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BooksJuly 28, 2023

The Unity Books bestseller chart for the week ending July 28

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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 One of Them by Shaneel Lal (Allen & Unwin, $37)

Brilliantly number one for the second week running, this memoir offers a deep insight into one of the most astonishing grassroots leaders in Aotearoa. Shaneel Lal’s life has included out and out abuse, violence and shame. But the overarching experience of this book is to understand the motivations and drive of an activist who is making the world a better place. 

2 Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi (Picador, $23)

There is, actually, a lot to be said for cold coffee. Affogato anyone?

3 American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer by Kai Bird & Martin J. Sherwin (Atlantic Books, $33)

Riding the wave of Christopher Nolan’s film, Oppenheimer, this is the book about the man who created the Atomic bomb (and lived to really regret it). 

4 Yellowface by Rebecca F. Kuang (Picador, $35)

A blisteringly entertaining skewering of the publishing industry. 

5 Pet by Catherine Chidgey (Te Herenga Waka University Press, $38)

Five star reviews all round for this novel about a creepy teacher, like this one on NetGalley:I found this an utterly compelling read which works both as a taut thriller and an insightful exploration of the particular vulnerabilities of childhood, especially for girls like Justine and her classmates on the cusp of adolescence. Chidgey captures the anxieties and social pressures facing girls of this age perfectly, as well as specific factors relating to religion and ethnicity. In many ways this novel is reminiscent of Muriel Spark’s ‘The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie’, but Chidgey is prepared to take the consequences of Mrs Price’s narcissism somewhere even darker. As the novel progresses it takes on a nightmarish quality as Justine becomes increasingly convinced that things are not as they should be but is unable to convince anyone else in authority of this and continues to doubt herself.”

6 Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver (Faber & Faber, $28)

If the tagline “Dickens’ David Copperfield, retold” doesn’t hook you, then consider the fact that this novel has, so far, won: The Women’s Prize for Fiction, the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, and as of this week, the James Tait Black Fiction Award. 

7 Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Zevin Gabrielle (Vintage, $26)

Most people find this book super delightful. For a counter perspective, consider Sam Brooks’ review, right here.

8 The Art of Winning: Lessons in Leadership by Dan Carter (Penguin, $40)

Complete with ye olde black and white close-up on the face cover design, this is rugby star Dan Carter’s ten “perfect lessons” learnt from years of high-performance. Apparently, we will not find “conventional wisdom” within these pages, but rather hard-learned truths, like:

“Why great leaders are made, not born, and why they must constantly evolve
How to forge a winning team culture
Why embracing your past can be every bit as important as looking towards your future
Why empowering others leads to the best decisions
Why confidence and self-belief are nothing without humility and a beginner’s mindset”

9 Be Mine by Richard Ford (Bloomsbury, $37)

The latest in literary giant Richard Ford’s Frank Bascombe novels. The Sydney Review of Books has rather breathlessly headlined their review thusly: “It’s hard to see a better novel being published this year.” 

10 The Creative Act: A Way of Being by Rick Rubin (Canongate, $50)

Rick has fallen a wee way down the list here, but creativity clings on.

WELLINGTON

1  Dice by Claire Baylis (Allen & Unwin, $37)

A hard-hitting new courtroom drama from talented local writer Claire Baylis, wonderfully endorsed by one of the nicest people in publishing, Christos Tsiolkas: “’Dice has a forensic depth that is compelling, that challenges and deeply moves the reader. But what sets this novel apart is the precision and power of the writing. This is fiction that doesn’t want to be journalism, it affirms the truth and nuance and possibility of imagination.” Watch out for our review coming soon.

2  Honouring Our Ancestors: Takatapui, Two-Spirit & Indigenous LGBTQI+ Well-Being edited by Alison Green & Leonie Tihama (Te Herenga Waka University Press, $35)

This book is vying for cover of the year: so strong, so striking! And fitting for the contents, which are essential essays for our times: “In these rigorous and challenging essays, writers from Aotearoa and Turtle Island (Canada and the United States of America) explore the well-being of takatāpui, two-spirit, and Māori and Indigenous LGBTQI+ communities. Themes include resistance, reclamation, empowerment, transformation and healing. Central to Honouring Our Ancestors is the knowledge that, before colonisation, Indigenous peoples had their own healthy understandings of gender, sexual identities and sexuality. Some of these understandings have survived the onslaught of colonisation; others require decolonisation so that our Indigenous nations can begin to heal. Through this lens, the writers gathered here contribute their knowledge and experience of structural and social change.”

3  Audition by Pip Adam (Te Herenga Waka University Press, $35)

The genius Pip Adam has written, yet again, a novel that is unlike any other you’ll ever read. It’ll make you think and think again. Return here tomorrow for an insightful interview about Audition, between Pip Adam and Jo Randerson.

4  Lioness by Emily Perkins (Bloomsbury, $37)

A chilling, funny, complex novel about realising who you are and what you could be come. Our review coming this weekend.

5  Fungi of Aotearoa: A Curious Forager’s Field Guide by Liv Sissons (Penguin, $45)

A winningly thorough field guide complete with astonishing photography.

6  One of Them by Shaneel Lal (Allen & Unwin, $37)

7  Pet by Catherine Chidgey (Te Herenga Waka University Press, $38)

8  Yellowface by Rebecca Kuang (Borough Press, $35)

9  Turncoat by Tīhema Baker (Lawrence & Gibson, $35)

Excellent to see this clever, satirical sci-fi back on the list. Our own Shanti Mathias is a fan: ‘At its best, though, satire has the freedom to be deeply silly. Stuck in the seriousness of, say, profoundly unequal Treaty relations, it can be hard to laugh about all the things that are, frankly, hilarious. But Turncoat has this in droves. In the first chapter, Baker starts placing human words in comic sans, a joke about how non-English languages in books are italicised. Protagonist Daniel explains that Comic Sans is “an ancient script highly favoured by pre-assimilation Humans”. I loved all the opportunities that Baker took to mock “New Zealand culture”: at an important meeting with a new boss, he’s given precious “fizzy”; there’s an offhand reference to “Toor Academy, which was in the process of renaming itself Victorious University to demonstrate how progressive it believes it was”.’

10  Children of Heaven by Ray Battersby (Copy Press, $40)

We can’t find too much about this new local entry, but according to the blurb it’s historical fiction:

“It is 1810. Aotearoa-New Zealand is a wild and untamed place and is populated almost entirely by Māori – The Children of Heaven.

Back in America, a frontiersman named Bret Walker is on a mission to ship a crate of army muskets back home to his wilderness settlement, at Snake River. He and his neighbours are under attack there by the local Gros Ventre native-American Indian tribe.

Unfortunately, the ship and crew he picks for the mission have different plans for both the muskets, and for him.

They set sail instead, to the Dutch East Indies, intending to sell him there, as a field slave.”

Hmmm. If anyone out there has read this book, please do write in and give us your thoughts.

Keep going!