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

Are any of the goobers on this year’s season of The Bachelorette as good-looking and suave as a contestant in 2020, Chelsea’s ex, Mike? He was really beautiful. Also, he had soul. But someone (a TV chef?) had hurt him, and his pain was visible in his eyes. His motto was: “Won’t get fooled again!” His exit from the show was on his own terms. He didn’t wait around to be insulted at a rose ceremony. He got the hell out of Dodge; he quit, took off, and said, like Bartleby in the famous story by Melville, “I prefer not to.” Are any of the goobers on this year’s season of The Bachelorette as deep – or as wounded?

2 The Book of Angst by Gwendoline Smith (Allen & Unwin, $24.99)

How to understand and manage anxiety.

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

Kiran Dass, writing in the Herald: “Proverb books can be trite and cheesy but psychiatrist Dr Hinemoa Elder’s exquisitely produced Aroha is an elegant and well-timed balm that offers an open door to the healing world of Māori wisdom. Exploring traditional Māori philosophy through 52 whakatauki, Aroha presents one pithy life lesson for each week of the year. Elder places a strong focus on manaakitanga (hospitality and love for each other), kaitiakitanga (guardianship of and respect for our planet), and whanaungatanga (community and connectivity)….I’ve seen multiple bookshop punters scoop up and buy copies of this book by the fistful – you need one for yourself and one for somebody you love.”

4 Destitute Gourmet by Sophie Gray (Penguin Random House, $35)

How to make meals that doesn’t cost a fortune.

5 My Journey Starts Here by Jazz Thornton & Genevieve Mora (Penguin Random House, $30)

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

Tom’s son Sam featured in the recent Neil Young tribute concert at the Aotea Centre, and I thought he was great – he got loose on the guitar solos, and he sang like he meant it. It was a strange evening, though. Why go to see a covers band? There was something obviously and profoundly lame about it. Neil Finn sat in the row in front of me, and watched his son Liam play lead guitar, acoustic guitar, bass guitar, piano, drums, glockenspiel, mandolin, and tubular bells, and sing; he was a virtuoso without a cause, none of it added up to a hill of beans. SJD was there, and sang in a nice falsetto. Delaney Davidson was there, and sang out of the corner of his mouth. Jon Toogood did his Jonny Toogood thing. Enough of the men; just about the two best performers were Mel Parsons, who sang a blazing “Revolution Blues”, and Dianne Swann, who played ragged rhythm guitar while hunching her shoulders and stomping about in a swamp of noise. She didn’t act Neil; she went for something else: she did Crazy Horse.

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

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

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

10 Living Lightly by Nicola Turner (HarperCollins, $45)

How to go though life consuming and wasting less junk.


1 Tell Me Lies by J.P. Pomare (Hachette, $29.99)

Page 31 of the latest novel from New Zealand’s best thriller writer: “The fire is so loud, so bright that at first I don’t register the sirens, the red and blue lights strobing the empty streets. Then I notice something. A sheet of paper on our front step. I move towards the door. It was open. Why was it wide open? Gabe had locked it before we went to bed…I crouch and snatch the sheet of paper. Across the road, a light has come on inside a house. Soon enough, neighbours will be emerging. Our fire alarms continue to howl. I look down at the sheet of paper and a cold finger runs over the back of my neck…The piece of paper shows a man. Or the body of a man – but where his head should be, there’s – it’s gone. There’s blood, bone, the inside of a skull all splattered on the wall behind him. It has to be fake, but it seems so real. I straighten up, the image still clutched in my fist. Firefighters are rushing about us, but suddenly I have the urge to protect my family: the image might be fake, but the fact remains, someone wanted to hurt us.”

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

Bizarrely and unfairly excluded from the 2021 Ockham New Zealand national book awards longlist for fiction. Nixon’s stylish literary thriller has rarely been out of the best-seller chart since it was published last year – and is ripe for a TV adaptation.

3 Sister to Sister by Olivia Hayfield (Hachette, $34.99)

Publisher’s blurbology: “Loosely based on the turbulent reigns of Tudor queens Mary and Elizabeth, this is a scandalous tale of love, power and betrayal.”

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

A picture book which doesn’t belong in the fiction list.

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

6 The Whale Rider by Witi Ihimaera (Penguin Random House, $26)

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

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

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

10 Nothing to See by Pip Adam (Victoria University Press, $30)

Longlisted for the Ockham New Zealand national book award for fiction, and the novel I most want to see win it; Adam operates at next-level genius, as she crafts a supremely readable and ingenious story, set somewhere in New Zealand, of two women shaking off their drug addiction – and shaking off their split, fractured lives.

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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