NZ Fiction

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

Editorial style really should demand that the month comes before the date, but this is a great opening sentence; it sets the tone, it tells you what’s what, it draws you closer: “I wasn’t enjoying the afternoon of 23 February even before I learnt that my husband was having an affair.”

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

Kidman wrote to Justice Minister Andrew Little in May last year, “I understand that you have initiated a Criminal Cases Review Commission to investigate miscarriages of justice. [My] novel This Mortal Boy [is] based on the short life and death of Albert Black, the second to last person to be hanged for murder in this country…I researched his story widely, here and abroad, and had access to a large portion of the transcripts of his trial. I had not expected the conclusions I came to, namely that he should have been found guilty of manslaughter on the grounds of self defence, rather than murder, but I am now convinced that that was the case.” She has not heard back.

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

Swordfish in a buttery sauce of capers.

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

An Amazon Best Book of the Month in Romance.

5 To the Occupant by Emma Neale (Otago University Press, $27.95)


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

Second novel by the 2019 writer in residence at Waikato University.

7 Necessary Secrets by Greg McGee (Upstart Press, $37.99)

“A dissection of a year in the life of a New Zealand family in conflict. It is a triumph of writerly skill, with universal relevance”: David Herkt, Stuff.

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

ReadingRoom has received a scintillating short story by the New Plymouth novelist and poet, and cannot wait to publish it.

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

“It deals with the social problems New Zealand is facing, including how easy it is to get swept along with a crowd… Funny, sad and dynamic”: longtime New Zealand fiction reviewer Alysonblog.

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

“Compelling and important”: Steve Walker, Stuff.

NZ Non-Fiction

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

ReadingRoom looks forward to receiving the author’s promised article about the people who inspired his best-seller – his parents in law.

2 Te Tiriti o Waitangi by Toby Morris & Ross Calman & Mark Derby & Piripi Walker (Lift Education, $20)

Graphic novel about the Treaty.

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


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


5 Purakau by Witi Ihimaera and Whiti Hereaka (Penguin Random House, $38)

Māori legends 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.

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

Limoncello and gin syrup-drenched sponge.

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

“Waring describes a vanished New Zealand, of cream teas, kipper ties and carnation buttonholes which was tightly controlled, male-dominated and restless for change”: review by Leah McFall, ReadingRoom.

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

“A lovely leafy avenue winding elegantly through botany, evolution, craft, history, music, medicine, mythology, and food, lots of food”: review by Graeme Hill, ReadingRoom.

9 Whitiki! Whiti! Whiti! E!: Maori in the First World War by Monty Soutar (David Bateman, $69.99)

The first history of Māori in World War I by a Māori author.

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


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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