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


1 In the Clearing by JP Pomare (Hachette, $34.99)

The latest thriller by the Melbourne-based Kiwi crime writer is the book to get into this summer.

2 The Absolute Book by Elizabeth Knox (Victoria University Press, $35)

An incredible review of Knox’s novel appeared on the US site Slate this week. Literary editor Dan Kois raved. He hallelujahed. He liked it very much, almost too much: “Every once in a while, as a reader, you run into one of those books that is just too big for your mind to entirely take in. It’s not that reading such a book is upsetting or frustrating, but that it is an experience of continuous awe, which can be a little exhausting at times. It is really something to be overwhelmed for hundreds of pages! You almost wish that the book would occasionally simply whelm you, but of course that’s all that most books do, even good books.

“And in the same way it’s occasionally clarifying to inch your feet up to the edge of a precipice and take a good look down, it’s quite bracing to come up against the hard edge of your own imagination as you try to pursue a visionary author through the limitless expanse of hers.

“This is all to say that the experience of reading the New Zealand writer Elizabeth Knox’s contemporary fantasy novel The Absolute Book reminded me of how I felt reading [books such as] His Dark Materials…I felt that my position in relation to the book’s capacious intellect and imagination and moral purpose was a vertiginous one. It was thrilling and frightening, reading this book.”

Kois lived in Wellington in 2017, with his American family, and wrote a book about the experience. He also wrote a very nice piece for ReadingRoom about the book, and the experience, and how living here inspired his love for New Zealand literature. He’s since returned to the US; he wrote, at ReadingRoom, “Twitter helps me keep up. It’s because of following New Zealand writers on Twitter that I’m dying to read The Absolute Book.”

His review lamented that the book had failed to find a US publisher. He urged Slate readers to get it online from Unity Books. Orders have apparently flooded in.

Almost as a by-the-way, Knox’s novel was longlisted this week – on the same day Kois’s review appeared – for the 2020 Ockham New Zealand national book awards Acorn prize for fiction. It’s quite obviously the hot favourite  to win. Good luck to Knox, and to everyone on the longlist; personally I hope the Acorn – and the prize money, over $50,000 – goes to either Becky Manawatu for Auē, or Carl Shuker, for A Mistake. Dan Kois! Shuker’s novel has a US publisher; why don’t you review it at extravagant length for Slate? Go on, American Dan!

3 A Madness of Sunshine by Nalini Singh (Hachette, $34.99)

4 Auē by Becky Manawatu (Makaro Press, $35)

Longlisted this week for the 2020 Ockham New Zealand national book awards Acorn prize for fiction.

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

6 Caging Skies by Christine Leunens (Penguin Random House, $38)

7 The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton (Victoria University Press, $28)

8 Call Me Evie by JP Pomare (Hachette, $24.99)

9 Scented by Laurence Fearnley (Penguin Random House, $38)

10 The History Speech by Mark Sweet (Huia Publishers, $32)


1 Vegful by Nadia Lim (Nude Food, $55)


2 A Māori Phrase a Day by Hemi Kelly (Penguin Random House, $30)

3 Māori Made Easy by Scotty Morrison (Penguin Random House, $38)

4 The Book of Overthinking by Gwendoline Smith (Allen & Unwin, $24.99)

Her latest self-helper, aimed at helping us to think less and feel better.

5 All of This is for You by Ruby Jones (Penguin Random House, $24)

6 The Invisible Load by Dr. Libby Weaver (Little Green Frog, $39.95)

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

Longlisted this week for the 2020 Ockham New Zealand national book awards prize for non-fiction.

8 The Feel Good Guide by Matilda Green (Allen & Unwin, $39.99)

Goes one step further than Gwedoline Smith’s The Book of Overthinking, and encourages zero thinking.

9 Māori Made Easy Workbook 1/Kete 1 by Scotty Morrison (Penguin Random House, $25)

10 Puppy Zen by Mark Vette (Penguin Random House, $45)

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.

Leave a comment