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)

Bravo and yay for the author who pocketed $1000 this week as the winner of the 2020 Ngaio Marsh crime writing award for best crime novel but FFS! The organisers of this award really have to get a grip because their award is badly undermined and has its credibility shot to pieces by awarding the prize to Auē which is not, repeat not, a crime novel, it’s a novel with a crime in it, in the same way King Lear is a play with a crime in it. Crime fiction is a fantastic genre. But it’s a genre with a well-defined set of conventions. Auē is a wonderful book, but it wasn’t conceived or intended by the author as any kind of crime novel; and readers of crime fiction wouldn’t want a bar of it. The prize is plain silly, and very nearly….criminal.

 2 The Savage Coloniser Book by Tusiata Avia (Victoria University Press, $25)

Poetry, viz:

Hey James,

yeah, you

in the white wig

in that big Endeavour

sailing the blue, blue water

like a big arsehole


3 Nouns, Verbs, Etc by Fiona Farrell (Otago University Press, $35)

From her epic poem about the Christchurch earthquakes:

Ths pm is lk
a brkn cty
all its wds r
smshd to


4 Wow by Bill Manhire (Victoria University Press, $25)

From Harry Ricketts’s expert review at ReadingRoom: “Here the light mist over everything teases you with where you are and what’s what. Things constantly shift and change shape and being, even as you seem to have grasped them. There is no GPS in Manhireland; here you are on your own, finding your way, making your own discoveries, trying to decipher runes, which (should you compare notes) may well prove quite different to those of any of the other trampers.”

5 Goddess Muscle by Karlo Mila (Huia, $35)

Golly! A fourth book of poems in the best-seller chart this week. Viz,

i want to rush out across the eight-hour drive, i want to snake past his sleeping wife, i want to slap him, i want to smother him, i want to shake him brilliantly, brilliantly awake

6 The Jacaranda House by Deborah Challinor (HarperCollins, $36.99)

From Lydia Wevers’ wildly interesting review at ReadingRoom: “The world Challinor describes is dangerous and edgy Kings Cross in 1964, where everyone is using and drinking, sex is the commodity market and trannies have to be very careful where they walk. The novel focuses on a flat in Bayswater Road where Polly Manaia lives with Rhoda and Star. They all work as ‘dancers’, in bars, taking their clothes off to dance moves, and spend a lot of time trashed to get through it. I won’t ruin the plot by revealing much about it, but it has a slippery slope momentum, not only in the lives of the characters but in what’s happening in The Cross.”

7 New Admissions: Tales of life, death and love in the time of lockdown by Mira Harrison (Mira Harrison, $23)

Short stories about women working in healthcare. Her previous collection, on the same subject, was selected by the World Economic Forum as one of seven books it recommended for people who “want to understand the world’s problems”.

8 Landmarks by Grahame Sydney & Owen Marshall & Brian Turner (Penguin Random House, $75)

Words and pictures of the island beneath Pig Island by the great triumvirate.

9 Remote Sympathy by Catherine Chidgey (Victoria University Press, $35)

From Aimee Cronin’s wonderful portrait of the author, at ReadingRoom: “Her new book, Remote Sympathy, 154,000 words diligently typed on an old computer, revisits Germany during the Second World War, specifically the Buchwald concentration camp where Chidgey herself spent the night in 1996 on a field trip when living in Berlin, ‘a place so full of ghosts.’ It’s told from the point of view of three central characters who all need each other: Lenard Weber, the German doctor with a Jewish grandfather who invents a machine meant to cure cancer, Dietrich Hahn, an SS officer and his sick wife Greta Hahn who lives in denial about the fact she lives on the edge of the camp.”

10 State Highway One by Sam Coley (Hachette, $34.99)


1 Supergood by Chelsea Winter (Random House, $50)

From Jesse Mulligan’s wildly entertaining review at ReadingRoom: “The Chelsea Winter ingredient palette doesn’t quite fit with Michael Pollan’s famous advice to ‘eat food, not too much, mostly plants’. The ‘eat food’ part of his slogan is shorthand for eating real ingredients – ‘food your grandmother would recognise’ – and Supergood has a little too much of the processed stuff to gel well with the wholefood ethos which generally comes hand in hand with a move towards vegetarianism. Many of her recipes include Frankenfoods like ‘vegan cheese’ and ‘dairy-free spread’ and while the former is often listed as optional, it’s hard to imagine that margherita pizza tasting of much without it. If you’re changing your diet because of health, you might wonder what you’ll achieve by baking a caramel slice which replaces butter with margarine.”

2 Impossible: My Story by Stan Walker (HarperCollins, $39.99)

From my review at ReadingRoom:An as-told-to, with Stan Walker doing the telling, sends a message of cheap literature, a commercial enterprise and nothing else. Impossible is a hell of a lot more than that. This is a can’t-put-down read, direct and proud and inspirational, an honest document of life in New Zealand on the wrong side of the tracks.”

3 Aroha by Hinemoa Elder (Penguin Random House, $30)

4 Searching for Charlie by Tom Scott (Upstart Press, $49.99)

5 Two Raw Sisters by Rosa Flanagan & Margo Flanagan (David Bateman, $39.99)


6 Tamatea Dusky by Peta Carey (Potton & Burton Publishing, $69.99)

Cook to stoats to conservation; the story of Fiordland’s Dusky Sounds.

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


8 Wild at Heart by Miriam Lancewood (Allen & Unwin, $36.99)

OMG! The author has also recorded a truly hideous ballad with the same title as her book.

9 This Is Not How It Ends by Jehan Casinader (HarperCollins, $35)

Reverend Frank Ritchie is writing his ReadingRoom review this very second.

10 Bella: My Life in Food by Annabel Langbein (Allen & Unwin, $49.99)

Recipes and blather.

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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