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Illustration of a man with enormous head, gobbling handsful of books like sandwiches.
(Design: Tina Tiller)

BooksJanuary 28, 2022

The Unity Books bestseller chart for the week ending January 28

Illustration of a man with enormous head, gobbling handsful of books like sandwiches.
(Design: 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  To Paradise by Hanya Yanagihara (Picador, $38)

The ridiculously talented author of A Little Life has a new novel – and what perfect timing for a long weekend! (Emphasis on ‘long’; the book is an ambitious 720 pages).

But into the heart of the matter. The Guardian says To Paradise is “a novel of many faces. I could tell you, for instance, that it’s about colonialism and racism in America today; or that it’s a queer counterfactual history (and future) that asks what would happen if sexuality were destigmatised (and then restigmatised); or an elegy for the lost kingdom of Hawaii. Most readers, I think, will concentrate on the book’s longest section, the third, in which Yanagihara writes of a series of pandemics and the way they reshape society in the decades ahead.”

2  Big Panda and Tiny Dragon by James Norbury (Michael Joseph, $35)

A sweet illustrated hardback about friendship to melt even the most frozen, ossified heart. Just the title alone has a slight thawing effect!

3  Oh William! by Elizabeth Strout (Viking, $35)

Lucy Barton returns for a third act, with ex-husband William in tow. Ann Patchett says: “Elizabeth Strout is one of my very favourite writers, so the fact that Oh William! may well be my favourite of her books is a mathematical equation for joy. The depth, complexity, and love contained in these pages is a miraculous achievement.”

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

Anahera Gildea has written a fantastic new review of this local superstar and bestseller. Here’s an excerpt: “one of the persistent drivers of the book is that colonisation is here to stay and that any rebuild we engage in, whether it be of our minds or the colonial machinery, should be done in concert with each other. We cannot disaggregate life, we are interdependent – our stories tell us that. Of how ‘our ancestors crossed Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa’, how they survived the Throat of Parata, and how we might too. Jackson’s discussion of restoring justice, and values, and balance, goes far beyond decolonisation. It is the hopeful future based on a whakapapa paradigm, on the ecology of relationships, and on the action of relinquishing of power and authority.”

5  Piranesi by Susanna Clarke (Bloomsbury, $23)

A gorgeous novel which dreamily transcends the boundaries of fantasy, science fiction, and literature. Highly recommended for anyone needing a short, lovely escape from reality.

6  It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover (Simon & Schuster, $23)

A good old-fashioned chick lit novel about a workaholic called Lily who is torn between her perfect boyfriend and her first love. Best enjoyed on the beach with a mimosa in hand.

7  Beautiful World, Where Are You by Sally Rooney (Faber, $33)

The new It novel.

8  The Books of Jacob by Olga Tokarczuk (Text Publishing, $40)

Call everyone you know! There’s a new novel by the brilliant Olga Tokarczuk, aka winner of both the Nobel Prize in Literature and the Man Booker International Prize. The novel tracks the rise and fall of Jacob Frank, a charismatic religious leader who divided opinion across 18th century Europe.

9  On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong (Vintage, $24)

The bestselling debut from Ocean Vuong, well deserving of this passionate love note from Ben Lerner: “Ocean Vuong runs up against the limits of language – this book is addressed to a mother who cannot read it – and expands our sense of what literature can make visible, thinkable, felt across borders and generations and genres. This is a courageous, embodied inquiry into the tangle of colonial and personal histories. It is also a gorgeous argument for astonishment over irony-for the transformative possibilities of love.”

10  The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (Bloomsbury, $25)

Achilles – the myth, the legend, and now the hero of a queer love story that Aucklanders simply cannot stop buying.


1  To Paradise by Hanya Yanagihara (Picador, $38)

2  Normal People by Sally Rooney (Faber, $23)

The slightly older It novel.

3  Stolen Focus: Why You Can’t Pay Attention by Johann Hari (Bloomsbury, $35)

From the publisher’s blurb: “We think our inability to focus is a personal failing – a flaw in each one of us. It is not. This has been done to all of us by powerful external forces. Our focus has been stolen. Johann discovered there are twelve deep cases of this crisis, all of which have robbed some of our attention. He shows us how in a thrilling journey that ranges from Silicon Valley dissidents, to a favela in Rio where attention vanished, to an office in New Zealand that found a remarkable way to restore our attention.” New Zealand! What a thrill.

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

5  Ottolenghi Test Kitchen: Shelf Love by Yotam Ottolenghi and Noor Murad (Ebury Press, $55)

Recipes designed to wrangle your pantry staples into something Ottolenghi-rific.

6  The Cat Who Saved Books by Sosuke Natsukawa (Picador, $20)

An enchanting international bestseller that includes all of our magical realism favourites: talking cats, bookshops, and, yes, orphans.

“After the death of his grandfather, Rintaro is devastated and alone. It seems he will have to close the shop. Then, a talking tabby cat called Tiger appears and asks Rintaro for help. The cat needs a book lover to join him on a mission. This odd couple will go on three magical adventures to save books from people who have imprisoned, mistreated and betrayed them. Finally, there is one last rescue that Rintaro must attempt alone…” Thanks, Picador.

7  Four Thousand Weeks: Time and How to Use It by Oliver Burkeman (Bodley Head, $38)

If you live to 80, your life will consist of just four thousand weeks. Frightening? Yes. But also, for Oliver Burkeman, important – a way to stop focusing on the eternal to do list, and instead make time for what really matters in our lives.

8  The Chancellor: The Remarkable Odyssey of Angela Merkel by Kati Marton (HarperCollins $40)

An intimate look at one of the world’s most powerful political leaders. From the publisher’s blurb: “Famously private, the woman who emerges from these pages is a role model for anyone interested in gaining and keeping power while staying true to one’s moral convictions. At once a riveting political biography, an intimate human portrait and a revelatory look at successful leadership in action, The Chancellor brings forth from the shadows one of the most extraordinary women of our time.”

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

An excellent introduction to Māori philosophy.

10  The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles (Hutchinson, $37)

A road trip adventure across the United States, and the newest novel from the author of The Rules of Civility and A Gentleman in Moscow. Angela M. from Goodreads says, “I thought I was going on an adventure across the country on the Lincoln Highway, but I found myself on a journey of the heart with these characters”. Naw.

Keep going!