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


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

Winner of the 2020 Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction – and $55,000 – at the Ockham New Zealand book awards  this week. The author is also up for the best personal essay award at the Voyager media awards next Friday (May 22).

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

A fascinating interview with Knox was held this week over at New Zealand’s only literary podcast worth the candle, BookBubble.

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

An extremely strong contender, one should think, for the Ngaio Marsh crime novel of the year award.

4 A Mistake by Carl Shuker (Victoria University Press, $30)

Hard lines for Shuker this week. His fifth novel was shortlisted for the Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for fiction, and was the clear favourite to win on account of the fact that A Mistake – tense, dramatic, compelling – was evidence of a master craftsman at the height of his powers. But it lost out to debut novel Auē. He came away empty-handed. Consolation doesn’t pay jack but his book remains a triumph of literary fiction.

5 All the Way to Summer by Fiona Kidman (Penguin Random House, $40)

An extremely strong contender, one should think, for the the 2021 Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for fiction.

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

The popular author is due to be interviewed soon at BookBubble, the aforementioned only literary podcast worth the candle.

7 2000ft Above Worry Level by Eamonn Marra (Victoria University Press, $30)

An extremely strong contender, one should think, for the the 2021 Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for fiction.

8 The Burning River by Lawrence Patchett (Victoria University Press, $30)

“I’ve been learning te reo off and on for a few years now,” the author wrote in an acclaimed essay at ReadingRoom, backgrounding his novel written in two languages. “Thanks to the skill and generosity of a number of kaiako and fellow ākonga, I’ve learnt many things. It’s changed my life and outlook completely.”

9 Poetry New Zealand Yearbook 2020 by Johanna Emeney (Massey University Press, $35)

In other poetry news, the venerable Kevin Ireland – venerated not merely because he’s really old, but more so that he’s written wonderfully well for many years – has a new collection, Shape of the Heart, due to be launched at a Zoom thing later this month. The opening poem begins,

A friend wrote recently to say he’d heard

that I had died and would I be so kind

as to confirm the news or to deny it…

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

An extremely strong contender,  one should think, for the the 2021 Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for fiction.


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


2 So Delish! by Simone Anderson (Allen & Unwin, $39.99)


3 Stop Surviving Start Fighting by Jazz Thornton (Penguin Random House, $38)


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

Te reo.

5 Magnolia Kitchen by Bernadette Gee (Allen & Unwin, $45)


6 A Natural Year by Wendyl Nissen (Allen & Unwin, $45)


7 Listen to Spirit by Kelvin Cruickshank (Penguin Random House, $38)


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


9 Edmonds Cookery Book by Goodman Fielder (Hachette, $34.99)


10 Eat by Chelsea Winter (Penguin Random House, $50)

I often make her recipe for green  beans with roasted hazelnuts and feta from her previous book, Scrumptious. It’s got a lot of photos of Chelsea with her partner Mike – the guy who ended up on The Bachelorette, and storming off the show rather than put up with Lesina’s prevaricating bullshit. It’s sad seeing him with Chelsea in Scrumptious. It’s like looking at wedding photos of a couple who later broke up. Poor old Mike! He brought an intensity to The Bachelorette. He was sincere, meaningful. Also, he was hot. But he had a haunted quality, and viewers wondered: was Chelsea his ghost? What happened there? What hurt, what shattering? Imagine having your love life laid bare for the watching nation to question! Scrumptious is a permanent reminder that things plainly didn’t work out. Things didn’t work out for him in The Bachelorette, either. Where’s he now? How’s it going for Mike, what’s his story? You can picture him out at sea – he works as a sailing instructor – on a beautiful peagreen boat, staring at the horizon, pain etched on his handsome face, his head seething with recriminations and resentments. But he’s philosophical. He knows that love is like a tide: sometimes you run against it, sometimes you run with it. When the sun goes down, he heads into the cabin, and feels at peace as he dishes up a simple, delicious meal of green  beans with roasted hazelnuts and feta.

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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