Here are this week’s biggest books, as recorded by the Nielsen BookScan New Zealand bestseller list and described by Steve Braunias.

NZ Fiction

1 When It All Went to Custard by Danielle Hawkins (HarperCollins, $35)

Reading Room looks forward to the forthcoming profile of the best-selling Otorohanga novelist by the leading contender to win the 2020 Voyager award for best student journalist, Oskar Howell.

2 A Dream of Italy by Nicky Pellegrino (Hachette, $34.99)

The author, interviewed in the Woman’s Weekly: “I came up with the idea after having dinner with friends – one of them was talking about a little mountain town in Italy where they were selling off houses for one euro each because they were empty and the people didn’t want it to become a ghost town.”

3 This Mortal Boy by Fiona Kidman (Penguin Random House, $38)

The author, interviewed in the Herald after she won the 2019 Acorn fiction prize at the Ockham national book awards for her novel based on the 1955 hanging of Albert Black at Mt Eden prison: “Young people are vulnerable; some of the most splendid young people can think they are invincible and make one terrible mistake.That’s what happened, I believe, to Albert Black. Although he was running with a bit of a wild crowd for a bit, he was, to all intents and purposes, a decent, articulate and literate young man with a very kind heart but he made a dreadful mistake, because he was frightened – and he paid with his life.”

4 Loving Sylvie by Elizabeth Smither (Allen & Unwin, $36.99)

“It focuses on women characters, their life challenges, domestic concerns, emotions and psychologies…A deft novel”: Siobhan Harvey, Weekend Herald.

5 The Unreliable People by Rosetta Allan (Penguin Random House, $38)

Novel by almost certainly the only New Zealand author to have ever been appointed writer in residence at St Petersburg University in Russia.

6 Call Me Evie by JP Pomare (Hachette, $34.99)

Crime fiction set in Maketū.

7 What You Wish For by Catherine Robertson (Penguin Random House, $38)

Entertaining tale of a former jailbird, a Norwegian recluse, and a woman struggling to foster a child, by the Wellington author who was recently named the third best-dressed writer in New Zealand.

8 The Gulf Between by Maxine Alterio (Penguin Random House, $38)

Third novel by the Dunedin writer.

9 The Bad Seed by Charlotte Grimshaw (Penguin Random House, $38)

Two-novel omnibus by the Auckland writer who recently shared the best reviewer award with Diana Wichtel at the 2019 Voyager media awards.

10 A Mistake by Carl Shuker (Victoria University Press, $30)

Reading Room continues to look forward to receiving and publishing the author’s essay backgrounding his taut novel about a medical misadventure.

NZ Non-Fiction

1 The Note through the Wire by Doug Gold (Allen & Unwin, $36.99)

True wartime love story by almost certainly the only New Zealand writer to have co-founded a radio network (More FM).

2 The New Zealand Wars by Vincent O’Malley (Bridget Williams Books, $39.99)

The author, interviewed by Philip Matthews for Stuff: “When I gave a talk in Te Awamutu a couple of years ago, I said, ‘Imagine if you were a Māori kid growing up in Kihikihi, living on a street named after people who murdered your ancestors and stole their land and condemned generations of your tribe to lives of poverty’. What a street is called seems like a small thing but it speaks to our willingness to engage with our history in a meaningful way. Symbolism is important. Would it really hurt anybody if, say, Von Tempsky St [in Hamilton] became Rewi Maniapoto Rd or whatever?”

3 The Political Years by Marilyn Waring (Bridget Williams Books, $39.99)

Leah McFall’s review of the political memoir will appear next week at Reading Room.

4 Magnolia Kitchen by Bernadette Gee (Allen & Unwin, $45)

Macarons, etc.

5 The Meaning of Trees by Robert Vennell (HarperCollins, $55)

A wonderful illustrated book about the uses of New Zealand plants. Asked by Canvas feature writer Kim Knight to name his favourite, Vennell replied, “Harakeke. You can do just about anything with it. You can make rope and clothing. You can eat it – there’s a gum at the base of the leaves and you can drink the nectar from the flowers and you can eat the seeds. People have made a kind of coffee out of them.”

6 The Billion Dollar Bonfire by Chris Lee (Projects Resources, $40)

Insider’s account of the collapse of Allan Hubbard’s SCF empire; a fascinating and poignant excerpt of Hubbard’s last days appears at ReadingRoom.

7 Purakau by Witi Ihimaera & Whiti Hereaka (Penguin Random House, $38)

Ancient myths retold and set in modern New Zealand, by writers such as Patricia Grace, Keri Hulme, Paula Morris, Hone Tuwhare – and Kelly Ana Morey, whose brilliant story, set in the former Kingseat asylum for the mentally ill, appeared at ReadingRoom.

8 The Book of Knowing by Dr Gwendoline Smith (Allen & Unwin, $24.99)

Anxiety advice.

9 Rich Enough? by Mary Holm (HarperCollins, $36.99)

Financial advice.

10 The Recipe by Josh Emett & Kieran Scott (Upstart Press, $49.99)

Includes a recipe for green shakshuka, which almost certainly tastes even worse than it sounds; it’s got kale in it.

Steve Braunias is the literary editor of Newsroom's books section ReadingRoom, a noted writer at the NZ Herald, and the author of 10 books.

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