A person reading in a hammock, limbs akimbo
(Photo: Kris Ubach and Quim Roser/Cultura via Getty)

The Unity Books bestseller chart for the week ending January 29

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  Aroha: Māori wisdom for a contented life lived in harmony with our planet by Hinemoa Elder (Penguin Random House, $30)

A surprise to see this still going so hard now Christmas has been and gone – cool, though. A compact and lovely hardback of 52 whakataukī.

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

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

3  Sapiens: The Graphic Novel Vol. I by Yuval Noah Harari and David Casanave (Jonathan Cape, $48)

“An epic, radical adaptation,” promises ynharari.com.

4  The Queen’s Gambit by Walter Tevis (Orion Books, $25)

Speaking of Netflix spinoffs, I’m reading the Bridgerton books, will report back soon.

5  Sapiens: A brief history of humankind by Yuval Noah Harari (Vintage, $30)

The original, resurrected.

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

Might we also recommend the audiobook, featuring that lovely dignified soothing cuddle of a voice.

7  Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo (Penguin, $24)

Joint winner of the 2019 Booker Prize and a stalwart of these lists.

8  On Connection by Kate Tempest (Faber & Faber, $17)

A book-length essay. Via the Guardian:

“Anyone who has seen Tempest live has likely witnessed their talent for sparking connection, even if they insist this is a mysterious, unreliable thing. But when it does come, it is wondrous: ‘I am granted access to a freedom so resolute it leaves me shining head to toe… Looking out at the crowd, I see reality at last. People really feeling things.'”

While some of their thoughts may not be new, they are surely worth repeating in this disconnected, distracted world. And Tempest, as you’d expect, delivers them gorgeously, rhythmically, but also with clarity and a fierce grace.”

9  Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens (Little, Brown Books, $25)

Melancholy, beautiful, featuring swamps and wading birds and actually not that many crawdads.

10 Before the Coffee Gets Cold: Tales from the Cafe by Toshikazu Kawaguchi (Picador, $20)

Good lord.


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

A primer; one of a series introducing world philosophies.

2  Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stewart (Macmillan Hardback $42; Picador Paperback $38)

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


4  Aroha: Māori wisdom for a contented life lived in harmony with our planet by Hinemoa Elder (Penguin, $30)

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

They do not.

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

Head-and-shoulders winner of last year’s Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction and of 2020 in New Zealand books, in general. And good news! Mākaro’s next novel has just been picked for this year’s longlist. Victory Park, by Rachel Kerr, is exceptional. We reviewed it a few months back.

7  Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge & the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer (Penguin, $26)

“Remarkable, wise and potentially paradigm-shifting … [the book] has become a surprise word-of-mouth sensation, selling nearly 400,000 copies across North America (and nearly 500,000 worldwide). In January, the book landed on the New York Times bestseller list, seven years after its original release from the independent press Milkweed Editions – no small feat.” – the Guardian

8  Humankind: A Hopeful History by Rutger Bregman (Bloomsbury, $35)

Counterpoint: talkback.

9  Azadi: Freedom. Facism. Fiction. by Arundhati Roy (Hamish Hamilton, $18)


10 Letters to Young People by Glenn Colquhoun (Old King Press, $35)

Colquhoun is a GP living in Levin. This extraordinary, calming collection showcases poems written to patients at the youth clinic he helped set up almost a decade ago. See our interview, published last week.

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