(Photo: Unity Books Auckland, via Instagram)
(Photo: Unity Books Auckland, via Instagram)

BooksNovember 27, 2020

The Unity Books bestseller chart for the week ending November 26

(Photo: Unity Books Auckland, via Instagram)
(Photo: Unity Books Auckland, via Instagram)

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  A Promised Land by Barack Obama (Penguin Random House, $70)

The first volume of Obama’s presidential memoirs, released four years after his stint in the White House ended. Danyl Mclauchlan’s review for us begins “I somehow forgot that Obama could write.”

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

Winner, all by itself, of the 2020 Booker Prize.

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

“Kia mate ururoa, kei mate wheke / Fight like a shark, don’t give in like an octopus.

When a shark is caught on a fishing line it thrashes around furiously. Often the line breaks and it swims away. When an octopus is caught on a line it goes limp. Our ancestors were people of great principle, who believed in sticking to your values and fighting for what is right.

Nowadays, the world feels apathetic. Our political voting rates are low. People feel disengaged. There is a sense of powerlessness.

When I think of this whakataukī I see the fishing line and I see how exposed the shark and the octopus are. When we are exposed, what do we do – fight or go limp?”

4  Trio by William Boyd (Viking, $37)

“This is a book about the absurd business of film-making, the desperate business of writing a novel and the ludicrous business of acting – and it’s superbly wry and wise and funny and truthful on all three subjects. But, beneath that, it’s really a novel about the correspondences between the inner and the outer lives of human beings: a novel, in other words, about identity” – the Guardian

5  Tomorrow the World by MK Joseph (Atuanui Press, $35)

The book is an imagining of Hitler dying, dictating his memoirs, as his commanders plot their paths to power and a resistance group smuggles a package across Europe.

We asked the publishers for the book’s backstory and managing editor Brett Cross explained in an email:
“Tomorrow the World was left unpublished when MK Joseph died suddenly in 1981. His children did approach some publishers with it but they turned it down, one of them even said ‘dead writers don’t sell’, so it has been housed in the Turnbull library for the last 30-plus years.
We found out about it through Chuck Joseph (MK’s son) while talking to him on Twitter, he recovered the manuscript from the Turnbull and passed it on, and it all happened from there. It was a big help that CNZ supported it too.”

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

A snippet from the extract we published a couple of weeks ago, on the redemption of Hine-nui-te-pō:

“For the sake of her child – for all children – and for the sisterhood, she sacrificed herself. She became the mother who would take us to her at death; rather her than Whiro.

In so doing, Hine-nui-te-pō should have risen triumphant, don’t you think? Instead, she was demonised.”

7  Ghosts by Dolly Alderton (Fig Tree, $37)

Get yourself over to Barry Pierce’s Twitter account (he reviews for the Irish Times, which is paywalled). There you’ll find a photo of his review, which the Daily Mail (lol) said “might just be one of the most brutal critiques ever written”.

Here’s a taster: “Her fictional prose is dense, thick like mayonnaise … you will often find lines like ‘I wished, more than anything, that I could buy a Durex for her heart’ mortifyingly peppered throughout … there are just so many words in this novel.”

8  Troy: The Siege of Troy Retold by Stephen Fry (Michael Joseph, $37)

“The pillars of the story are well known – the beauty of Helen, Aphrodite’s bribing of Paris, the wooden horse that brought down an empire – but Fry’s narrative, artfully humorous and rich in detail, breathes life and contemporary relevance into these ancient tales, revealing connections between myth and modern language, art and culture” – the Guardian, from a review in brief

9  Hiakai: New Māori Cuisine by Monique Fiso (Penguin Random House, $65)

Reviewed for us by Māori chef Te Tangaroa Turnbull: “A foundation text for the use of traditional Māori ingredients, it deserves to be read alongside the likes of René Redzepi’s Noma or his series A Work in Progress, the elBulli catalogue, David Chang’s Momofuku, and African cooking odyssey The Soul of a New Cuisine.”

10 Life On Our Planet: My Witness Statement and Vision for the Planet by David Attenborough (Ebury Press, $45)

“Our planet is small, isolated and vulnerable. It is the only place we have, the only place where life exists as far as we can tell. It is uniquely precious … ”

WELLINGTON

1  A Promised Land by Barack Obama (Viking Penguin, $70)

2  New Zealanders: The Field Guide by Tom Sainsbury (HarperCollins, $25)

Nope.

3  Fair Weather Hitchhiker by Julia Millen (The Cuba Press, $30)

Non-fiction about hitchhiking the world, including Aotearoa.

4  Hiakai: Modern Māori Cuisine by Monique Fiso (Godwit, $65)

5  Rhythm of War: book four of the Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson (Gollancz, $38)

“After forming a coalition of human resistance against the enemy invasion, Dalinar Kholin and his Knights Radiant have spent a year fighting a protracted, brutal war. Neither side has gained an advantage, and the threat of a betrayal by Dalinar’s crafty ally Taravangian looms over every strategic move … ”

6  Troy: The Siege of Troy Retold by Stephen Fry (Michael Joseph, $37)

7  Home Body by Rupi Kaur (Simon & Schuster, $29)

“Social-media poets, using Instagram as a marketing tool, are not just artists – they’re entrepreneurs. They still primarily earn money through publication and live events, but sharing their work on Instagram is now what opens up the possibility for both. Kaur, the ultimate poet-entrepreneur, said she approaches poetry like ‘running a business’. A day in the life can consist of all-day writing, touring, or, perhaps unprecedented for a poet, time in the office with her team to oversee operations and manage projects” – the Atlantic, in 2018

8  Women Don’t Owe You Pretty by Florence Given (Cassell, $38)

Obvs they do not.

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

A beautiful monster; it’ll be in these charts forever, probably.

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

$15!

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. 

Mad Chapman, Editor
The Spinoff has covered the news that matters in 2021, most recently the delta outbreak. Help us continue this coverage, and so much more, by supporting The Spinoff Members.Madeleine Chapman, EditorJoin Members

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