After rather a long absence, the weekly Nielsen BookScan New Zealand bestseller chart returns now that the shops are sort of open, with descriptions by Steve Braunias.
1 A Mistake by Carl Shuker (Victoria University Press, $30)
Oho! And the best-selling New Zealand novel during this most recent week of lockdown and its attempt to eliminate or even eradicate a medical crisis is….about a medical crisis. A surgeon operates on a patient; the patient dies; hell breaketh loose, but the tension never ceases in this superb novel, which has been shortlisted for next week’s Ockham New Zealand national book awards Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction. The winner trousers $55,000. Yow!
2 Auē by Becky Manawatu (Makaro Press, $35.00)
Also shortlisted for next week’s Ockham New Zealand national book awards Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction; also competing to trouser $55,000; also a wonderful novel, about families and secrets and violence, often harrowing, but with quite a few good feeds along the way.
3 The Absolute Book by Elizabeth Knox (Victoria University Press, $35.00)
Not, still somewhat surprisingly, shortlisted for next week’s Ockham New Zealand national book awards Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction.
4 All the Way to Summer by Fiona Kidman (Penguin Random House, $40)
A collection of short stories by a master of the form.
5 The History Speech by Mark Sweet (Huia, $32)
Really popular novel set in racy, racist Hastings in the 1950s.
6 In the Clearing by JP Pomare (Hachette, $34.99)
7 Pearly Gates by Owen Marshall (Penguin Random House, $38)
Also shortlisted for next week’s Ockham New Zealand national book awards Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction; also competing to trouser $55,000; also a wonderful novel, expertly and lengthily reviewed by John McCrystal at New Zealand Books, the natural home of expert and lengthy reviews until some ass at Creative New Zealand decided to kill it: “The story is written in his characteristic cool, dry, aphoristic prose (‘Pearly had prayed for that: a prayer addressed not to a conventional god, but that amorphous identity that throws the dice in life, is appealed to in crisis and forgotten in all other situations.’) There is humour, in the form of gentle satire…And, of course, there is the psychological precision which has made Marshall one of this country’s finest writers both of short and long fiction.”
8 Scented by Laurence Fearnley (Penguin Random House, $38
The author wrote an astonishing essay last year in ReadingRoom that backgrounded her novel about a woman who constructs a perfume of herself.
9 This Mortal Boy by Fiona Kidman (Penguin Random House, $38)
Last year’s winner of the Ockham New Zealand national book awards Acorn Prize for Fiction.
10 Shakti by Rajorshi Chakraborti (Penguin Random House, $36)
Raj! Snappiest male dresser in New Zealand writing; author of a wonderful novel, set in India; and photographer of an image which says really everything about life in lockdown:
1 Vegful by Nadia Lim (Nude Food, $55)
2 A Maori Phrase a Day by Hemi Kelly (Penguin Random House, $30)
3 So Delish! by Simone Anderson (Allen & Unwin, $39.99)
4 The Book of Overthinking by Gwendoline Smith (Allen & Unwin, $24.99)
5 Eat by Chelsea Winter (Penguin Random House, $50)
6 Maori Made Easy by Scotty Morrison (Penguin Random House, $38)
7 Edmonds Cookery Book by Goodman Fielder (Hachette, $34.99)
8 Listen to Spirit by Kelvin Cruickshank (Penguin Random House, $38)
9 Puppy Zen by Mark Vette (Penguin Random House, $45)
10 Stop Surviving Start Fighting by Jazz Thornton (Penguin Random House, $38)
Extract from her book about suicide prevention: “One of the decisions that changed everything for me was the one I made when I got out of the psych ward for the very last time. I had been in the ward for a couple of months, and by the time I got released it was four days before Christmas. After my release, I was told that someone from the crisis team would call me every single day to check in and see if I was OK.
“On Christmas Eve I got that call. The lady on the phone asked me how I was doing and how I was feeling on a scale of 1 to 10 (a question that you get asked so many times when you are in the mental-health system). She then told me that this time of the year was when they lost the greatest number of people in my kind of situation.
“I hung up the phone and lay on the mattress on the floor of my room and just started crying. In that moment, something rose up inside me that said “I don’t want to be another statistic.’
“… I can tell you that ever since that decision I made on Christmas Eve to not be a statistic, I have never tried to take my life again.
“Your life doesn’t change based on the actions of others, but because of your own decisions. Your decisions have the ability to change everything.”