One Question Quiz
Covers of two books, one showing a head and shoulders portrait of Helen Kelly, the other an illustration of a dead rabbit.
Two big NZ titles top the charts this week (Images: Supplied)

BooksMay 28, 2021

The Unity Books bestseller chart for the week ending May 28

Covers of two books, one showing a head and shoulders portrait of Helen Kelly, the other an illustration of a dead rabbit.
Two big NZ titles top the charts this week (Images: Supplied)

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  Helen Kelly: Her Life by Rebecca Macfie (Awa Press, $50)

From the publisher’s blurb: “Kelly was the first female head of the country’s trade union movement, but she was also much more: a visionary who believed that all workers, whether in a union or not, deserved to be given a fair go; a fighter from a deeply communist family who never gave up the struggle; a strategist and orator who invoked strong loyalty; a woman who could stir fierce emotions.”

See our coverage of an eleventh-hour censorship drama here.

2  The Mirror Book by Charlotte Grimshaw (Vintage, $38)

The book that’s violently dividing New Zealanders across the country. That may be a slight exaggeration, but at the Auckland Writers Festival, someone did stand up and inform Grimshaw they’d just seen a barney over the rights and wrongs of it out at the book-sales table.

3  The Premonition: A Pandemic Story by Michael Lewis (Allen Lane, $55) 

In the publisher’s colourful words, this is new non-fiction about the “maverick scientists” and “scientific misfits” who “anticipated, traced and hunted” Covid-19. It sounds like an adventure-thriller-chase novel! However, we can expect good things from Michael Lewis, the author who made the US housing bubble engaging in The Big Short.  

4  No One Is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood (Bloomsbury, $33)

The author of the weird, funny and brilliant memoir Priestdaddy has released her first novel, about a woman fully entrenched in social media. The novel has  released to much fanfare, and words of praise from the likes of Sally Rooney and Jia Tolentino. However, the Guardian says that “far too much of it, to put it bluntly, amounts to lyrical descriptions of memes”. Touché. 

5  The Forager’s Treasury: The Essential Guide to Finding and Using Wild Plants in Aotearoa by Johanna Knox (Allen & Unwin, $45)

This new, second edition of the 2013 classic is popping off, as more New Zealanders seek answers to the question, “That weed in the ground … Can I eat it?”

6  Shuggie Bain by Stuart Douglas (Pan Macmillan, $38)

The 2020 Booker winner that’ll make you cry. 

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

Hot tip for feeling perky over winter: Aroha plus any zesty cup of tea. 

8  Apeirogon by Colum McCann (Bloomsbury, $32)

Another tear-jerker. Apeirogon fictionalises the lives of two fathers, Rami Elhanan, an Israeli Jew, and Bassam Aramin, a Palestinian Muslim, who both lost children in the Israel-Palistine conflict. 

9  One: Pot, Pan, Planet: A Greener Way to Cook for You, Your Family and the Planet by Anna Jones (4th Estate, $55)

Pair Aroha and that cup of tea with any Anna Jones meal and you’re in for a great night. 

10  Unquiet by Linn Ullmann (Hamish Hamilton, $37)

A mix of fiction and memoir about a father and daughter. From the publisher’s blurb: “Now that she’s grown up – a writer, with children of her own – and he’s in his 80s, they envision writing a book together, about old age, language, memory and loss. She will ask the questions. He will answer them. The tape recorder will record.”


1  Unsheltered by Clare Moleta (Simon & Schuster, $35)

This week, Elizabeth Knox (the Elizabeth Knox) wrote an essay for The Spinoff about Unsheltered, which she read no fewer than four times over the years it was being written. 

“This is an extraordinarily suspenseful story. At every reading I was acutely worried for Li, Matti, and others. But my worry was balanced with moments of beneficence, bumps of pleasure when Li finds something to eat, or hears a promising rumour, or gets a lift without having to pay for it in some damaging way.”

2  Helen Kelly: Her Life by Rebecca Macfie (Awa Press, $50)

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

Imagine until it becomes real.

4  From the Centre: A Writer’s Life by Patricia Grace (Penguin, $40)

When asked at the Auckland Writers Festival why she wrote the memoir, Grace answered, “I think it was suggested by my publisher.” When asked what writing it “gave” her, she said, “It gave me a big pain. I was bored, actually. I just didn’t enjoy talking about myself.”

We appreciate her commitment to writing it anyway. 

5  Greta & Valdin by Rebecca K Reilly (Victoria University Press, $35)

On 95bFM’s Loose Reads, Greta & Valdin is called “a queer/Māori/Russian/Auckland rom-com debut”. Let’s just say: hugely enticing. 

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

7  Shuggie Bain by Stuart Douglas (Pan Macmillan, $38)

8  Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro (Faber & Faber, $37)

Spine-tingling goodness on every page. For example …

“The mother looked at me for a moment. Then she said: ‘It must be great. Not to miss things. Not to long to get back to something. Not to be looking back all the time. Everything must be so much more … ’ She paused, then said: ‘Okay, Klara. So you’re with us Sunday. But remember what I said. We don’t want accidents up there.’”

9  Cousins by Patricia Grace (Penguin Random House, $26)

A second showing from Patricia Grace! The 1992 novel is now also an excellent film co-directed by Grace’s daughter-in-law, Briar Grace-Smith. 

10  The Power of Geography: Ten Maps That Reveal the Future of Our World by Tim Marshall (Simon & Schuster, $38)

The title says it all, really, but here’s a little more from the publisher: “Marshall explains how a region’s geography and physical characteristics affect the decisions made by its leaders. Innovative, compelling, and delivered with Marshall’s trademark wit and insight, this is a gripping and enlightening exploration of the power of geography to shape humanity’s past, present, and – most importantly – our future.”

Keep going!