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Image: Tina Tiller
Image: Tina Tiller

BooksMarch 24, 2023

The Unity Books bestseller chart for the week ending March 24

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

Number one in both fair cities! If you’re after some more in-depth Eleanor, you’re in luck: Eleanor Catton has just announced an Aotearoa book tour in May as part of the Auckland Writers Festival, Verb Wellington, and WORD Christchurch. Readers rejoice! 

2  People Person by Joanna Cho (Te Herenga Waka University Press, $30)

Joanna Cho’s debut poetry collection is a finalist for the Mary and Peter Biggs Award for Poetry, announced in May. We’re here for it, with books editor Claire Mabey and poet Louise Wallace calling People Person “luminous … filled with magic, a tender, funny book that makes its own rules.”

If you’re looking for a taster, here’s an excerpt – and if you’d like a bookish lunchtime activity, Unity Wellington is hosting an author talk with Joanna Cho and follow finalist Khadro Mohamed next Tuesday (sorry Aucklanders). 

3  Old God’s Time by Sebastian Barry (Viking, $37)

Two-time Booker finalist Sebastian Barry has released a new novel. From the publisher’s blurb:

“Recently retired policeman Tom Kettle is settling into the quiet of his new home, a lean-to annexed to a Victorian castle overlooking the Irish Sea. For months he has barely seen a soul, catching only glimpses of his eccentric landlord and a nervous young mother who has moved in next door. Occasionally, fond memories return, of his family, his beloved wife June and their two children, Winnie and Joe.

“But when two former colleagues turn up at his door with questions about a decades-old case, one which Tom never quite came to terms with, he finds himself pulled into the darkest currents of his past.”

4  Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus (Doubleday, $26)

The new, smaller, cheaper edition of this bestselling novel has been released. Woop. 

5  The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy (Ebury Press, $40)

A lovely illustrated novel about love and friendship. The screen adaptation just won the Best Animated Short Film Academy Award, nudging our friend back into the bestsellers. Re the book, the New York Times said, “Charlie Mackesy’s mesmerising debut combines the simplicity of ‘The Giving Tree’, magic of ‘The Velveteen Rabbit’ and the curiosity of ‘Paddington’.”

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

A gorgeous and touching Irish novella. Continuing the Oscars theme, we recently watched the film The Quiet Girl, based on Claire Keegan’s novel Foster – it’s the first Irish film to be nominated for the Best International Feature Film Academy Award. Go along if you fancy a good cry. 

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

“My afternoons consisted mostly of trying to work, then giving up and posting Instagram Stories containing oblique references to my emotional state. At some point in there, I turned twenty-nine.

“It was this that had forced me to confess to my friends. As a group, we went hard for occasions, and a birthday should have been no exception. We had agreed months ago to celebrate with a trip to Toronto Island’s nude beach, bringing cake and cocktails and nothing else. The chat was deep in discussion about the importance of sunscreen and the merits of various private water taxis when I cracked. i need to postpone, I wrote, jon moved out . . . permanently i think? An unbearable few minutes of silence followed, then Clive wrote, be there in thirty.”

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

Haven’t read Coco Solid yet? Let this review excerpt by the brill Natasha Lampard push you over the edge.

“What a time to be alive. To be able to read Coco Solid’s (Ngāpuhi/Sāmoa) recently released debut novel, How to Loiter in a Turf War, which you can do in one sitting, because it is quite short and it’s that good. Autobiographical fiction, poetry, art, illustration and so much more besides, it is an invitation into expansive worlds speaking to past, present and to future. Multi-genre, multifaceted, multitudinal, musical, a kaupapa both skux and scholarly, at times irreverent, all-the-time relevant, this is a potent, polyphonic work from a prolific polymath.”

9  Bunny by Mona Awad (Head of Zeus, $25)

The gothic campus novel doing the rounds on #BookTok. 

10  Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin (Penguin Random House, $37)

Named the best book of 2022 by Amazon, this novel about love, friendship, and gaming has entranced reviews and readers alike – but not so much our own Sam Brooks.

A cute Birnam Wood book display outside Unity Books Wellington. (Photo: Toby Manhire)


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

2  Freedom, Only Freedom: The Prison Writings of Behrouz Boochani by Behrouz Boochani (Bloomsbury, $35)

The Kurdish-Iranian author of bestselling No Friend but the Mountains has released an anthology of the articles, essays, and poems he wrote during his six-year detention in Australia’s offshore migrant detention centre. Behrouz Boochani now lives in New Zealand, so we can look forward to book events during the year.

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

The 2022 Booker Winner.

4  Old God’s Time by Sebastian Barry (Viking, $37)

5  Rat King Landlord (Renters United! Edition) by Murdoch Stephens (Lawrence & Gibson, $2)

A new illustrated edition of local novel Rat King Landlord, which you can secure for free online or for $2 at your local bookstore. Read more about this generous publishing feat over this way

6  A Day of Fallen Night by Samantha Shannon (Bloomsbury, $39)

It isn’t often an epic fantasy novel graces the Unity bestsellers! Samantha Shannon’s new novel is a prequel to The Priory of the Orange Tree. Kirkus calls the novel “expansive, emotionally complex, and bound to suck you in.”

7  So Shall You Reap by Donna Leon (Hutchinson, $37)

The new Commissario Brunetti mystery by 80-year-old author Donna Leon. Interesting tidbit: while her 32-book series is set in Venice and has been translated into various languages – and was even made into a TV series in Germany – Donna Leon insists that it shouldn’t be translated into Italian “because she regards celebrity as irksome and doesn’t want locals to read them.”

8  Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus (Doubleday, $26)

9  Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid (Arrow, $26)

A bestselling novel about the rise and fall of a 1970s rock band. It has all the superstar trappings, including an Amazon Prime TV series produced by Rees Witherspoon, being the 2019 Winner of the Goodreads Choice Awards, and the label of “TikTok sensation”. Taylor Jenkins Reid also wrote bestseller The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo.

10  Did I Ever Tell You This? by Sam Neill (Text, $55)

The new memoir by New Zealand actor Sam Neill, who was recently diagnosed with blood cancer. Sam Neill gave The Guardian a very good interview, and Sam Neill’s celebrity friends gave rave reviews. 

“Just wonderful, so funny and charming and sharp. Sam Neill’s lively, lovely book made me laugh out loud.” – Meryl Streep

“Sam Neill is a legend, and in this magnificent book he shares his stories of family, friends and film with delicious irreverence, compassion and grace.” – Laura Dern

“Sam Neill is one of my favourite people in the world, and a great entertainer. Did I Ever Tell You This? is full of warm, funny, and sometimes heartbreaking stories. It will make you feel like you have just sat down under a tree to chat with a dear friend.” – Jimmy Barnes

“Fabulously entertaining, insanely readable.” – Stephen Fry

Keep going!