The top 10 most requested New Zealand books from Auckland Council Libraries during the lockdown, as described by Steve Braunias.

1 Caging Skies by Christine Leunens

News to hand: the latest funding round from Creative New Zealand has given Stacy Gregg and Nicky Pellegrino $36,000 to create a new podcast series that will appear at ReadingRoom, featuring interviews with New Zealand authors – including Leunens, who lives in Nelson. The first episode of Book Bubble is set for this Sunday (or Monday), and will continue each week for 10 weeks. Huzzah! New Zealand writing needs a lively, intelligent podcast made by the most qualified people in the book trade – authors – and ReadingRoom is delighted to carry the Book Bubble podcast created and presented by two of New Zealand’s biggest-selling writers.

2 The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton

Yes, yes, but whatever happened to

Birnam Wood, the novel she was writing in 2017, and was due to be delivered at the end of the year? It was described as “a psychological thriller set in a remote part of New Zealand where ultra-rich foreigners are building fortress-like mansions. The houses are stocked with weapons in preparation for an imminent global disaster.”

3 Moonlight Sonata by Eileen Merriman

Merriman’s next novel would appear to be on track. She took to the Twitter machine this week to rattle off very celebratory stats: “25K magic – 5K added to MS this weekend – book 3 on a roll now!”

4 This Mortal Boy by Fiona Kidman

Of course the author featured in a scientifically tested listicle at ReadingRoom this week which named the top 10 New Zealand authors over 70.

5 Tales from a Financial Hot Mess by Frances Cook

Frances Cook! Only the nicest business journalist in New Zealand. Also, she lives in Hamilton. Her column in the New Zealand Herald during the lockdown has provided strong, practical advice about what to do with your money; her book tells the story of how she sorted out her own personal finances, and shows how to get out of debt and have something to show for all your hard work.

6 A Conversation with my Country by Alan Duff

Duffy! The indignant, seething, tut-tutting liberal left have done their best to cancel him, but his assessment of modern New Zealand was one of the biggest sellers of the past 12 months.

7 Easy Healthy Meals by Nadia Lim


8 Pearly Gates by Owen Marshall

Marshall’s novel has been shortlisted for the 2020 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction to be held at a virtual event on May 12. All four shortlisted books were offered as a giveaway yesterday at ReadingRoom; readers were asked to name the novel they most wanted to win. Here are the results. Pearly Gates got 12 votes. Lynda Kelly wrote, “I’d like Owen Marshall’s Pearly Gates to win because I’ve read Owen Marshall for years, and he never disappoints.” Halibut on the Moon by David Vann got 29 votes. Kate Berridge wrote, “I work within health and this book looks fantastic and fascinating with beautiful prose. A wonderful combination.” A Mistake by Carl Shuker got 83 votes. Nicki Judkins wrote, “I most want A Mistake to win because I’ve bought it as a present for a number of medical people in my life, but I haven’t been able to read it myself yet.” Jacob Otter added, I want this to win because Shuker is friend of a friend.” The most popular by a long chalk was Auē by Becky Manawatu, with 178 votes. Matt Broome wrote, “It was the first book that has made me cry proper tears. A beautiful story, which I may have passed over if it wasn’t for Becky’s essay in ReadingRoom last year.”  Rose O’Connor wrote, “I vote for Auē 100%. Becky Manawatu’s essay about her cousin Glen Bo which ReadingRoom  published was one of the best things I read in 2019 which got me onto Auē. I bought it for my husband for Christmas because I’m selfish and I wanted to read it.” Many thanks to all who entered; the winner is Anna King. Her entry read:I am a sucker for the underdog so will have to vote for David Vann and his take on depression, although the concept of A Mistake does also sound compelling and love that it’s set locally….I am heading off on maternity leave with my first soon and would love some quality reading during those late nights.” Quality reading coming right up! The books are in the mail.

Oh and Tim Manawatu emailed, “As bad as this is coming from Becky’s husband lol, I vote for any of the other three shortlisted writers to win the prize so it lights a fire up my wife’s arse to hurry up and get right into her next book she has started.”

9 Scented by Laurence Fearnley

The author wrote an astonishing essay last year in ReadingRoom that backgrounded her novel about a woman who constructs a perfume of herself.

10 Dog Zen: Everything You Need to Know to Transform Your Dog by Mark Vette


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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