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


1 Goddess Muscle by Karlo Mila (Huia Publishers, $35)

A book of poems at number one! The last time this happened was in 2018, with the release of Poūkahangatus by Tayi Tibble. Mila, a Rotorua-born poet of Tongan, Palagi and Samoan descent, has worked as a trade union organiser, teacher and health research manager. Her first book Dream Fish Floating (also published by Huia) won the prize for best first book of poetry at the Montana national book awards in 2005. Goddess Muscle features this avid lyric:

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

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

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

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

5 The Night of All Souls by Philippa Swan (Penguin Random House, $36)

“In this wildly imaginative novel, Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Edith Wharton (1862-1937), long dead, finds herself in a warm, atmospherically lit drawing room, waiting to see who will join her for the evening. Her husband arrives, then her deep love, her nemesis, a friend, a niece … and an empty chair that will be filled by a stranger. But to what end? After this gleefully unusual and refreshing start, we begin to understand that in this novel we will see Edith as she has never been seen before”: from a review by Louise Ward, New Zealand Herald.

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

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

Poetry by the master, viz

For the first time in a long time

there is sun making sunshine,

the heart sings which was once sighing,

for the first time in a long time.

8 The Silence of Snow by Eileen Merriman (Penguin Random House, $36)

Merriman cut a dashing figure on Wednesday night when she dressed up as feather-wearing flapper for the launch of the beautiful new book Shining Land (Massey University Press, $45) by writer Paula Morris and photographer Haru Sameshima. Other writers in attendance were Charlotte Grimshaw (engaged in deep conversation with her Random House editor, Harriet Allan), Amy McDaid, Rosetta Allan (also feathered), Ruby Porter (author of the ReadingRoom short story “Enclosure”), Angelique Kasmara (author of the ReadingRoom short story “Mallrats”), Diana Wichtel, Chris Barton, Hamish Coney (a visitor from Puhoi), Tom Moody, and Maggie Barry (yes, the Maggie Barry! Now a student of creative writing at Auckland University), at the remarkable setting of the Poynton Terrace offices of Parisian, New Zealand’s finest makers of ties and belts since 1919. I was there, too, and said to Merriman: “It’s very nice to meet you.” Her novel is one of the best works of fiction published in New Zealand in 2020. The launch was catered by Eve’s Pantry. Drinks were held afterwards at The Wine Cellar.

9 Tiny Pieces of Us by Nicky Pellegrino (Hachette, $34.99)

10 The Tally Stick by Carl Nixon (Penguin Random House, $36)


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

6 Two Raw Sisters: All Eaters Welcome by Rosa Flanagan & Margo Flanagan (David Bateman, $39.99)

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

8 Ralph Hotere: The Dark is Light Enough by Vincent O’Sullivan (Penguin Random House, $45)

Magnificent biography of the great artist. O’Sullivan knew Hotere for many years; he told Bruce Munro in the Otago Daily Times, “In Auckland, in the ’60s, we used to bump into each other in The Kiwi. Probably the closest thing the city had to what you’d call an intellectual salon was the big public bar at The Kiwi. That’s where Ralph drank with McCahon, for example. It was a great melting pot for people of all kinds of generally left-wing interests.” They also saw each other at gallery openings, but as O’Sullivan said to Munro, “Although Ralph often didn’t go to his own openings. I remember one show, we met in a pub down in Victoria St rather than go to the gallery opening.”

9 Note to Self: The secrets of calm by Rebekah Ballagh (Allen & Unwin, $24.99)

Self-helper on how to stay calm at all times.

10 I’m in a United State by Paul Henry (Allen & Unwin, $36.99)


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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