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


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

The shortlist for the 2022 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards will be announced next week. Greta and Valdin has been longlisted along with the novels at number 4, 7 and 9 in this week’s chart. Good luck to all the authors, in fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. ReadingRoom will be on hand with instant commentary the second the shortlist embargo is lifted at 5am on Wednesday. Exciting!

2 In Amber’s Wake by Christine Leunens (David Bateman, $34.99)

A film version by the Nelson author’s latest novel – a romantic drama, set in the 1980s – will be produced by Mimi Polk Gitlin, whose credits include Thelma & Louise, and Freak Power: The Ballot of the Bomb, a fantastic documentary based on Hunter S Thompson’s fantastical 1970 campaign for sheriff of Pitkin County, Colorado. Below: a still from the documentary, showing a strangely wigged Thompson giving his concession speech at the Hotel Jerome on election night.

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

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

The Wellington author has worked as the publicity manager at Victoria University Press (now renamed as Te Herenga Waka University Press) for eight years, and finished this week. I’ll really miss her. There are actually a lot of very good, very smart comms people in New Zealand publishing – Penny Hartill, Sarah Thornton, Sandra Noakes and Erena Shingade come immediately to mind – but Kirsten had something else, a touch of genius, as the author of the superb ecothriller She’s a Killer and as winner of last year’s Sunday Star Times short story award. She was also that thing all writers crave: a really good reader, someone who cared about the text and what it took to get it down on the page. But as well as an enthusiasm and understanding of literature, she had another, more rare quality: a sense of generosity. She genuinely wanted the best for her authors at VUP – and for anyone who writes, including oafs.

I first heard from Kirsten before she started at VUP. I was writing a weekly fictional series syndicated in six Stuff newspapers. It alternated between the life of Act Party donor and Auckland mother of two Danyel Southwark, and Labour activist Harriet Wakefield who shared her Wellington home with her daughter Hinemoa and her partner Cheng Qi. Both went off the rails. Danyel hit her daughter in a shopping mall, and a member of the public reported her to police. The scandal drove her to drink. Harriet left Cheng Qi for a woman, an ex-lover who was revealed as the birth mother of Hinemoa. The consequences drove Harriet to an addiction to synthetic cannabis. Anyway, melodramatic and terrible, but Kirsten very kindly wrote a letter of praise and encouragement. That meant a lot.

She commented, “I’ve come to the conclusion that first person POV is the hardest to write fiction in. I suppose one of the reasons your first person pieces work is you get voice very well. It’s all about voice. Grace Paley, one of my favourite short fiction writers, has a killer voice.” Well, seven years later, VUP published She’s a Killer, written in first-person POV and that voice (prickly, witty, crazy) is f**king killer.

Cheers and farewell, Kirsten. You’re awesome.

5 by Lani Wendt Young & Sisilia Eteuati (Dalia Malaeulu, $35)

New in the chart: an anthology of short fiction from 38 Oceania women writers

6 Shelter by Douglas Lloyd Jenkins (David Bateman, $34.99)

New in the chart: the debut novel by the well-known design writer, telling a love story spanning two decades set in Auckland, between builder Joe and the enigmatic Leo, who teaches him an appreciation for music and literature.

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

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

9 Kurangaituku by Whiti Hereaka (Huia Publishers, $35)

10 The Frog Prince by James Norcliffe (Penguin Random House, $36.00)


1 Your Money, Your Future by Frances Cook (Penguin Random House, $35)

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

Salads certainly have their place. It’s nice growing lettuces and that. But below is a photo of real food, taken at a party I went to with CK Stead a couple of years ago in South Auckland.

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

4 Words of Comfort by Rebekah Ballagh (Allen & Unwin, $24.99)

5 Don’t Sweat It by Nicky Pellegrino (Allen & Unwin, $36.99)

6 Māori Made Easy by Scotty Morrison (Penguin Random House, $38)

7 Māori Made Easy Workbook 1 / Kete 1 by Scotty Morrison (Penguin Random House, $25)

8 Finding Calm by Sarb Johal (Penguin Random House, $37)

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

10 Imagining Decolonisation by Rebecca Kiddle & Bianca Elkington & Moana Jackson et al (Bridget Williams Books, $14.99)

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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