Posted inReadingRoom

This week’s Top 10 NZ books

Each week we feature a bookshelf in the home of a New Zealand author. This week: the letter M in a bookshelf at the home of Auckland novelist Paula Morris.

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


1 The Absolute Book by Elizabeth Knox (Victoria University Press, $35.00)

Straight in at number one on the first week of its release. “I didn’t want it to finish, I completely adored it, and I think everyone should own it and gift it”: Louise O’Brien, 9 to Noon.

2 A Dream of Italy by Nicky Pellegrino (Hachette, $24.99)

Popular fiction.

3 Whatever it Takes by Paul Cleave (Upstart Press, $37.99)

Popular crime fiction.

4 When It All Went to Custard by Danielle Hawkins (HarperCollins, $35.00)

Popular fiction.

5 Always Song in the Water by Gregory O’Brien (Auckland University Press, $45.00)

An extract from the author’s roadtrip in Northland: “Not far from the northern end of Dargaville, we pull over at the entrance to the town’s raceway. I recount how, back in the 1970s, the annual race meeting had all the solemnity of a religious feast day. It shut the town down. The rest of the year, sheep grazed the grounds and members’ enclosure, and the track lay like a burst balloon on the land…The last time I stood here was during my tenure as roving reporter for the Dargaville daily, the Northland Times. I had just turned 18 and was living at the gravel end of Awakino Rd. This side of town. It was in the newspaper office that I met a famous female jockey in the company of a racing journalist whom I remember as being three times her height, at least twice her age, and with whom I suspected she was having an affair.”

6 A Mistake by Carl Shuker (Victoria University Press, $30.00)

The Wellington author’s novel was published in the US this week to instant acclaim from the Washington Post: “Shuker conveys in gorgeous, heartbreaking detail the shock of catastrophe and the ways we try to make sense of disaster after the fact….His  arresting prose renders the inconceivable breathtaking….We remain transfixed as a cataclysmic mistake unfolds in real time.”

7 This Mortal Boy by Fiona Kidman (Penguin Random House, $38.00)

Winner of the 2019 Ngaio Marsh crime-writing award for fiction, announced on Saturday night at a ceremony in Christchurch.

8 The Sound of Breaking Glass by Kirsten Warner (Makaro Press, $35.00)

“Christel finds it difficult to juggle her highly insecure job in reality television with the demands of her role as partner and mother, not to mention her involvement in activist group Women Against Surplus Plastic… Warner’s debut novel is absorbing, humorous, suspenseful and inventive”: Catherine Robertson, the Listener.

9 A Canoe in Midstream by Apirana Taylor (Canterbury University Press, $27.99)

His fifth volume of poetry includes “Sad Joke on a Marae” and “Coca-Cola Jesus and Mitsubishi Mary.”

10 Moth Hour by Anne Kennedy (Auckland University Press, $24.99)

In 1973, Anne Kennedy’s brother Philip was partying on a hillside when he accidentally fell to his death. Her poems return to his death and the world he inhabited.

NZ Non-Fiction

1 The Invisible Load by Dr Libby Weaver (Little Green Frog Publishing, $39.95)

Find out what your sex hormones can tell you about stress, etc.

2 Māori at Work by Scotty Morrison (Penguin Random House, $35.00)

The latest te reo guide by Te Manahau.

3 Māori Made Easy by Scotty Morrison (Penguin Random House, $38.00)

4 Brothers in Black by Jamie Wall (Allen & Unwin, $36.99)

“In his splendid, comprehensive, insightful and entertaining book, Jamie Wall explores the culture in some families in order to discover how much of it can be related to their sporting success”: from a rave review by Brian Turner at Reading Room.

Māori Made Easy Workbook 1/Kete 1 by Scotty Morrison (Penguin Random House, $25.00)

6 Driven: My Story by Hayden Paddon (Penguin Random House, $40.00)


7 First Map by Tessa Duder & David Elliot (HarperCollins, $49.99)


8 Native Son by Witi Ihimaera (Penguin Random House, $40.00)

The great New Zealand author was recently interviewed by John Campbell about his new memoir, which includes his account of how he was raped as a child. He told Campbell, “It has been a long and sometimes tortuous and challenging and in the end absolutely luminous journey. This book deals with the dilemma of am I still a man because this (rape) happened to me? It affected all of my relationships.. I tried self-harm, I tried so many things to not be on this planet…This book is about writing myself out of that … and to become a fairytale prince out of all of this.”

9 A Communist in the Family by Elspeth Sandys (Otago University Press, $40.00)

“Rewi Alley is standing on the deck of the ship that has brought him to Shanghai from Hong Kong. The date is April 21, 1927. He left his home in New Zealand five months ago with barely any money… He has come to China on not much more than a whim. He knows what he’s getting away from – the New Zealand way of life – but what he’s getting into is anyone’s guess”: an extract from the author’s book about the extraodinary Rewi Alley.

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

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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