(Image: Tina Tiller)
(Image: Tina Tiller)

BooksJanuary 26, 2024

The Unity Books bestseller chart for the week ending January 26

(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 Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin (Vintage, $26)

Beautiful piece of bookish symmetry alert (see item 10 in the Wellington list below).

2 The Prophet Song by Paul Lynch (Bloomsbury Academic, $37)

The gripping, rousing Booker Prize winner of 2023. Lynch’s Q & A on the Booker website is well worth a read for gems like this: “I had previously spent six months writing the wrong book, and knew it too, but kept hammering through rock in the hope of a breakthrough. Then one Friday, about 3pm, I stopped writing and thought, this is the wrong book – I will return on Monday morning and start a new one. I could sense there was something lurking just out of sight but I didn’t know what it might be.”

3 The Creative Act: A Way of Being by Rick Rubin (Canongate, $50)

The sheer frequency of this book in this here list suggests a steady curiosity, if not a commitment to, creativity. Makes you consider the arts and our artists and what the world might look like if we championed our artists as seriously as say, Ireland (who have three books in this list, and who had four books in last year’s Booker Prize shortlist, and the winner, too).

4 Trust by Hernan Diaz (Picador, $28)

Hernan Diaz’s first novel, Distance, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, which set expectations high for this second book, curiously back on the list after being released in 2022. This review from The Guardian sets it up nicely:

“Trust, is a collection of four manuscripts at different stages of completion, and they tell different versions of the story of a Wall Street businessman and his wife in the years leading up to the Great Depression. In Bonds, ostensibly a bestselling novel authored by one Harold Vanner, a monkish mogul manages to make a massive windfall during the 1929 stock market crash while his wife tragically succumbs to mental illness far away in Switzerland. My Life is the partial autobiography of Andrew Bevel, clearly the model for the tycoon in Bonds, strewn with half-finished chapters and paragraph outlines. The first few pages of Futures, the scribbled diaries of Andrew’s wife, Mildred, have been randomly ripped out. The Bevels’ competing narratives are mediated by a long postmortem memoir, written by Ida Partenza, once the gullible ghostwriter of Andrew’s book.”

5 A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara (Picador, $25)

Do note the trigger warnings before setting off on this really very harrowing journey. Masterful, yes. But be warned.

6 The Bee Sting by Paul Murray (Hamish Hamilton, $37)

In our latest Books Confessional prolific and pithy reader and writer Linda Burgess lists The Bee Sting as one of the books she wishes she’d written, saying “Paul Murray’s The Bee Sting is beyond enviable when it comes to a piece of writing. Structure, character, multiple points of view, sheer pace, along with subtle foreshadowing, layers and so on – I couldn’t do that in a million years.”

7 The Door-To-Door Bookstore by Carsten Henn (Weidenfeld & Nicholson, $37)

Sounds like the perfect little fantasy for a long weekend. This from the publisher’s blurb: “Carl may be 72 years old, but he’s young at heart. Every night he goes door-to-door delivering books by hand to his loyal customers. He knows their every desire and preference, carefully selecting the perfect story for each person.

One evening as he makes his rounds, nine-year-old Schascha appears. Loud and precocious, she insists on accompanying him – and even tries to teach him a thing or two about books.

When Carl’s job at the bookstore is threatened, will the old man and the girl in the yellow raincoat be able to restore Carl’s way of life, and return the joy of reading to his little European town?”

8 The Heaven and Earth Grocery Store by James McBride (Weidenfeld & Nicholson, $37)

We have an accidental and rather pleasing tonal chime between the book title above, and this one. Last year the New York Times gave this novel a glowing review, here’s a snippet: “The book is a murder mystery locked inside a Great American Novel. The story opens in 1972, with the discovery of a skeleton buried in a well in Pottstown, Pa. The identity of the corpse is unknown but the few clues found (a belt buckle, a pendant and a mezuza) lead authorities to question the only Jewish man remaining from the town’s formerly vibrant Jewish community. However, instead of a simple whodunit, the novel leaves the bones behind and swings back to the 1920s and ’30s, to Chicken Hill, the neighborhood in Pottstown where Jewish, Black and immigrant folks make their homes. It’s a community of people bonded together by the links of love and duty, and it’s here that McBride’s epic tale truly begins.”

9 The Dead Are Always Laughing at Us by Dominic Hoey & Trudi Hewitt (Dead Bird Books, $35)

It’s so sunny and yellow! Dominic Hoey is a singular voice in Aotearoa and this collaboration with designer, Trudi Hewitt, is a stylish way to offer his poetry to the page. This is what Hoey has to say about this project: “Accessibility has shaped the way I write and perform. I’ve always resisted the idea that poetry should be a puzzle you need a 50k education to unlock. Early on I knew I wanted this to be the kind of poetry collection anyone could pick up and be drawn into immediately. With that in mind it was really important to add a visual element to the text.”

10 The Queen of Dirt Island by Donal Ryan (Transaction Pubs, $33)

A moreish Irish novel about four generations of women. 


1 The Hundred Years War on Palestine: A History of Settler Colonialism & Resistance, 1917—2017 by Rashid Khalidi (Profile Books, $35)

Never a more relevant moment to read and support this book. Khalidi’s book is widely considered a seminal text on the war on Palestine, with the likes of Noam Chomsky saying: “Riveting and original … a work enriched by solid scholarship, vivid personal experience, and acute appreciation of the concerns and aspirations of the contending parties in this deeply unequal conflict.”

For more books and articles about Palestine see our reading guide.

2 Bee Sting by Paul Murray (Hamish Hamilton, $37)

3 The Creative Act: A Way of Being by Rick Rubin (Canongate, $50)

4 What You Are Looking for is in the Library by Michiko Aoyama (Doubleday, $37)

Another charming book about books and reading! Welcome, welcome.

5 This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone (Jo Fletcher, $28)

Absolutely intrigued by this. Get a load of this sparky review, and here’s an excerpt: “Time War is ultimately about two kick-ass, gender-non-conforming, time-traveling robo-ladies who fall in love. There isn’t a man in sight, but there also aren’t very many conventional gender roles. I wish I could say that this isn’t just a big deal; it should be the obvious choice. Sci-fi is generally about the future, so why shouldn’t we get to read forward-thinking stories? As someone who was overjoyed that there was an Asian cylon in Battlestar Galactica from 1978, I have to say, I’m more than happy to watch to femme-androgynous robots fall in love. And of course, without men, there can only really be LGBTQ romance. Fun as it is to watch characters realize their sexuality despite their culture or the way they were raised, one of the best things you can do for something progressive, like a gay robot love story, is to normalize it. No men? No heterosexuality? No problem.”

6 Everything I Know About Love by Dolly Alderton (Fig Tree, $28)

Dolly fans are flocking.

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

An essential and fascinating read. Described as “’Theoretically sophisticated, historically precise, and politically urgent’ by Max Haiven, this book reveals the financial instruments and imperatives that drove the British colonial project in the nineteenth century. This is a history of the joint-stock company, a speculative London property market that romanticised the distant lands of indigenous peoples, and the calculated use of credit and taxation by the British to dispossess Māori of their land and subject them to colonial rule.”

8 Prophet Song by Paul Lynch (Oneworld, $37)

9 Atomic Habits by James Clear (Century, $40)

The self-help of self-helps.

10 Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin (Vintage, $26)

As it begins, so it ends.

Keep going!