The best-selling books of the week

Reading room

This week’s best-selling New Zealand books, as recorded by the Nielsen BookScan New Zealand bestseller list and described by Steve Braunias

FICTION

1 Greta and Valdin by Rebecca K Reilly (Victoria University Press, $35)

There is a good chance that in 2022, for the first time in New Zealand literary history, all winners of the National Book Awards will be Maori writers. Rebecca Reilly (at number one for the fourth week in a row!) and Whiti Hereaka (at number three on this week’s chart) are shortlisted for the $60,000 Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction. Tayi Tibble’s Spectacular Second Book Rangikura is shortlisted for the poetry prize, the gracious memoirs of Patricia Grace Of the Center is shortlisted for the non-fiction award, and Lucy Mackintosh’s frankly breathtaking story Changing terrains is shortlisted for the Illustrated Non-Fiction Award, alongside the lavish NUKU: Stories of 100 Indigenous Women by Qiane Matata-Sipu.

There was almost a sweep in 2019, when Becky Manawatu (Auē), Matariki Williams and Puawai Cairns (Protest Tautohetohe: Resistance, Persist, and Challenge Items) and Shayne Carter (The dead I have known) won three of the four awards. But it wasn’t until 2017 that Paula Morris wrote in Newsroom: ‘This year there are no Maori writers shortlisted in the fiction or poetry categories, and only one poet Pasifika, Tusiata Avia… This weak count disappoints me – but it is not”. It doesn’t surprise me…I think there just aren’t enough books written and published by Maori and Pasifika writers. They represent only 3% of all poetry and fiction published locally.

I don’t know the statistics in 2022. Certainly, Ockham’s shortlist very accurately reflects a new kind of dynamism in Māori publishing, and a shift in diversity and representation in New Zealand books. Pasifika editions are also on the rise, with two new collections of short fiction films – Virginia by Lani Wendt Young & Sisilia Eteuati (number seven on the chart this week), and the release this week of Beats of the Pa’u by Maria Samuela (Te Herenga Waka University Press, $30). “Plaza de Toros”, one of the stories of Beats of the Pa’u, will soon appear in ReadingRoom. It’s very, very good; his book already looks like a likely candidate for the 2023 Ockhams.

2 She’s a killer by Kirsten McDougall (Victoria University Press, $30)

From an exceptionally thoughtful review on GoodReads, by a man named Anthony O’Brien: “A few weeks ago I read CK Stead’s book Smith’s Dream so it was interesting to find a new dystopian New Zealand novel published very recently. This novel is very modern, post-pandemic even, set in a future Wellington. Wellington degenerates and the cost of living skyrockets. Water is rationed. Armed guards protect overpriced restaurants… Going back to the reference to Smith’s dream is a killer is a much more satisfying novel with a deeper, darker, yet more human main character. It also solves its problems well, while leaving the reader with plenty to ponder about the future of its characters and New Zealand society.”

3 Kurangaituku by Whiti Hereaka (Huia Editors, $35)

4 The Library of Unfinished Businesss by Patricia Bell (Cloud Ink Press, $34.99)

Excerpt from the Radio New Zealand website: “In Auckland, writer Patricia Belleit’s novel, we join recently deceased librarian Maurice in a paradise where everyone has to wear bright yellow. He also rubs shoulders with joyful celestial hosts as well as biblical characters like Adam and Eve…”

5 Fish by Lloyd Jones (Penguin Random House, $36)

“In Lloyd Jones’ first novel since his 2018 Allegory The cage, a baby who is both boy and fish was born to a single teenage mother “on that long, confusing sandbar we call home.” We are by the sea and near Wellington, with a story largely set in the 1950s and 1960s: the novel’s climax is the Wahine disaster of 1968 and its sad aftermath, described in captivating detail and originals: from a review by Paula Morris.

6 In the wake of Amber by Christine Leunens (David Bateman, $34.99)

7 Virginia by Lani Wendt Young & Sisilia Eteuati (Dahlia Malaeulu, $35)

Anthology of new fiction by writers from the Cook Islands, Chamorro, Erub Island (Torres Strait), Fijians, Hawaiians, Maoris, Ni-Vanuatu, Papua New Guineans, Rotumans, Samoans and Tongans.

8 Loop tracks by Sue Orr (Victoria University Press, $35)

We walk through the Adelaide Writers Festival live where the author is pictured with her agent Martin Shaw.

9 In Italy, with love by Nicky Pellegrino (Hachette, $34.99)

ten The last guests by JP Pomare (Hachette, $34.99)

NON FICTION

1 Flavorbomb: A fresh and quick keto treat for Kiwis by Belinda MacDonald (Penguin Random House, $45)

With over 150 keto recipes, including her very delicious smoked salmon, avocado, caper and cream cheese sandwich, below.

2 letters to you by Jazz Thornton (Penguin Random House, $30)

3 Dance with the machine by Jo Morgan and John McCrystal (Allen and Unwin, $36.99)

Publisher’s blurb: “Morgan started climbing in her late 50s. She set her sights on climbing New Zealand’s 24 peaks over 3,000 metres, with the help of of his guide and friend Wolfgang, nicknamed The Machine. They would all but two climb before tragedy struck, killing both Wolfgang and his colleague Martin.”

4 salad by Margo Flanagan & Rosa Flanagan (Allen & Unwin, $45)

5 Aroha by Hinemoa Elder (Penguin Random House, $30)

6 Maori simplified by Scotty Morrison (Penguin Random House, $38)

7 It changes everything by Niki Bezzant (Penguin Random House, $37)

8 Do not worry by Nicky Pellegrino (Allen & Unwin, $36.99)

9 Words of comfort by Rebekah Ballagh (Allen & Unwin, $24.99)

ten After Tampa by Abbas Nazari (Allen & Unwin, $36.99)

Tomorrow in ReadingRoom: A rural Gothic short story set in lockdown by Palmerston North writer Thom Conroy


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