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Image: Tina Tiller
Image: Tina Tiller

BooksMarch 29, 2024

The Unity Books bestseller chart for the week ending March 29

Image: Tina Tiller
Image: 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 AMMA by Saraid de Silva (Moa Press, $38)

A stunning debut novel reviewed by Brannavan Gnanalingam on The Spinoff. Here’s a snippet: “AMMA is a tribute to the ways in which women persist, and the way they can help each other. It’s somewhat telling that the female solidarity in the book skips a generation – Annie has a real affinity with Josephina (despite Josephina’s own mistakes), while Josephina has an intense bond with her own grandmother. The women belatedly learn from their own mistakes, and are able to help their granddaughters (you’d hope a similar process would occur for Sithara). AMMA is, also, in part a tribute to queer desire and the way her characters can also desire men who refuse to buy into such behaviour, creating this clear sense that it doesn’t simply have to be this way – there are indeed alternatives. However, the tragedy of the narrative is the extent to which people can’t escape the wider societal failings.”

2 Hold My Hand Rosie, Don’t Let Go by Madeline & Rosie Redding (Mary Egan Publishing, $35)

A story about addiction and recovery. Here’s the publisher’s blurb: “Rosie is a shy young teenager when she starts experimenting with alcohol. When Rosie’s parents finally realise that their beloved daughter is having problems with her drinking, Rosie is firmly in the grip of alcoholism. What follows is the true story of a family’s battle over ten years to find help for Rosie, whose journey is lined with the all the horrors the disease can bring, including the tragic loss of friends. Ultimately it is Rosie’s resilience and determination that starts her on the tenuous path towards sobriety, while her parents vow to never give up and to never, ever let her go.”

3 The Creative Act: A Way of Being by Rick Rubin (Canongate, $55)

Welcome back, Ricko.

4 Prophet Song by Paul Lynch (Bloomsbury Academic, $37)

Hear all about the 2023 Booker Prize winning novel from the author himself at the Auckland Writers Festival in May.

5 Bird Child & Other Stories by Patricia Grace (Penguin, $37)

The latest book from one of Aotearoa’s greatest writers. Here’s a snippet from Rangimarie Sophie Jolley’s review on The Spinoff: “The book is a collection of three parts. The first an ode to mātauranga Māori (Māori knowledge and worldview), using stories told by our pre-colonial ancestors to send us deep into our imaginations. The second part is a collection of new and old short stories centred around the character Mereana, telling tales of war-time Wellington and the fraught relationships forged within the urban drift. The third is a collection of new short stories (bar one revised edition) reflecting our modern day lives back to us. 

In a bustling Tītahi Bay cafe, we sat and discussed the power of observation. When asked about her process for deciding what she wants to write and the plethora of ways we can do that, Grace insists that she only wants to ‘write what I want to write, the way I want to do it’.”

6 The Financial Colonisation of Aotearoa by Catherine Comyn (Parallel, $30)

From a brilliantly insightful interview with Comyn about her book on The Spinoff: “Catherine Comyn (Ngāti Ranginui, Pākehā) begins The Financial Colonisation of Aotearoa with the assertion that “colonisation is financial, and finance is political”. Comyn makes the argument that far from the mere technical management of money, finance and financial institutions were a key, if not dominant, player in the colonisation of this country – an argument that complicates prevalent narratives of colonisation that revolve around the British Crown and adventurous individual explorers.”

7 Butter by Asako Yuzuki (Fourth Estate, $35) 

Butter was cult hit in Japan and has now been released into the English market with a translation by Polly Barton. Here’s the blurb: “Gourmet cook Manako Kajii sits in Tokyo Detention Centre convicted of the serial murders of lonely businessmen, who she is said to have seduced with her delicious home cooking. The case has captured the nation’s imagination but Kajii refuses to speak with the press, entertaining no visitors. That is, until journalist Rika Machida writes a letter asking for her recipe for beef stew and Kajii can’t resist writing back.

Rika, the only woman in her news office, works late each night, rarely cooking more than ramen. As the visits unfold between her and the steely Kajii, they are closer to a masterclass in food than journalistic research. Rika hopes this gastronomic exchange will help her soften Kajii but it seems that she might be the one changing. With each meal she eats, something is awakening in her body, might she and Kaji have more in common than she once thought?

Inspired by the real case of the convicted con woman and serial killer, “The Konkatsu Killer”, Asako Yuzuki’s Butter is a vivid, unsettling exploration of misogyny, obsession, romance and the transgressive pleasures of food in Japan.”

8 Burma Sahib by Paul Theroux (Hamish Hamilton, $37)

Imagining when Orwell went incognito.

9 Tom Lake by Ann Patchett (Bloomsbury, $35)

Patchett is one of the international highlights at this year’s Auckland Writers Festival and much has been said about this latest, “quiet” novel by the master. Here’s a pithy para from The New Yorker’s take: “Tom Lake is a fairy tale, a conjunction of person, time, and place, and it is as transient as any idyll, slipping through Lara’s fingers even as half a day seems to last “a solid six months.” “No one gets to go on playing Emily forever,” she thinks, preëmptively grieving. The curtain falls sooner than she expects. On the tennis court, Lara ruptures her Achilles tendon; her understudy, a magnetic Black dancer named Pallace, steps into the Emily part. Watching her friend take the stage, Lara later remembers, “I cried because she was that good. I cried because I would never play Emily again. I cried because I had loved that world so much.” When the summer ends, Duke goes on to a wildly successful career in Hollywood. Lara quits acting, marries a cherry farmer, and becomes a mother.”

10 So Late in the Day by Claire Keegan (Faber & Faber, $30)

Another of Keegan’s small but perfectly formed stories: this one is about the failure of the idea of marriage thanks to the patriarchy. 


1 AMMA by Saraid De Silva (Moa Press, $38)

2 When I Open the Shop by Romesh Dissanayake (Te Herenga Waka University Press, $35)

Over on Kete Books, David Hill writes of this debut novel: “I’ll make the bleeding obvious point that this novel reflects an accelerating, admirable, multi-ethnic element in our fiction, sometimes with pleasing slyness: ‘You always need to let white people know where you’re from….even if it’s made up.’ I note its relevant motifs of arrival, belonging / separation, departure. I like its ending, where not everything is sorted out. Dissanayake is a guy to watch, and I’ll enjoy doing so.” 

Our review is coming soon.

3 BBQ Economics: How Money Works & Why It Matters by Liam Dann (Penguin, $40)

Hopefully someone has sent this to Nicola Willis

4 Unsettled: Small Stories of Decolonisation by Richard Shaw (Massey University Press, $40)

Look to The Spinoff today to read an excerpt from this hugely useful, sensitively written book about looking at and thinking about Pākehā family histories, particularly when land “ownership” is concerned. A hugely timely, open-hearted and pragmatic wayfinder of a resource for all of us whose family histories impacted the lives of indigenous people and places.

5 The Bee Sting by Paul Murray (Hamish Hamilton, $37)

Not the Booker Prize winner but a winner in many, many reader’s minds.

6 Lioness by Emily Perkins (Bloomsbury, $37)

The Ockhams-shortlisted novel from master writer Emily Perkins that takes on wellness culture, capitalism, wealth disparity and middle age rage. Read our review, here.

7 Bird Child & Other Stories by Patricia Grace (Penguin, $37)

8 Mona of the Manor by Armistead Maupin (Doubleday, $38)

The latest in Maupin’s hugely popular San Francisco saga. Here’s the blurb for this, the tenth novel: “When Mona Ramsey married Lord Teddy Roughton to secure his visa—allowing him to remain in San Francisco to fulfil his wildest dreams—she never imagined she would, by age 48, be the sole owner of Easley House, a romantic country manor in the UK. Now, with her adopted son, Wilfred, Mona has opened Easley’s doors to paying guests to keep her inherited English manor afloat.

As they welcome a married American couple to Easley, Mona and Wilfred discover their new guests’ terrible secret. Instead of focussing on the imminent arrival of old friend Michael Tolliver and matriarch Anna Madrigal, Mona will need to use her considerable charm, willpower and wiles to set things right before Easley’s historic Midsummer ceremony.

Hurdling barriers both social and sexual, Maupin leads the eccentric tenants of Barbary Lane through heartbreak and triumph, through nail-biting terrors and gleeful coincidences in 1980s San Francisco and beyond. The result is a glittering and addictive comedy of manners that continues to beguile new generations of readers.”

9 Red Side Story by Jasper Fforde (Hodder & Stoughton, $38)

Fforde! We will never tire of that double ff and also how excellent this author is at gathering cult followings for his madcap tales.

10 The Space Between by Lauren Keenan (Penguin, $37)

This beautiful new historical novel, set amid the New Zealand Wars, from Lauren Keenan was inspired by a collection of storied objects which you can read all about right here, on The Spinoff.

Keep going!