Revisiting the very best photo of 2019 (Photo: Arthur Edwards/ Getty Images)
Revisiting the very best photo of 2019 (Photo: Arthur Edwards/ Getty Images)

BooksJuly 30, 2021

The Unity Books bestseller chart for the week ending July 30

Revisiting the very best photo of 2019 (Photo: Arthur Edwards/ Getty Images)
Revisiting the very best photo of 2019 (Photo: Arthur Edwards/ Getty Images)

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  In Our Own Backyard by Anne Kayes (Bateman, $22) 

From Kete Books: “It’s March 2020 and Liza, her husband and their two teenage children are at home in lockdown. Challenged by her children to remember an event that, when she was a teenager, affected the entire country, Liza starts writing her memories of the Springbok tour.

“While the tour, and the pervasive racism it exposed in New Zealand, are the focus of the book, Kaye deftly weaves in other plotlines, feminism, domestic violence and young love among them. In the hands of a less skilled writer this might be too much; here it serves to make the story all the more real.”

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

Klara and the Sun has been long listed for the Booker! Not that we should be surprised. Or even really impressed. Ishiguro won the Booker in 1989 for The Remains of the Day and has been shortlisted on three other occasions, so it would almost be embarrassing if he wasn’t long listed for Klara, too. 

We have different standards for literary gods.  

3  The Midnight Library by Matt Haig (Canongate, $33)

As of yesterday 480,455 people have given The Midnight Library a rating on Goodreads, and almost everyone’s a fan. Good job Matt Haig, but equally … good job Goodreads. 

To balance out all the back-patting, here’s a negative review! “Luckily, the book was short. I also didn’t hate anything about it, hence the 2-star rating. But at the same time, I can’t name anything I liked.” Ouch. But also, lol. 

4  He Kupu Taurangi: Treaty Settlements and the Future of Aotearoa New Zealand by Christopher Finlayson and James Christmas (Huia, $60)

“As Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations from 2008 to 2017, Christopher Finlayson completed an unprecedented number of settlements with iwi. In 2012 alone, Parliament passed more Treaty legislation than it had over the previous 20 years … In this book, the authors analyse the essential components of settlements, reference particular settlements in looking at themes such as natural resources, co-governance and legal personality, and they discuss the impact of the process and outcomes on the relationship between Māori and the Crown” – the publisher’s blurb. 

Review incoming.

5  She Is Not Your Rehab: One Man’s Journey to Healing and the Global Anti-Violence Movement He Inspired by Matt Brown with Sarah Brown (Penguin, $35)

A new self-help book and memoir that helps men to break the cycle of trauma and domestic abuse, and build healthier relationships.  

Anissa Ljanta wrote this excellent review of She is Not Your Rehab, and had some valuable advice for prospective readers: “I suggest not reading it in four busy days like I did. The equivalent of a year’s worth of free therapy is mapped out in there. Rushing could be bad for your mental health.”

6  Madhouse at the End of the Earth: The Belgica’s Journey into the Dark Antarctic Night by Julian Sancton (WH Allen, $40)

A real-life adventure/survival/horror story: 1897, the Belgica sets sail for the South Pole. The ship becomes frozen in the ice, and is trapped for months of endless Antarctic night. The crew went mad. Makes you feel better about our midwinter, doesn’t it? 

7  Once Upon a Time in Hollywood by Quentin Tarantino (Weidenfeld & Nicholson, $23)

Quentin Tarantino has written a novel based on his own movie. The Evening Standard amusingly wrote that “It’s hard to escape the feeling that Tarantino is writing his own fanfiction,” but it sounds like rollicking, pulpy fun.    

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

Auē Auē Auē Auē Auē. 

9  The Commercial Hotel by John Summers (Victoria University Press, $30)

New book of essays by the wondrous John Summers! Tom Doig interviewed Summers for us, and said “The content of The Commercial Hotel is as Kiwi – as Kiwiana, even – as it gets: Arcoroc mugs, freezing works, state housing, men shivering in the bush and, occasionally, killing each other.” Wow, Kiwiana is bleak. 

10  Labour Saving: A Memoir by Michael Cullen (Allen & Unwin, $50)

From NBR, a dry and business-like take: “a detailed 432-page account of [Cullen’s] 28 years in politics – a third of it as minister of finance and six years as deputy prime minister – and the 12 years since his retirement.”

From Stuff, a colourful and human take: “Oh, to be a fly on the wall. Together, [Cullen and Clark] were a political powerhouse in the 2000s, one of the most successful political marriages in modern times.” 


1  138 Dates: The True Story of One Woman’s Search for Everything by Rebekah Campbell (Allen & Unwin, $33)

After 10 years without going on a date, Rebekah Campbell decides to “take the tactics she’s learnt building companies and apply them to finding a man”. Frightening. Also frightening, this line from a piece Campbell wrote for the Sydney Morning Herald: “To give myself the best chance of finding The One, I needed to increase the quantity of leads in the top of my pipeline and put in place more structured filters.”

According to the publisher’s blurb, exhaustion, humiliation and heartbreak ensue, but – never fear – there’s the promise of a happy ending. 

2  The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich (Little, Brown, $25)

Winner of the 2021 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and based on the life of Louise Erdich’s grandfather, a night watchman who fought against Native American dispossession.

3  He Kupu Taurangi: Treaty Settlements and the Future of Aotearoa New Zealand by Christopher Finlayson and James Christmas (Huia, $60)

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

Feeling unwise, discontent, unharmonious? Here’s a quick remedy. 

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

Review / celebration incoming.

6  Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason (HarperCollins, $35)

A dark, funny novel about a woman with depression. Sorrow and Bliss has millions of rave reviews from the likes of Ann Patchett, Gillian Anderson, the New York Times, and (less flatteringly), Goop. Our favourite review (except for Jean Sergent’s for this here Spinoff, obvs) is “The BELL JAR but hilarious”, from the Graham Norton Book Club.

7  Uprising: Walking the Southern Alps in New Zealand by Nic Low (Text Publishing, $40)

“This book is about walking as a form of knowing. Armed with Ngāi Tahu’s traditional oral maps and modern satellite atlas, I crossed the Southern Alps more than a dozen times, trying to understand how our forebears saw the land. What did it mean to define your identity by sacred mountains, or actually see them as ancestors, turned to stone?”

Low is co-in-charge of Christchurch’s WORD festival, on next month and rapidly picking up steam.

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

9  At Night All Blood is Black by David Diop (Pushkin Press, $23)

At Night All Blood is Black (which is translated from French) has just won the 2021 International Booker prize. Alfa Ndiaye, a Senegalese soldier in World War One, takes to cutting off the hands of dead German soldiers, and descends into madness. 

The Guardian says, “As Ndiaye’s very identity begins to crack and slip, the brilliance of David Diop’s conceit becomes clear and the reader must reconsider the story backward as well as forward. That is why it has appealed to so many prize juries: it rewards rereading, which recasts the violent opening chapters in a new, even darker light.”

10  Three Women by Lisa Taddeo (Bloomsbury, $25)

The big nonfiction read of 2019. If you’re interested in the sexual lives of real women, go forth and read. 

The Spinoff Review of Books is proudly brought to you by Unity Books, recently named 2020 International Book Store of the Year, London Book Fair, and Creative New Zealand. Visit Unity Books Wellington or Unity Books Auckland online stores today. 

Mad Chapman, Editor
Aotearoa continues to adapt to a new reality and The Spinoff is right there, sorting fact from fiction to bring you the latest updates and biggest stories. Help us continue this coverage, and so much more, by supporting The Spinoff Members.Madeleine Chapman, EditorJoin Members

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