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Image: Archi Banal
Image: Archi Banal

BooksMay 26, 2023

The Unity Books bestseller chart for the week ending May 26

Image: Archi Banal
Image: Archi Banal

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 The Axeman’s Carnival by Catherine Chidgey (Te Herenga Waka University Press, $35)

The winner of the Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction at this year’s Ockham’s. Read a post-win interview (in which Chidgey reveals what she’ll do with the $64,000 prize money) here

2 Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin (Chatto & Windus, $37)

This stellar review nails the reasons why this novel has been on this list for months, and month: “Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow is also a manifesto for what video games can do for us. Zevin is wary of encouraging common misconceptions of video games as violent or juvenile; instead, she is interested in exploring what video games, as unique forms of art, can do. For example, Sam and Sadie’s second game, Both Sides, features a bedridden girl toggling back and forth between the stark reality of a hospital bed and the fantasy world within which she can roam free and conquer evil. Sam’s own struggle with his physical disability is given an alternate reality through the development of Both Sides.”

3 Dust Child by Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai (Oneworld Publications, $37)

Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai also attended the Auckland Writers Festival last weekend. Her enchanting presence and insightful conversation no doubt sent punters to the book sales tables and therefore boosted this latest novel right up the list.

4 Birnam Wood by Eleanor Catton (Te Herenga Waka University Press, $38)

Lee Child meets Jane Austen.

5 The Bookbinder of Jericho by Pip Williams (Affirm Press, $38)

“In 1914, when the war draws the young men of Britain away to fight, it is the women who must keep the nation running. Two of those women are Peggy and Maude, twin sisters who work in the bindery at Oxford University Press in Jericho. Peggy is intelligent, ambitious and dreams of studying at Oxford University, but for most of her life she has been told her job is to bind the books, not read them. Maude, meanwhile, wants nothing more than what she has. She is extraordinary but vulnerable. Peggy needs to watch over her.”

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

This novel has a 4.34 star rating on Good Reads (form 568,658 ratings and 56,870 reviews). Safe bet for your next holiday dip, we reckon.

7 Why do Birds do That? Over Fifty Answers to the Most Often Asked Questions by Grainne Cleary (Allen & Unwin, $37)

Well when you start to ponder it… there are a hell of a lot of questions (e.g. when will they stage an insurrection? See: Cassowary, Shoebill Stork).

8 Straight Up by Ruby Tui (Allen & Unwin NZ, $37)

Hands down one of the highlights of Auckland Writers Festival was seeing our own Mad Chapman chat with this absolute superstar.

9 There’s a Cure for This: A Memoir by Emma Espiner (Penguin NZ, $35)

Final year Māori med student Chloe Fergusson-Tibble reviewed this highly anticipated memoir for us, and found it a vital book for our times: “Reading There’s a cure for this I’m reminded of essays by New Zealand author Lana Lopesi, author of Bloody Woman, a book about indigenous female wisdom. And as Emma dissects the whakapapa of medicine, I’m transported to Zadie Smith’s essays, which I find deeply intellectual, obscuring and darkly funny. Mostly, though, I’m reminded that there is a place for me in medicine and that everything is going to be OK.”

10 Monsters: A Fans Dilemma by Claire Dederer (Sceptre, $38)

What do we do with all the problematic people who make useful and even beautiful things?

A shoebill stork – see number 7 above


1 Birnam Wood by Eleanor Catton (Te Herenga Waka University Press, hardback $50, paperback $38)

2 The Axeman’s Carnival by Catherine Chidgey (Te Herenga Waka University Press, $35)

3 There’s A Cure For This: A Memoir by Emma Espiner (Penguin, $35)

4 Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver (Faber, hardback $37, paperback $28)

Remember The Poisonwood Bible? This is the latest from that very same writer, and is this year’s Pulitzer Prize winner no less. Here’s the (compelling AF) blurb:

“In the southern Appalachian Mountains of Virginia, poverty isn’t an idea, it’s as natural as the grass grows. For a generation growing up in this world, at the heart of the modern opioid crisis, addiction isn’t an abstraction, it’s neighbours, parents, and friends. ‘Family’ could mean love, or reluctant foster care. For Demon, born on the wrong side of luck, the affection and safety he craves is as remote as the ocean he dreams of seeing one day. The wonder is in how far he’s willing to travel to try and get there.

Suffused with truth, anger and compassion, Demon Copperhead is an epic tale of love, loss and everything in between.”

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

6 Did I Ever Tell You This? by Sam Neill (Text, $55)

According to Good Reads this memoir suffers from a case of saggy middle. More than a few readers wished Sam would get to the point, and a little quicker. Like Jan: “I really like Sam Neill and I couldn’t wait to read his memoir. But then I couldn’t wait to finish it, actually I didn’t quite, I got to 80 something percent. Totally rambling and hard to follow and quite a bit of ‘you had to be there’ plus, to my mind a bit of telling tales out of school, particularly about some women. I’m not sure who if anyone did the editing, but it was a poor job – not in terms of grammar and spelling, but lack of structure.”

7 Dream Girl by Joy Holley (Te Herenga Waka University Press, $30)

Flying the flag for the short story, this stylish collection has many fans, including acclaimed novelist Emily Perkins: “These funny, original stories are the new cool girls of fiction. You’ll want to sit next to them.”

8 Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life by Francesc Miralles and Hector Garcia (Hutchinson, $30)


9 From There to Here by Joe Bennett (Harper Collins NZ, $35)

From this elegant profile on Bennett and the book by Philip Matthews in The Press: “‘Who doesn’t lug their life story around with them?’ he says. ‘And you’re the only person who knows it. Even your nearest and dearest haven’t got a clue about the complexities of your life story up until then. It accretes like a shell on a snail and you drag it around with you. So it’s a common urge to put it down. A lot of people want to sit in bars and tell it to people and they are to be avoided.

‘It’s an act of vanity. It’s also a fight against the coming dark. If you don’t put it down, no-one ever will. It’s a resistance against oblivion. A futile one, obviously.'”

10 Always Italicise: how to write while colonised by Alice Te Punga Somerville (Auckland University Press, $25)

The worthy winner of the Mary and Peter Biggs Prize for Poetry at the Ockhams, this collection is fierce and fiercely smart. Read a poem from the collection right here

Keep going!