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)

Number one for the seventh consecutive week.

2 The Fish by Lloyd Jones (Penguin Random House, $36)

Number two for the third consecutive week.

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

For the second consecutive week, we raid the author’s Twitter account to republish a photo of her costume in progress for the Ockham national book awards in May. Kurangaituku, shortlisted for the Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for fiction, is named for the mythical bird-woman of Mokoia Island; the author has every intention of attending the Ockham soiree in character. She wrote on the Twitter machine this week, “Mask is coming along! I’m thinking of putting mesh in the eyes and feathering some of it … I’ve also just ordered some supplies for the head strap to make it adjustable.” Photographic evidence, as below.

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

5 Entanglement by Bryan Walpert (Makaro Press, $35)

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

She’s a Killer is such an engrossing page-turner that 200-odd pages passed me by in a flurry before I even realised. And the action hadn’t even started yet. It’s no mean feat to sustain a reader’s attention over 399 pages but McDougall does just that by smartly eking out tension and deftly unfolding the narrative at a sly pace, all the while keeping us on our toes. I never quite knew where she was about to take us and it’s a heart-pumping thrill of a ride from start to finish”: from a rave review by Kiran Dass.

7 Mary’s Boy, Jean Jacques and Other Stories by Vincent O’Sullivan (Te Herenga Waka University Press, $35)

New collection of short fiction by a veteran master of the form; it was briefly referenced in the ReadingRoom article this week about the riches and joys of New Zealand short stories, as entries open for the Sargeson Prize.

8 Beats of the Pa’u by Maria Samuela (Te Herenga Waka University Press, $30)

New collection of short fiction by a new master of the form; it was briefly referenced in the ReadingRoom article this week about the riches and joys of New Zealand short stories, as entries open for the Sargeson Prize.

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

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


1 Letters to You by Jazz Thornton (Penguin Random House, $30)

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

3 I am Autistic by Chanelle Moriah (Allen & Unwin, $29.99)

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

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

6 Flavourbomb by Belinda MacDonald (Penguin Random House, $45)

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

8 Note to Self by Rebekah Ballagh (Allen & Unwin, $26.99)

9 Imagining Decolonisation by Moana Jackson, Rebecca Kiddle, Bianca Elkington, Ocean Ripeka Mercier, Mike Ross, Jennie Smeaton, Jennie Thomas and Amanda Thomas (Bridget Williams Books, $14.99)

Moana Jackson’s contribution to the essay collection Imagining Decolonisation was excerpted at e-tangata, which rightly described it as “poignant and hope-kindling”. It reads even more poignantly and hope-kindlingly with the sad news of his death on Thursday.

Jackson was an awe-inspiring Māori leader who brought deep thinking to all his work. “Debates without a history are a dead end,” he wrote. And: “Colonisation in New Zealand has produced myth-takes, which is to say deliberately contrived falsehoods about how New Zealand was settled and came into being.” Also: “Martin Luther King’s most profound statement was not his ‘I have a dream’ speech but his statement, ‘The arc of history always curves towards justice.’”

I invited him as guest speaker at the Hamilton Press Club in 2019. He gave a speech which can be rightly described as epic, rigorous, and wise. Hamilton writer Richard Swainson was among the invited guests that day (along with such as Moana Maniopoto, Tau Henare, Shane Te Pou, Leonie Hayden, Tapu Misa and Gary Wilson from e-tangata, Emma Espiner, Golriz Ghahraman and Anjum Rahman, but also Jami-Lee Ross), and wrote about the occasion for Stuff: “If the best leaders are the ones who are reluctant to lead, on the strength of Jackson’s superb if softly spoken oratory, you might say the same of speakers who evidence diffidence.

“His address had a formal perfection to it, announcing its theme and structure at the outset, fleshing out generalisations with concrete examples, usefully employing personal anecdote and embracing a kind of caustic humour without in any way detracting from the seriousness of his intent.

“Racism and colonialism were on the agenda. Christianity was seen as a linchpin of the former, the arrogance of European exploration, ‘discovery’ and conquest the stuff of the latter. Without breaking sweat, Jackson deconstructed the myth of Captain Cook and the absurd ritual of planting flags (or ‘littering’) as a means of commandeering territory.”

All that and more; but among the things I remember most from that day were a mihi by Kingi Kiriroa, a waiata by Moana Maniopoto, and, as he was saying goodbye, the moment when Moana Jackson gave me a hongi.

Moana Jackson, at the launch of Imagining Decolonisation, at Unity Books.

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

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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