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A bookstore, with seven masked staff standing facing camera
The staff catch-up at Unity Books Wellington this morning (Photo: Supplied)

BooksJune 25, 2021

The Unity Books bestseller chart for the week ending June 25

A bookstore, with seven masked staff standing facing camera
The staff catch-up at Unity Books Wellington this morning (Photo: Supplied)

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

In a recent interview with The Washington Post, Ishiguro was asked why he continues returning to the idea of the human (butler, clone, AI) need to justify our place in the world. He said, “It’s not just what interests me about human beings; it’s what I admire about them, even when they go wrong … We’re not like cows or sheep or whatever. We’re not content just to feed ourselves and reproduce and then die. We’ve got to keep asking ourselves, ‘Have I made a contribution? Have I been a good … ?’ Even if I’m a criminal, I’d ask myself, ‘Have I been a good criminal? Have I been loyal to my gang members?’”

2  Rangikura by Tayi Tibble (Victoria University Press, $25)

Tayi’s new poetry collection is number two in Auckland and Wellington! Are we surprised? No, no we are not. 

Last week we quoted Faith Wilson’s Spinoff response to Rangikura, and we’re going to do it again – because it’s fabulous. 

“If Rangikura was an album it would be Born to Die meets Suga. If it were a bottle of liquor it would be Tui meets Henny. Fish ‘n’ chips with gold-flecked batter. If it were an astrological event it would be a solar eclipse in Gemini during Mercury Retrograde. Outrageous, and unhindered by the confusing planet of communication. Rangikura makes its own rules.”

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

According to Newshub (sue them, not us, for any false info), Hinemoa Elder will be on Instagram on Wednesday discussing her book and what Matariki means to her. 

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

Haig just announced that he’s releasing two books this year – two, mind you. One is a children’s chapter book called A Mouse Called Miika (aww), and the other is a self-help book called The Comfort Book, which, according to the author’s Twitter account, is about “Buddhism and Ferris Bueller and hummus and love and good things” (double aww). 

5  Real Estate by Deborah Levy (Hamish Hamilton, $26)

In the slightly – OK, fairly – wanky publisher’s blurb, Real Estate is described as the final instalment in Levy’s “pioneering examination of a female life lived in the storm of the present tense”, and a “manifesto for radical emancipation – as an artist, as a woman, and as an inheritor of the real estate of the now”. But don’t let wankery put you off – if anyone deserves this type of halo, it’s Levy. 

6  Finding the Mother Tree: Uncovering the Wisdom and Intelligence of the Forest by Suzanne Simard (Allen Lane, $40)

Years ago, while working in the forest service, Suzanne Simard discovered that trees communicate through subterranean webs of fungi. Initially her theory was poo pooed, but now she’s backed up by data and is the world-leading scientist in plant communication. Her new book covers the complexity of forest life, and what plants can teach us humans about kinship and resilience. 

7  Loop Tracks by Sue Orr (Victoria University Press, $35)

Holly Walker’s review on Kete Books says: “Imagine a novel about abortion rights. Now imagine it is also a novel about addiction, euthanasia, autism, ageing, adoption, sexual assault, consent, math, primary school teaching and musical looping, set in Wellington during the Covid-19 pandemic. And imagine that it is not – as you could be forgiven for thinking from that description – too much but a powerful and elegantly structured excavation of intergenerational trauma. This is Sue Orr’s Loop Tracks.”

8  On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong (Vintage, $24)

Ocean Vuong’s moving debut novel about family, storytelling, and the legacy of the Vietnam War. 

9  Whereabouts by Jhumpa Lahiri (Bloomsbury, $29)

A reflective novel about solitude, told in vignettes by an unnamed woman in an unnamed city. The Sunday Times says, “If the antidote to a year of solitude and trauma is art, then this novel is the answer. It is superb.” 

10  The Mirror Book by Charlotte Grimshaw (Vintage, $38)

The memoir that rocked the boat.


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

Number one again? Now you’re just showing off.

2  Rangikura by Tayi Tibble (Victoria University Press, $25)

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

The biography of trade unionist Helen Kelly – local hero to some, pain in the arse to others, pretty remarkable human to all.  

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

5  Māori Philosophy: Indigenous Thinking From Aotearoa by Georgina Stewart (Bloomsbury, $39)

Ruth Irwin from RMIT University says, “In a beautifully written, at times painful, examination of living bi-culturally in ‘two worlds,’ Georgina Stewart ties together ancient Māori ways of knowing and te ao hurihuri; contemporary concerns in the modern world.” 

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

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

A novel about African American identical twins, one who moves away and passes for white while the other stays in their Louisiana hometown. Goodreads fans say: “Wowza! This is unique! This is impeccable! This is perfectly written and I wished it never ended” and “Completely absorbing. Intricate prose. Deep characterization. Bennett exceeded my expectations.” 

8  Noise: A Flaw in Human Judgment by Daniel Kahneman, Olivier Sibony & Cass R. Sunstein (HarperCollins, $40) 

Answer to the question, “What book do I get for someone who reads The Economist?”

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

2020’s book of the year is still, amazingly, the book of right-this-moment. 

10  Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell (Tinder Press, $25)

Not only did Hamnet win the Women’s Prize for Fiction and Waterstone’s Book of the Year – it’s now being made into a movie.

Keep going!