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

New Zealand fiction

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

When Fiona Kidman’s novel This Mortal Boy won the 2019 Acorn prize for fiction at the Ockham national book awards in May, it shot past When It All Went to Custard to number one on the best-seller chart. Many anticipated that it would stay there for quite some time. But When It All Went to Custard defied expectations. It immediately regained its prime position, and has stayed there ever since – a testament to the appeal of the Otorohanga writer’s second novel.

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


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

Dame Fiona’s novel is based on Albert Black, the second to last man to be hanged in New Zealand. Black wished all those present at his execution a happy Xmas and prosperous New Year. He was 22.

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

“The Unreliable People opens with an abduction, so you might think you’re about to read a crime or thriller novel but, quickly, it veers off in a slower and more considered direction as Allen attempts to unpick what makes a person who they are”: Dionne Christian, Canvas.

5 Wolf Rain by Nalini Singh (Hachette, $29.99)

Publisher’s blurbology: “Kidnapped as a young girl, her psychic powers harnessed by a madman, Memory lives a caged and isolated existence…until she comes face-to-face with a wolf.” Jesus!

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

Finalist in the 2019 Ngaio Marsh award for best crime novel by the author who was born and raised in Rotorua.

7 Poukahangatus by Tayi Tibble (Victoria University Press, $20)

Award-winning poetry collection by the new editor of literary cult Sport.

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

“A lovely novel set between Auckland, Paris and Melbourne, about the lives of ordinary women with tangled relationships, rivalries, love affairs, marriages and children – the things which make us who we are”: Joan’s Picks, Whitcoulls.

9 Tu by Patricia Grace (Penguin Random House, $40.00)

Curious re-entry into the best-seller chart by a novel published in 2004.

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

“A short, scalpel-sharp tale of misadventure, medical and moral, set in a version of Wellington Hospital. The body reading it may soon find itself pumping and flexing uneasily in unison”: Diana Wichtel, Listener.

New Zealand Non-Fiction

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

“Mawkish…clumsy dialogue…[but] the story is gripping and, ultimately, uplifting”: Steve Walker, Stuff.

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

ReadingRoom will publish a review next week by broadcasting genius Graeme Hill.

3 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.

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

With photographs by Lottie Hedley of Martinborough.

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


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


7 The Billion Dollar Bonfire by Chris Lee (Projects Resources, $40.00)

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.

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

O’Malley spoke about the importance of teaching the New Zealand Wars in secondary schools when he appeared as guest speaker at the Hamilton Press Club last year. Hamilton News was there, and got nice 46-second footage.

9 What the Fat Recipes by Grant Schofield & Caryn Zinn & Craig Rodger (Blackwell and Ruth, $49.99)


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

More food.

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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