be a lumpy, sentient being formed from the protagonist’s bodily waste. And because we are in the wonderfully warped world of Bora Chung’s fiction, the woman proceeds to nonchalantly flush it away and leave the bathroom.”


1  Birnam Wood by Eleanor Catton (Te Herenga Waka University Press, $38)

2  A Lack of Good Sons by Jake Arthur (Te Herenga Waka University Press, $25)

The debut poetry collection by Jake Arthur, which dips into dreams, Greek mythology, the Bible, and the minds of deities and inanimate objects alike. This delightful review from author James Brown: “There is something Cochranesque in these poems. By ‘1588’ I was converted. I tore ‘Saturn devouring his son’ out of the manuscript and began carrying it round with me and reading it to people.”

3  Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus (Doubleday, $37)

People ask Google, “Is Lessons in Chemistry worth reading?”

Google says, “Laugh-out-loud funny, shrewdly observant, and studded with a dazzling cast of supporting characters, Lessons in Chemistry is as original and vibrant as its protagonist. One of my friends recently recommended Lessons in Chemistry to me, and I am so glad they did.”

Google is a big reader, after all.

4  The Creative Act: A Way of Being by Rick Rubin (Penguin Press, $50)

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

The most familiar of faces.

6  The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida by Shehan Karunatilaka (Sort of Books, $37)

The 2022 Booker Winner, a satire set during the 1980s Sri Lankan Civil War. Check out Himali McInnes’ review right here on The Spinoff.

7  Māori Made Easy: For Everyday Learners of the Māori Language by Scotty Morrison (Raupo, $38)

Ooh! Haven’t seen this gem around these parts in a while. Nau mai!

8  Really Good, Actually by Monica Heisey (William Morrow, $33)

The debut novel by Schitt’s Creek screenwriter Monica Heisey, about a broke, 29-year-old divorcée. From the Los Angeles Times: “Very funny—think Bridget Jones meets ‘Broad City’. . . . Heisey is making a career out of guiding characters through the kinds of crises we can laugh at and sympathize with all at once, while upending enough rom-com tropes to keep things interesting.”

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

We’d loiter with Coco Solid all day long.

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

Humans of The Booklover love Greta & Valdin for a few reasons. Here are a couple.

Olivia: “Greta & Valdin is laugh-out-loud funny to the point where I wanted to turn to the nearest person and say ‘listen to this’. … Did I mention Greta & Valdin is also very funny?”

Brea: “Like a Sally Rooney novel but it has quotation marks!!”

Rachel: “I loved the Auckland setting as I could picture the streets they were walking so well and felt like I was closer to the characters and their experiences because of that.”

Keep going!