(Photo: Alvaro Tejero via Getty)
(Photo: Alvaro Tejero via Getty)

BooksFebruary 26, 2021

The Unity Books bestseller chart for the week ending February 26

(Photo: Alvaro Tejero via Getty)
(Photo: Alvaro Tejero via Getty)

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  Gangland: New Zealand’s Underworld of Organised Crime by Jared Savage (HarperCollins, $37)

“It’s hard for me to imagine that New Zealand, a country regarded as so peaceful it’s sometimes forgotten and dropped off of maps, could have this underworld of gangs, meth and criminal intelligence. I wonder how many of those choosing to read Gangland will, like me, realise the privilege of their naivety and close the book better educated on another kind of pandemic. And are they, like me, left wondering whether New Zealand – Auckland especially – is genuinely unsafe?” – Chloe Blades, in a fantastic review we published last week.

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

“Midnight, as the clock had told her. She waited for the next second to arrive, but it didn’t. Even as she walked closer to the building, even as she opened the wooden door, even as she stepped inside, the display didn’t change. Either something was wrong with her watch, or something was wrong with time. In the circumstances, it could have been either.”

Big week for Mr Haig. Number two at Unity Auckland; number five at Unity Wellington (spoiler); and number one on Amazon (heckling).

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

It’s nearly 10 months since Becky Manawatu won the Ockham and Auē is still unstoppable.

4  The Devils You Know by Ben Sanders (Allen & Unwin, $33)

The new crime novel by the 32-year-old Aucklander, engineer, and all-round tall poppy.

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

Publisher’s blurb: “The timeless wisdom of Māori proverbs – 52 traditional Māori sayings explained by respected Māori psychiatrist Dr Hinemoa Elder, showing us how we can live better lives, in harmony with the planet.”

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

Imagining Decolonisation has been comfortably on these lists since at least June 2020. Just saying.

7  Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stewart (Picador, $38)

“Ann McGee had the brass neck to call in sick again that morning, leaving him with the thankless task of running his deli counter and her rotisserie stand all alone. No day ever started well with six dozen raw chickens, and today of all days, it was stealing the sweetness out of his daydreams.”

The grim, grim, Scottish winner of the 2020 Booker Prize.

8  The Happy Reader: Issue 15 (Penguin Classics and Fantastic Man, $12)

“The concept of the magazine is simple: the first half is a long-form interview with a notable book fanatic and the second half explores one classic work of literature from an array of surprising and invigorating angles” – publisher’s blurb

In this issue, Sarah Jessica Parker plays the part of a notable book fanatic, with Japanese Ghost Stories by Lafcadio Hearn as the classic work.

9  The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams (Hachette, $25)

“Protagonist Esme, the daughter of one of the editors, decides to collect words that the male editors and lexicographers of the Scriptorium (essentially a large shed of paper and pigeonholes in Oxford) discard. It’s set just as the suffragette movement is gathering momentum, and Esme learns that ‘all words are not equal’” – the Guardian.

10  The Fran Lebowitz Reader by Fran Lebowitz (Vintage, $38)

Two bestsellers in one shiny cover: Metropolitan Life and Social Studies.


1  Tranquillity and Ruin by Danyl McLauchlan (Victoria University Press, $30)

Biggest and warmest congratulations Danyl! A stunning collection of essays, well deserving of number one.

Here’s a snippet from a review we’ll be publishing any day now, by Alie Benge: “I was counting down the hours till I could get back to it, and wondering if I could sneakily read at my desk. There aren’t many writers who could argue that the self doesn’t exist, and make it a page turner.”

2  Navigating the Stars: Māori Creation Myths by Witi Ihimaera (Vintage, $45)

Last weekend Ihimaera appeared at the newest and coolest literary festival in the country: the Garden Party, put together by The Spinoff and Verb Wellington. Highlight, per our live updates: “his acting debut as Tama-nui-te-rā, resplendent in a golden headdress and mask. A crowd filled with children ably helped the cast trap the sun with their ropes until he roared and submitted.” Further reading: Whiti Hereaka’s recent Spinoff piece about the book and author.

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

4  Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stewart (Picador $38)

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

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

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

8  Land: How the Hunger for Ownership Shaped the Modern World by Simon Winchester (HarperCollins, $40)

“Winchester, a British-American author who has frequented the nonfiction best-seller lists during the past two decades, examines our duelling impulses for appropriation and exploitation, on the one hand, and stewardship and restoration, on the other, tracing our relationship to land from the dawn of agriculture to the current age. Moving across varied histories and geographies, he offers us one case study after another of how the once seemingly inexhaustible surface of the Earth has devolved into a commodity, the ultimate object of contestation and control” – the New Yorker

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

“Covering the symbolic systems and worldviews of the Indigenous peoples of Aotearoa, New Zealand, this book is a concise introduction to Māori philosophy. It addresses core philosophical issues including Māori notions of the self, the world, epistemology, the form in which Māori philosophy is conveyed, and whether or not Maori philosophy has a teleological agenda” – publisher’s blurb

10 Wars Without End by Danny Keenan (Penguin Books, $40)

A Māori perspective of New Zealand’s land wars, their link to sovereignty, and the shadow they have cast on modern race relations.

The Spinoff Review of Books is proudly brought to you by Unity Books, recently named 2020 International Book Store of the Year, London Book Fair, and Creative New Zealand. Visit Unity Books Wellington or Unity Books Auckland online stores today. 

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