First novels by Louise Wallace and Dermot Ross. (Image: Claire Mabey)
First novels by Louise Wallace and Dermot Ross. (Image: Claire Mabey)

BooksApril 26, 2024

The Unity Books bestseller chart for the week ending April 26

First novels by Louise Wallace and Dermot Ross. (Image: Claire Mabey)
First novels by Louise Wallace and Dermot Ross. (Image: Claire Mabey)

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.

AUCKLAND

1 Hemingway’s Goblet by Dermot Ross (Mary Egan Publishing, $38)

A handsomely produced (debossed cover, lovely textured paper stock) first novel that was edited by the late, and very great, Stephen Stratford. Ross’s project is Ernest Hemingway whom he investigates via the fictional character of Nick Harrieson who, after being accused of sexually harassing one of his students, delves into his family history and makes some astonishing discoveries about his grandfather.

2 James by Percival Everett (Mantle, $38)

This retelling of Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn is being called Everett’s greatest novel yet (which is saying something). Here’s a compelling snippet from the NY Times review: “Everett flips the perspective on the events in Huckleberry Finn. He gives us the story as a coolly electric first-person narrative in the voice of Jim, the novel’s enslaved runaway. The pair’s adventures on the raft as it twisted down the Mississippi River were largely, from Huck’s perspective, larks. From Jim’s – excuse me, James’s – point of view, nearly every second is deadly serious. We recall that Jim told Huck, in Twain’s novel, that he was quite done with “adventures.”

Everett’s James is indeed a warrior, of a humane, frazzled and reluctant sort. By the time this novel is finished, he will have killed men and freed fellow slaves and set fire to a particularly dismal plantation. He will be whispered about, a legend. What’s more, Everett has rendered him an ambitious reader, one who instantly grasps, for example, that the Bible is a tool of his oppressors, and who has extended internal dialogues with Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Voltaire and John Locke, sometimes about slavery. James is literate, and he is taking notes. These notes are costly. Another slave who pilfers a pencil stub for him is lynched for the act.”

3 The Creative Act by Rick Rubin (Canongate, $55)

Music producer Rick Rubin’s guide to a creative life is still going strong.

4 Hine Toa: A Story of Bravery by Ngāhuia te Awekōtuku (Harper Collins, $40)

The revelatory memoir from iconic scholar, activist and writer Ngāhuia te Awekōtuku. Our write up of the book is coming soon.

5 Until August by Gabriel García Márquez (Viking Penguin, $40)

The posthumously published final novel from the writer of such classics as Love in the time of Cholera.

6 Days at the Morisaki Bookshop by Satoshi Yagisawa (Bonnier Publishing, $28)

Cosy comfort fiction.

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

The novel by the Paul who didn’t win the Booker Prize but who has won many, many new readers. 

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

One of the smashest hits of 2023/24. Garmus will be live in Auckland next month with Auckland Writers Festival

9 The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu (Head of Zeus, $25)

The book that spawned the latest hit Netflix series. 

10 Water by John Boyne (Doubleday Books, $35)

The latest novel from best-selling Irish author of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. Here’s the publisher’s blurb: “The first thing Vanessa Carvin does when she arrives on the island is change her name. To the locals, she is Willow Hale, a solitary outsider escaping Dublin to live a hermetic existence in a small cottage, not a notorious woman on the run from her past.

But scandals follow like hunting dogs. And she has some questions of her own to answer. If her ex-husband is really the monster everyone says he is, then how complicit was she in his crimes?

Escaping her old life might seem like a good idea but the choices she has made throughout her marriage have consequences. Here, on the island, Vanessa must reflect on what she did – and did not do. Only then can she discover whether she is worthy of finding peace at all.”

WELLINGTON

1 Ash by Louise Wallace (Te Herenga Waka University Press, $30)

The explosive debut novel by poet Louise Wallace sure impressed books editor Claire Mabey, who wrote: “Louise Wallace has created a piece of art that burns. Ash lives and breathes: the highest compliment I could pay to a book. I am deeply jealous that I did not write it myself because it feels like it was written for me with pieces of my own brain. And the thing is many, many readers will feel the same: if you like taut suspense, it’s here; rural gothic, read this book; motherhood, parenting, modern life; disaster narratives; historical fiction; and poetry too.” Read the full review here

2 Hemingway’s Goblet by Dermot Ross (Mary Egan, $38)

3 Last Secret Agent: My Untold Story of Life as a Spy Behind Nazi Enemy Lines by Pippa Latour with Jude Dobson (Allen & Unwin, $38)

The stonking story of a real-life spy is a page-turning ride with one extraordinary human being.

4 Hine Toa: A Story of Bravery by Ngāhuia te Awekōtuku (Harper Collins, $40)

5 When I Open the Shop by Romesh Dissanayake (Te Herenga Waka University Press, $35)

From Maddie Ballard’s astute review of this debut novel: “Perhaps the heart of the novel is the dinner party scene, where a group of BIPOC friends share a Sri Lankan meal. Their conversation reflects on racism between people of colour (‘everyone’s racist. Not just white people. Look how we treat Tamils and Muslims back home’). They disagree over whether it’s wrong for a South Asian woman to sing the national anthem at an All Blacks game (‘You took the place of a Māori person…That’s not our place’). They address the intersection of race and class (‘Didn’t your parents put you through one of the bougiest boarding schools in the country?’). Like the rest of the novel, it’s a scene that’s refreshingly unafraid of complication.”

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

7 Dear Colin, Dear Ron: Selected Letters of Colin McCahon & Ron O’Reilly by Peter Simpson (Te Papa Press, $65)

Is there anything more intimate than a hand-written letter? This new, beautiful book reveals a long friendship between iconic artist Colin McCahon and librarian Ron O’Reilly. Here’s the blurb by publisher, Te Papa Press: “The painter Colin McCahon and the librarian Ron O’Reilly first met in 1938, in Dunedin, when McCahon was 19 and O’Reilly 24. They remained close, writing regularly to each other until 1981, when McCahon became too unwell to write.

Their 380 letters covered McCahon’s art practice, the contemporary art scene, ideas, philosophy and the spiritual life. Dazzling in their range, intensity and candour, the letters track a unique friendship and partnership in art.

The book is illustrated with 64 images, all discussed in the letters. Simpson’s selection represents the first time these letters have been transcribed and collected in what is an act of great generosity to future scholars. It adds a new dimension to an understanding of McCahon and his career and is a rich and lively addition to any art lover’s McCahon library.O’Reilly’s son Matthew O’Reilly and McCahon’s grandson Finn McCahon-Jones contribute insightful essays that round out the unique perspective the letters afford.”

8 My Favourite Mistake by Marian Keyes (Michael Joseph, $38)

The latest from beloved and unstoppable Irish writer who is delightfully frank about life and its foibles. Here’s the blurb: 

“Anna Walsh had a dream life – according to everybody else. She lived in New York, had a long-term boyfriend, and had The Best Job In The World working as a highly successful beauty PR. So why did she decide to take a flamethrower to the lot? Because now she’s back Dublin, living with her parents. She’s undeniably forty-eight, with no partner, no job, and no direction. Anna’s lost her purpose. She needs a new challenge to help her fall back in love with life again. When an opportunity arises to solve a PR crisis in the tiny town of Maumtully, Anna leaps at the chance. But will the appearance of an old love interest derail her plans?”

9 AMMA by Saraid De Silva (Moa Press, $38)

The fiercely good inter-generational novel by another debut novelist (who has just launched the book in the UK, too) reviewed on The Spinoff by Brannavan Gnanalingam, here

10 Foraging New Zealand: Over 250 Plants to Forage in Aotearoa by Peter Langlands (Random House, $50)

A hefty and handsome new foraging title in the vein of Fungi by Liv Sisson. 

Keep going!