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


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

Jesse Mulligan, from his review at ReadingRoom: “The recipes are mostly great, and the book will do some good. Not only is Chelsea cooking without meat and dairy, a quick survey of internet feedback shows many of her followers have already joined her on the journey, hopefully accruing the environmental, ethical and health-based benefits that come with it.”

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

Good old Joan McKenzie, from Whitcoulls: “Charles Upham was awarded the Victoria Cross not once but twice for acts of extraordinary bravery. Tom Scott has gone in Charlie’s footsteps and followed where he went and spoken to the locals, found the places where he made camp or where he was incarcerated or battlefields on which he fought…Scott has done justice to a remarkable New Zealander.”

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

60 recipes.

4 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.”

5 Gangland by Jared Savage (HarperCollins, $36.99)

The book to read these Christmas holidays. Savage – the best crime reporter in New Zealand by a long stretch – provides 12 stories which trace the rise and rise of P as controlled by the gangs. From the review by Simon Bridges, last week at ReadingRoom: “A series of rip-snorting yarns about gangs, drugs, fancy cars, wads of cash, violence, and guns – Aotearoa New Zealand style. The scale and intensity of all these things grows exponentially, chapter by chapter, as time marches on…. The cops are portrayed as good, salt of the earth, types in this book; over-worked and under resourced, and unsung heroes. This is largely right in my view. We also see the broader framework they are working within. The agencies they work under are changed by the powers that be, while the honest coppers simply seek to get on with catching the bad guys. We also learn about their evolving techniques and surveillance and interception technologies which must keep changing as the crims become wise to them.”

6 Note to Self  by Rebekah Ballagh (Allen & Unwin, $24.99)

The best self-help book of 2020. Ballagh shares tidy little instructions on how to not feel bad about yourself and go about your life calmly.

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

Vegetarian recipes.

8 Navigating the Stars by Witi Ihimaera (Penguin Random House, $45)

Creation myths.

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


10 Sh*t Moments in New Zealand Sport by Rick Furphy & Geoff Rissole (Allen & Unwin, $24.99)



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

Central Otago in paintings, in verse, in stories.

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

From Naomi Arnold’s superb profile of the author, published this week at ReadingRoom: “She wrote a lot of Auē in a family friend’s house at the moody mouth of the Mokihunui River, 20km north of Westport, where there was no wi-fi but a little pub across the road for lunch. The novel’s heart, of loss, family violence, love, and pain, has emerged out of some of her own experiences growing up, principally the death of her cousin Glen Bo Duggan, who lived with her family for a time but was later murdered by his stepfather. Manawatu was 11, and felt deep, helpless rage when he died. Her mother gave her a book in which she could write about him – but she also gave her an axe, so she could go out the back of their house and smash it into a dead log, over and over.”

3 The Saffron Runners  by B. G. Fox (Quentin Wilson Publishing, $34.99)

Sales were evidently brisk at the book’s recent launch when 250 people – 250 people! At a book launch! – crowded into the  Christchurch Arts Centre for wine and live music as the author told of his historical adventure novel set in Persia and Afghanistan in 1827.  

4 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.”

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

Opening paragraph of one of the year’s most popular novels: “The car containing the four sleeping children left the earth. From the top of the wooded bluff, where the rain-slicked road had curved so treacherously, down to the swollen river at the base of the cliff, was sixty feet…The only person awake was the children’s father, John Chamberlain.”

6 Monsters in the Garden by Elizabeth Knox & David Larsen (Victoria University Press, $35)

Sci-fi anthology.

7 Addressed to Greta by Fiona Sussman (David Bateman, $34.99)

Greg Fleming, from his review in the Herald: “A bequest from a dead friend – the enigmatic Walter, a gay gardener who formed a bond with the taciturn Greta before dying of cancer – that gets Greta out of her self-imposed limbo and into the world…A perfect beach read.”

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

Opening paragraph of one of the year’s most popular novels: “They say you can never go home again, except here I am at nine in the morning, still a bit drunk, still in the suit I wore yesterday, gunning 140 up State Highway One, headed north, headed for the Cape, home again and getting away. Auckland is four hours behind, 300km and counting. My sister is next to me, in matching black, teeth clamped around the end of a cigarette she hasn’t yet quite summoned the energy to light.”

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

From Lydia Wevers’ 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.”

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

Poems, viz

You’ve written a lot of poems

he said.


It’s how I turn mess

into tidy.

How I organise chaos

into clean.

It’s how I turn



black blade

on white page.

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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