Image: Archi Banal
Image: Archi Banal

BooksSeptember 29, 2023

The Unity Books bestseller chart for the week ending September 29

Image: Archi Banal
Image: Archi Banal

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

Gamer Queen of the list!

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

Muso King of the list!

3 Doppelganger: A Trip into the Mirror World by Naomi Klein (Allen Lane, $42)

During the pandemic, Naomi Klein (New Green Deal advocate, author of No Logo and This Changes Everything) was continually mistaken for the “other Naomi”, Naomi Wolf (author of The Beauty Myth and conspiracy theorist). Klein became obsessed both with her doppelganger’s controversial views and the divide in politics and culture. 

From the book: “I told myself it was ‘research’. That this was not, in fact, an epically frivolous and narcissistic waste of my compressed writing time or of the compressed time on the clock of our fast-warming planet. I rationalised that Other Naomi, as one of the most effective creators and disseminators of misinformation and disinformation about many of our most urgent crises, and as someone who has seemingly helped inspire large numbers to take to the streets in rebellion against an almost wholly hallucinated ‘tyranny’, is at the nexus of several forces that, while ridiculous in the extreme, are nonetheless important, since the confusion they sow and the oxygen they absorb increasingly stand in the way of pretty much anything helpful or healthful that humans might, at some point, decide to accomplish together.”

4 The Fraud by Zadie Smith (Hamish Hamilton, $37)

Zadie Smith is one of the greats (think On Beauty, NW, White Teeth). According to NPR, her new historical novel The Fraud is brilliant… if a little lengthy: “The Fraud matters because it unearths stories that need to be told, and because it asks a lot of important questions in both the unearthing and the telling. This is a novel packed with great writing and shining passages that go from humorous to deeply philosophical. However, it’s also a tough read that brings together three storylines and seems to lose its purpose in doing so. Great writing is always a good thing, but in this novel it becomes the literary equivalent of trying to eat too much of a good thing; we know it’s good, but we also wish there was less of it.”

5 Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan (Faber & Faber, $25)

A small and perfect Irish novella.

6 Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear (Random House Business, $40)

We’re always trying to better ourselves, so there will always be a place for Atomic Habits on the list.

7 The Rachel Incident by Caroline O’Donoghue (Knopf, $38)

A funny new Irish novel about youth and friendship that’s getting all the praise. Here’s what some of the humans of Goodreads are saying:

“This is great fun: O’Donoghue expertly plays with the tropes of the coming-of-age novel as well as the 90’s sitcom, then adds moral complications regarding the Irish abortion debate, and the result is smart and entertaining.”

“If you love the work of Sally Rooney – as I do – you will devour this wonderful novel. It was catnip for me: so moving and so smart and, yes, often so funny.”

8 What You Are Looking For Is in the Library by Michiko Aoyama (Doubleday, $37)

If what you are looking for is a charming, kind-hearted novel about a librarian with a gift for finding the perfect book for troubled readers – you’ve come to the right place. A bestseller in Japan, Aoyama’s novel is newly available in English. 

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

The Guardian writes that The Bee Sting “lays a plausible claim to Murray being Dublin’s answer to Jonathan Franzen”. What does that mean? A novel that’s meaty (650-plus pages), witty, brilliantly written, and of course focused on a normal-seeming-but-in-fact-desperately-dysfunctional family. We can’t wait to dig in. 

10 Elon Musk by Walter Isaacson (Simon & Schuster, $70)

Walter Isaacson has written biographies of many complex and great figures, from Albert Einstein to Steve Jobs to Jennifer Doudna. Now it’s time for Elon Musk. This enticing introduction from The Atlantic: “This past December, Elon Musk’s extended family gathered for Christmas. As was their tradition, they pondered a question of the year, which seemed strategically designed for Elon to answer: ‘What regrets do you have?’

“By that point in 2022, Musk had personally intervened in Russia’s war by controlling Ukraine’s internet access; had failed to tell his on-and-off girlfriend and co-parent Grimes that he had also fathered twins with one of his employees, and had been forced by a judge to follow through on a $44 billion purchase of Twitter; then fired most of its staff and alienated most of its advertisers. His main regret, he told his family, according to an account in Walter Isaacson’s new biography, Elon Musk, ‘is how often I stab myself in the thigh with a fork, how often I shoot my own feet and stab myself in the eye.’”


1 Articulations by Henrietta Bollinger (Tender Press, $28)

The debut essay collection by local writer and disability advocate, Henrietta Bollinger. Here’s an excerpt from her intimate and thoughtful essay about seeing sex workers, shared on The Spinoff:

“On the night, she is beautiful, soft and lovely. She is possibly nervous herself, but only in a hello, new person way. Seemingly nothing about my body scares her, although she tells me to let her know if anything hurts. This is no doubt standard safety and consent, but I also wonder if I ushered some level of concern into the room myself through the way I had introduced my body, limitations and not desires first.

“She is prepared to compliment my body, and so the standard self-deprecating crip jokes I came armed with don’t land with her. So I stop. Instead, I say, Thank you, and XXXXXX XXXX.

“Desire isn’t something I am good at answering or admitting to when it arrives in the form of a direct and generous question. My body takes its familiar position as something to be negotiated and worked around. Disability precedes anything else. In order to show up here I had to describe my body, what it can and can’t do, didn’t I?”

2 Backwaters by Emma Ling Sidnam (Text Publishing, $38)

Another local debut! Emma Ling Sidnam’s first novel won the 2022 Michael Gifkins Prize, and is glittering with praise by some of the country’s literary greats:

“The past and present carry out intimate conversations in this compelling and beautiful work. The rhythms of modern city life speak with the deep histories of Chinese lives in Aotearoa in ways that give a sense of walking backwards into the future. Sidnam’s magnificent novel shows us that the past is living, evolving and all around us. It is an absolute joy to read.” – Pip Adam

“A warm and funny novel about disappearance, discovery and learning how to live, as well as an intriguing exploration of love, family and secret histories in Asia and New Zealand.” – Paula Morris

“Backwaters is a brilliant book that encompasses the often forgotten and trivialised immigrant experience. Sidnam weaves the stories of Laura and Ken with aching delicacy and tenderness, with humour and wit. Every one of us will find comfort and familiarity in this book, from the very beginning until the bittersweet end.” – Khadro Mohamed

3 The Last Devil to Die by Richard Osman (Viking, $37)

The newly-released fourth novel is the Thursday Murder Club Series. 

4 The Fraud by Zadie Smith (Hamish Hamilton, $37)

5 My Aunt Honor by Gillian Torckler & Adele Jackson (Bateman, $25)

An illustrated children’s book about the life of Gillian Torckler’s Great Aunt Honor, who was one of the first female aircraft engineers during the Second World War. Inspirational and educational! What more could you want?

6 Doppelganger: A Trip into the Mirror World by Naomi Klein (Allen Lane, $42)

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

A new novella by the author of Small Things Like These. 

8 The Secret Hours by Mick Herron (Soho Crime, $38)

The author of the Slough House series has a new standalone spy thriller, set in Cold War Berlin.  The Financial Times says, “Herron keeps up his gravity-defying balancing act: belly-laugh spy spoof on one side, elegiac state-of-the-nation satire on the other, with a thin, taut line of polished prose between.”

9  The Vaster Wilds by Lauren Groff (Hutchinson, $37)

Lauren Groff, author of Matrix, Fates and Furies, and Florida, has a new historical novel for us to adore. Set in the 1600s during a voyage across the Atlantic, an unnamed young girl fights for survival. Daisy Johnson calls The Vaster Wilds “hallucinatory, divine, beyond belief”; Andrea Wulf says “exquisite, heart-wrenching and utterly mesmerising”. Many a good adjective being thrown around! 

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

The 2022 novel from one of our most brilliant local writers, Catherine Chidgey. From the publisher’s blurb: “Like every other girl in her class, twelve-year-old Justine is drawn to her glamorous, charismatic new teacher, and longs to be her pet. However, when a thief begins to target the school, Justine’s sense that something isn’t quite right grows ever stronger. With each twist of the plot, this gripping story of deception and the corrosive power of guilt takes a yet darker turn. Young as she is, Justine must decide where her loyalties lie.

“Set in New Zealand in 1984 and 2014, and probing themes of racism and misogyny, Pet is an elegant and chilling psychological thriller…”

Keep going!