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)

All next week at ReadingRoom is devoted to the Kiwi author’s brilliant thriller inspired by Australian cult The Family, led by a beautiful woman who claimed she was Jesus, but probably wasn’t.

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

ReadingRoom broke the story last week detailing how Knox’s novel was fought over by US publishers in a biddding war – and won by Viking, who paid the Wellington author an advance of “over six figures”.

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

The book that Taika Waititi’s mother Robin gave to her son, which he duly read, then turned into a movie (JoJo Rabbit) and won an Oscar for best adapted screenplay.

4 The Heart Casts No Shadow by Susan Holt (Inlet Publishing, $29.90)

Fantasy novel by the Porirua writer. Blurbology: “When her skill at a complex strategy game gives her a way into the palace, Rhonwyn becomes the eyes and ears of the Resistance. She’s there to help bring down the evil King Risick – the man who seized control and forced her people into his mines. The man who killed Rhonwyn’s father before her eyes, breaking her heart and fracturing her sanity. Everything changes when she meets a vibrant man who’s also trapped in the palace. Rhonwyn’s not so alone now and her soul begins to heal. But his dangerous secret forces Rhonwyn to choose between the freedom of her people and the love she’s finally found.”

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

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

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

8 Head Girl by Freya Daly Sadgrove (Victoria University Press, $25)

Poetry. From an interview with the author at the Unity Books website: “I mostly write at home in Island Bay. In the morning I write at the table across from my goldfish, Penny. It’s important to keep her company because she lives alone in her mansion. In the afternoon I usually have a nap on the couch and watch some shit on Netflix and then I work kneeling on the couch leaning over the coffee table. I don’t think it’s especially good for my back. Sometimes I go to Eamonn’s [Eamonn Marra, the gifted author of 2000ft Above Worry Level] or he comes to mine and we write together. I, um, don’t have a job.”

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

Named one of the 10 best novels of 2019 at ReadingRoom, and longlisted for the 2020 Ockham New Zealand national book awards Acorn prize for fiction. I really hope it makes the shortlist, announced on March 4; it’s a powerful book, an intense read.

10 The Whale Rider by Witi Ihimaera (Penguin Random House, $26)


1 Life as a Casketeer by Francis Tipene & Kaiora Tipene with Paul Little (HarperCollins, $39.99)

An excerpt ran at ReadingRoom this week, in which the directors of an Onehunga funeral company wrote about the delicate art of embalming.

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

An interview with the author ran at Reading Room this week, in which I questioned the best-selling Auckland shrink about her ideas concerning “the relationship between overthinking and anxiety“.

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

It doesn’t have enough tins in it. By all means consult my review of the latest Wattie’s Heinz cookbook which has good uses for tins of baked beans, peaches, and corn.

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

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

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

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

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

9 Jacinda Ardern by Michelle Duff (Allen & Unwin, $39.99)

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

Longlisted for the 2020 Ockham New Zealand national book awards  prize for best book of illustrated non-fiction. I really hope it makes the shortlist, announced on March 4; it’s a splendid book, a leafy delight.

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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