Three of the hit books of the week, featuring Lioness’ new cover.
Three of the hit books of the week, featuring Lioness’ new cover.

BooksMay 24, 2024

The Unity Books bestseller chart for the week ending May 24

Three of the hit books of the week, featuring Lioness’ new cover.
Three of the hit books of the week, featuring Lioness’ new cover.

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  Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi (Picador, $25)

A charming, smash-hit book about time-travel in a bookshop (with the hitch that time travellers have to get back to the present before their coffee gets cold…). Kawaguchi was one of the star authors at Auckland Writers Festival last week which no doubt explains the uptick in sales. 

2  Lioness by Emily Perkins (Bloomsbury Circus, $25)

Our 2024 Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction winner at the Ockhams! Perkins was another star author at the Auckland Writers Festival, appearing in several events including with Jane Campion who said that to write is to be in a relationship with the subconscious. Read Mad Chapman’s interview with Emily Perkins the day after the Ockhams here

3  James by Percival Everett (Mantle, $38)

Everett’s reimagining of Huckleberry Finn has Good Readers buzzing: This is a 10/10 no notes book. Holy shit. This is a masterpiece and the reason that classic retellings exists. It is subversive, smart, daring, and supremely executed. This is a fucking book!”

And with this, I’m joining the ranks of those demanding Everett to be awarded a Pulitzer for this one ASAP. The observation that the novel is a very loose retelling of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (which, btw, I never particularly liked – go ahead and sue me) from the perspective of Jim only scratches the surface of what Everett achieves.”

4  Long Island by Colm Tóibín (Picador, $38)

Colm Tóibín surprised himself with this sequel to his most successful novel, Brooklyn, confessing in this Guardian profile that he doesn’t approve of follow-ups. But after 15 years we have the continuation of Eilis’ story and by all accounts it’s as poignant and beautiful as the first instalment. The premise of Long Island is that when disaster strikes her marriage, Eilis travels back to Ireland, to her home village of Enniscorthy, for the first time in 20 years, and takes her teenage children with her.

5  Butter by Asako Yuzuki (Fourth Estate, $35)

Eating gets sexy in this offbeat confidence tale.” Read the full Kirkus review here

6  Lola in the Mirror by Trent Dalton (Harper Collins, $37)

After a string of extremely well-received live events in Aotearoa it’s no wonder that Dalton’s latest book has hit the charts. Dalton is one of the liveliest, enthusiastic and honest writers out there and his books reflect that irresistible heart. Here’s the blurb for Lola in the Mirror: “A girl and her mother have been on the run for 16 years, from police and the monster they left in their kitchen with a knife in his throat. They’ve found themselves a home inside a van with four flat tyres parked in a scrapyard by the edge of the Brisbane River.

The girl has no name because names are dangerous when you’re on the run. But the girl has a dream. A vision of a life as an artist of international acclaim. A life outside the grip of the Brisbane underworld drug queen ‘Lady’ Flora Box. A life of love with the boy who’s waiting for her on the bridge that stretches across a flooding, deadly river. A life beyond the bullet that has her name on it. And now that the storm clouds are rising, there’s only one person who can help make her dreams come true. That person is Lola and she carries all the answers. But to find Lola, the girl with no name must first do one of the hardest things we can ever do. She must look in the mirror.”

Trent Dalton and Bret McKenzie in conversation at a Verb Wellington event this week that fundraised for the Wellington City Mission’s Whakamaru project (Photo: Rebecca McMillan Photography.

7  Prophet Song by Paul Lynch (Oneworld Publications, $25)

Paul Lynch’s Booker-award winning dystopia earned himself and Kim Hill an enormous audience at Auckland Writers Festival, and no doubt a tonne more book sales, too.

8  Boy Swallows Universe by Trent Dalton (Harper Collins, $25)

More Trent Dalton! This is the book that spawned the Netflix series of the same name which Dalton watched with his family who cried and when he went to turn it off thinking they thought it was too sad, they said “no, don’t turn it off, it’s too beautiful.”

9  Table For Two by Amor Towles (Random House, $38)

Noir-y, New York-y short stories.

10  Earth by John Boyne (Doubleday, $35)

The latest in the elements quartet from one of Ireland’s most successful living novelists. Here’s the blurb: 

“It’s the tabloid sensation of the year: two well-known footballers standing in the dock, charged with sexual assault, a series of vile text messages pointing towards their guilt.

As the trial unfolds, Evan Keogh reflects on the events that have led him to this moment. Since leaving his island home, his life has been a lie on many levels. He’s a talented footballer who wanted to be an artist. A gay man in a sport that rejects diversity. A defendant whose knowledge of what took place on that fateful night threatens more than just his freedom or career.

The jury will deliver a verdict but, before they do, Evan must judge for himself whether the man he has become is the man he wanted to be.”


1  Long Island by Colm Tóibín (Picador, $38)

2  Lola in the Mirror by Trent Dalton (4th Estate, $37)

3  Lioness by Emily Perkins (Bloomsbury, $25)

4  On Call: The Anatomy of My Life As a Surgeon, a Daughter, a Mother by Ineke Meredith (HarperCollins, $40)

The latest in a line-up of fascinating medical memoirs. Here’s the blurb:

“Frank, sharp-witted and heart-rending, On Call is a stunning memoir by a female Samoan-New Zealand general surgeon about life, death, and the human limits of care.

As soon as she could, Ineke Meredith left her family home in Samoa for New Zealand, filled with determination not to be like her mother: loving but loyal to a violent husband, trapped in a country that limited her. Achieving a scholarship to study medicine, she became a general surgeon at age 33 and worked extreme hours by the motto that what didn’t kill her made her stronger. But nothing could have prepared her for when her own parents fell ill – not even a career in medicine. In this sharp-witted and heart-rending memoir, Ineke tells her story of burnout and finding compassion where she least expected.”

5  Love Stories by Trent Dalton (4th Estate, $37)

A Trifecta of Trent! 

6  The Bee Sting by Paul Murray (Penguin, $26)

The book that many thought should have won the Booker and that others feel could have done with losing a fair few words. Here’s the blurb:

“The Barnes family is in trouble. Dickie’s once-lucrative car dealership is going under, and while his wife is frantically selling off her jewellery on eBay, he’s busy building an apocalypse-proof bunker in the woods. Meanwhile their teenage daughter is veering off the rails, in thrall to a toxic friendship, and her little brother is falling into the black hole of the internet…

Where did it all go wrong? The present is in crisis but the causes lie deep in the past. How long can this unhappy family wait before they have to face the truth? And if the story has already been written, is there still time to find a happy ending?”

7  Economic Possibilities of Decolonisation by Matthew Scobie & Anna Sturman (Bridget Williams Books, $18)

The companion piece to the Comyn’s book (see below). In this latest BWB Text, the authors ask: What do the economics of decolonisation mean for the future of Aotearoa? “This question drives the work of Matthew Scobie and Anna Sturman as they explore the complex relationship between tangata whenua and capitalism. By weaving together historical insights and contemporary analysis, this Text reveals the enduring influence of Māori economies and illuminates how these perspectives could radically transform Aotearoa’s political economy for the better.”

8  Fragile Foundations by David Collins (Te Herenga Waka University Press, $70)

Over on Newsroom, Vincent O’Malley says: “David Collins’ highly commendable book serves as a timely reminder of that earlier, uglier, monocultural and often brutal and barbaric, criminal law system.” 

Collin’s work explores “a series of notable criminal trials in order to understand how the indiscriminate application of English criminal law in New Zealand during the 19th century shaped the landscape of contemporary society.

These trials partially explain why Māori continue to be adversely affected by this country’s criminal justice system, and also expose the punitive way in which English criminal law was applied during the pre-colonial and colonial eras – a trait that is never far from the surface of modern New Zealand society.”

9  The Financial Colonisation of Aotearoa by Catherine Comyn (Economic & Social Research Aotearoa, $30)

A ground-breaking book that looks at the political elements of financial systems in relationship to the colonisation of Aotearoa. Read an in-depth interview with the author on The Spinoff, here.

10  The Vaster Wilds by Lauren Groff (Hutchinson, $37)

One of the greatest novelists of our time just visited Auckland Writers Festival and Wellington (with Verb Wellington) and talked about this propulsive, compelling novel of a girl alone in the woods, running for her life. It’s a brilliant novel about the starving time in the earlier stages of the colonisation of America, and about the moral imperative to notice the beauty in nature, and respect it. All of Groff’s novels and short story collections are highly recommended. Start here and just keep going.

Keep going!