This week's bookshelf star is David Lomas, presenter of the actually always excellent David Lomas Investigates, Tuesdays at 7:30pm on Three. His shelf includes Michael King's history, Bungay on Murder, and the terrible autobiography Holmes, immortal for its amazing sentences, "She handed me something in her closed fist. It was her underwear."

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)

Hard-out story of a tragic family, and winner of the best novel of the year at the 2020 Ockham New Zealand book awards.

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

“I metabolise my discouragements,” Knox told Nicky Pellegrino, on the subject of her novel not making the shortlist of the Ockhams, during a superb interview at the BookBubble podcast series.

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

The TV series of the book stars Eve Hewson, daughter of U2 goober Bono, which brings to mind a classic story about his brief encounter with the musical genius Don Van Vilet, better known as Captain Beefheart. U2’s Rattle & Hum US tour in 1987 featured cameo appearances by a wide range of American stars. They dutifully responded to the invitations to appear for a few minutes, their genius acting as a compliment to the bloated headline act. Bono invited Vilet to appear with the band. He declined the request; he’d never heard of U2, and politely replied, “Dear Bongo…”

4 High Wire by Lloyd Jones & Euan Macleod (Massey University Press, $45)

A collaboration between the author and the painter.

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

One of the two best novels of the year.

6 How to Live by Helen Rickerby (Auckland University Press, $24.99)

Winner of the Mary and Peter Biggsy award for poetry at this year’s Ockham awards.

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

Creepy af thriller.

8 The Reed Warbler by Ian Wedde (Victoria University Press, $35)

“A terrific saga,” Harry Ricketts enthused, in his very complimentary review on Radio New Zealand.

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

Short stories, including the marvellous “Mrs Dixon & Friend” that appeared in ReadingRoom.

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

Extremely popular novel set in racy, racist Hastings in the 1950s; the author wrote about its background for ReadingRoom.


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


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


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


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


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


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


7 One Minute Crying Time by Barbara Ewing (Massey University Press, $39.99)


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

Te reo.

9 Dead People I Have Known by Shayne Carter (Victoria University Press, $40)

The runaway, dead-cert winner of the 2020 Ockham New Zealand national book award for best book of non-fiction, and easy to see why, with passages as funny and punky as this: “I became a journalist six months after I left school, at the local private radio station Dunedin’s Solid Gold, Your Destination Station, 4-X-O. I felt like a bit of a sell-out working there, because commercial radio was as far away from punk as you could get. But I wasn’t there for the music. I was there to write sports reports, and call the cop shop and ambulance once an hour to see if there’d been a disaster. I was allowed to read the news sometimes, and I did this with the same fake radio voice that everyone else used. The mics with the fat mufflers added more bass.

“A radio station is perplexing, because it’s populated by goblin looking people with sonorous big voices. It’s like the wind changed when they were talking, and they’d got stuck with a golden tone that didn’t go with their body.

“The place could be sleazy and the new promotions lady was always bonking the programme director, and there’d be talk about the brothels that the cops and councilmen used too. It was at Less Talk More Music 4-X-O that I realised how interconnected the powers were…The media people, and the cops and the politicians, sitting around having a laugh at Friday night drinks were the source of your information, who told you what should concern you and showed you where to look.

“I remember the council people grovelling just before an election, trying to get their toe in and their opinion on the news. There was a family favourite with a morning show, a JP and ex-councilman, who was known around Dunedin as the housewife’s friend. He liked younger men, and I remember him all over me in the broadcast booth, going ‘Shit I’m horny. I’d love a blowjob’ as his face grew sweatier and red. He was in sixties. I was 17. I made some crack about how he could go to the loos and ‘pull himself together’ – and then I ran away.

“…4XO put me off working for other people, and when I left there, as a 19-year-old, I never worked full-time for anyone again. It convinced me to go my own way. I felt the editor picked on me too, because he worked too much and expected everyone to work that way as well, and he may have had youth envy, a syndrome I didn’t recognise until I got older myself, and realised a future and a good complexion were envious assets to have.

“There were other people at Hits From The 60s 70s and 80s 4-X-O,  more suited to commercial radio, people like Mike Hosking who turned up as an 18-year-old from Wellington, smoking pungent cigarillos and smelling of cologne. Hosking also had a voice that didn’t fit his frame.

“There were a lot of egos in radio, DJs and newsreaders who thought the public hung off their every word. I left 4-X-0 in 1984, convinced that the world should hang off mine.”

10 Magnolia Kitchen by Bernadette Gee (Allen & Unwin, $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.

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