The biggest-selling New Zealand books since Xmas, as recorded by the Nielsen BookScan New Zealand bestseller list and described by Steve Braunias


1 To Italy, With Love by Nicky Pellegrino (Hachette, $34.99)

Of course the biggest-selling novel of 2021 was the biggest-selling novel of summer; the holidays are an escape from real life and so is Pellegrino’s entertaining novel, set in the small town of Montenello, Italy, where Sarah-Jane and Assunta, two women unlucky in love and who share a passion for food, eat really good meals such as grilled swordfish coated with crushed sweet dried peppers. An astute review by a Helen at Good Reads acknowledged there was more than fantasy going on: “At a deeper level it’s also a tale about loneliness.”

2 Greta and Valdin by Rebecca K Reilly (Victoria University Press, $35)

Named the best novel of 2021 at ReadingRoom, and reviewed by Charlotte Grimshaw: “It’s highly familiar Auckland territory: the central city where Greta and her brother Valdin live together in a flat, the university where Greta and her friends and her father work, and the affluent suburbs just beyond: Epsom, Ponsonby, Remuera. Greta and Valdin’s Māori-Russian-Catalonian extended family is a middle-class, educated group, and the brother and sister are described as nerds … There is comedy and laughter and tears and it all culminates, in the great, joyous tradition of dramatic comedies, with a coming together of friends and lovers, a family celebration and maybe, possibly, even a wedding.”

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

Good old Auē, published in 2019.

4 She’s a Killer by Kirsten McDougall (Victoria University Press, $30)

Everybody loves McDougall’s witty, exciting, topical eco-thriller, reviewed in ReadingRoom by Kiran Dass: “It’s set in Wellington in the imminent future. The sky and air are grey, the cold wind ‘makes you want to kill yourself’ and the world is on the brink of collapse … McDougall successfully places us squarely in this realist-dystopian environment which comes to life thanks to her attentive descriptions. Even the way she writes about air and light, or the way a silent, airless room feels and sounds, are remarkably vivid. She’s on fire.”

5 The Last Guests by J.P. Pomare (Hachette, $34.99)

I will be gutted, livid, ropeable, not responsible for my actions, if the judges of the 2022 Ockham New Zealand national book award fail to step out of the ivory towers of literary fiction to include our best crime writer’s latest thriller in the Ockham fiction longlist, announced next Thursday.

6 Loop Tracks by Sue Orr (Victoria University Press, $35)

The author, writing in ReadingRoom about the genesis of her powerful novel: “It germinated just after noon on a Friday, late in 2016, in a swish Japanese restaurant in Auckland. We were old friends having a rare catch up … The conversation turned to teenaged pregnancies [and] about the shame and the rage and deceit of our own teenaged years, how girls at school sometimes disappeared, without explanation, for six months. Someone mentioned 1978, when politicians closed the abortion clinics in New Zealand and girls had to fly to Australia for legal, safe terminations. Then one of my friends said this. ‘I had to fly to Sydney. The plane was delayed on the tarmac. For hours.’ This is how a novel begins: a tingle in the spine, like shorting electrics desperate to earth.”

7 The Author’s Cut by Owen Marshall (Penguin Random House, $36)

Classic stories by the master, repackaged to coincide with the 2021 film based on his story Coming Home in the Dark.

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

Good old Whale Rider, published in 1987.

9 Double Helix by Eileen Merriman (Penguin Random House, $36)

Reviewed by Tiffany Matsis at ReadingRoom: “Jake has recently returned to Dunedin to start his second year at medical school. Dunedin, the city where his mother died horribly and tortuously from Huntington’s disease just three years ago. Dunedin, the city where Emily lives. Can she let herself fall in love with someone who might break her heart by leaving too soon? … A powerful book on many different levels – an entertaining and quite adorable love story, a riveting medical drama, and a thought-provoking dive into contemporary ethical issues.”

10 Cousins by Patricia Grace (Penguin Random House, $26)

Grace’s 1992 novel, re-issued to coincide with the 2021 film based on her book.


1 Lost and Found by Toni Street (Allen & Unwin, $36.99)

Allen & Unwin, who are responsible for half of the 10 best-selling non-fiction titles over summer, look set to publish the first new number one best-seller of 2022 with the January publication of Don’t Sweat It by Nicky Pellegrino, described as “a refreshing and up-to-the-minute guide to menopause and perimenopause for the modern woman”. It’s set to be a hit – and if it climbs to number one, it will mean that Pellegrino has the best-selling novel and best-selling book of non-fiction in New Zealand at the same time. I don’t know if anyone has ever achieved that result. Possibly Janet Frame?

2 Salad by Margo Flanagan & Rosa Flanagan (Allen & Unwin, $45)

3 Steve Hansen: The Legacy by Gregor Paul (HarperCollins, $49.99)

4 Sonny Bill Williams by Sonny Bill Williams & Alan Duff (Hachette, $49.99)

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

6 The Joy of Gardening by Lynda Hallinan (Allen & Unwin, $45)

7 The Forager’s Treasury by Johanna Knox (Allen & Unwin, $45)

8 Gone Bush by Paul Kilgour (HarperCollins, $39.99)

9 The Edible Backyard by Kath Irvine (Penguin Random House, $50)

10 Note to Self Journal by Rebekah Ballagh (Allen & Unwin, $29.99)

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.

Leave a comment