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)

Disturbing news from the 2022 Ockham national book awards: the live event may be cancelled, in favour of one of those desperately boring and remote online things. I put it to New Zealand Book Awards Trust chair Nicola Legat on Thursday. She replied, “Still to be announced Steve, and we will be doing so very soon. There is quite a lot in play and it is a difficult time for anyone with a big event to plan.”

I replied, “Many would be devastated if NZ’s premier book event was to be shoved online. What has been the feedback from publishers / booksellers etc? The online awards in 2020 were an unwatchable fiasco. What assurances can you give if you hold it virtually next month?”

She answered, “We are consulting widely. Everyone who has had to switch to online in the last two years has learnt a lot about how to do this well.”

GAH! But oh well. Bloody old Covid and that. The show must go on, sort of. Three novels in this week’s chart have been shortlisted for the Ockham’s fiction prize – Rebecca K Reilly’s Greta and Valdin (number one for the eighth consecutive week!), Entanglement by Bryan Walpert, and Kurangaituku by Whiti Hereaka, who has more than just her heart set on attending the awards in real life: she is planning to put the very essence of the tragic title character on public display at the Ockhams. See below, at number 4.

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

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

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

The author is designing a costume of Kurangaituku, the bird-woman of Mokoia Island, to wear at the Ockham awards, and has taken to the Twitter machine these past few weeks with updates. She wrote on Tuesday, “I finished my ruru/owl mask for my #ockhamoutfit! I glued feathers to the mask (some I had to trim so I had tiny feathers for around the eyes) and – of course – some fluff around the beak just like a ruru.” Photographic evidence, below; let’s hope she gets to wear it at an actually live Ockham event.

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

The author wrote at ReadingRoom recently, “Love is the most beautiful, poetic reality of life, one at its very essence, giving the deepest meaning to existence. You can’t fake it. In my new novel In Amber’s Wake, I make a brief allusion to the two French DGSE agents involved in the Rainbow Warrior bombing, Captain Dominique Prieur and Major Alain Mafart, who masqueraded as a honeymooning Swiss couple. Housekeepers at a hotel where they stayed noticed discrepancies between what they would have expected of a room occupied by newlyweds and what their room actually looked like, in all its telling details, which they later reported to police.”

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

7 The Whale Rider by Whiti Ihimaera (Penguin Random House, $26)

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

The subject of a rave review this week, at the Sydney Morning Herald: “Sue Orr’s Loop Tracks is artful literary fiction. It’s 1978 and 16-year-old Charlie is due to fly from New Zealand to Sydney to have ‘her situation’ sorted out, abortion being unavailable in Auckland at the time. She faces a hitch when her plane stays fatefully grounded on the tarmac. Decades later, Charlie lives with her teenage grandson Tommy…An assured and mature novel.”

9 Poetry New Zealand Yearbook 2022 by Tracey Slaughter (Massey University Press, $37)

Slaughter’s anthology is a reminder that titles have taken particular shapes in New Zealand poetry in recent years. There are numerous long, leisurely, breathy titles, such as “a Woman’s Weekly interview with the Briscoes lady, to mark 30 years of being the Briscoes lady” by Paula Harris, and “your abusive ex texts you every August from a new number” by Lily Holloway; and numerous terse little titles that use pronouns to speak to the culture, such as “Tramadol panic dream” by Isabel Howarth and “Bowie at Slane” by Jack Ross.

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


1 Grand by Noelle McCarthy (Penguin Random House, $35)

The best book of the year (thus far), the book everyone is talking about, the book that has gone straight to number one in its first week; alcohol and a mother’s love form the two powerful and obviously resonant themes in McCarthy’s memoir, which ReadingRoom devoted all last week to, with a long excerpt, an even longer interview, and an epic review by Rachael King, who wrote, “At the heart of this book is a revelation about lines of women in families, and trauma, and how it has the potential to repeat. In fiction, in myth, we’d say we are doomed to repeat it….You’d never wish material this good for a memoir on anyone. It’s complex, thrilling and raw. It even has a perfect beginning, middle and end. It’s the opposite of comfort reading. And yet the ending is so tender, peaceful.” Get.

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

The other book everyone is talking about. Chanelle (main photo, in front of her bookcase) explained in ReadingRoom on Wednesday, “I wrote my book, I Am Autistic, to help autistics feel understood and validated.”

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

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

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

6 Simple Wholefoods by Sophie Steevens (Allen & Unwin, $49.99)

The author writes in the Coconut Bowls site of her plant-based recipes, “It kind of all begun about 3 years ago when I was diagnosed with Graves’ Disease.  When you have a health scare like that it really wakes you up! I read and researched as much as possible and am so thankful I choose a plant-based lifestyle. It has impacted my life in such a positive way and I’ve honestly never felt better.”

7 Toi Tu Toi Ora by Nigel Borrell (Penguin Random House, $65)

The best illustrated book of the year by a long distance. Based on the ground-breaking 2020-21 exhibition staged by Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki, and edited by the show’s curator Nigel Borell, Toi Tu Toi Ora tells the story of contemporary Māori art from the 1950s to the present day, with more than 200 works by 110 Māori artists. The foreword is by matua Moana Jackson, who died last week; as though his spirit has wasted no time in returning, his writing also features in the next book.

8 Imagining Decolonisation by Rebecca Kiddle & Bianca Elkington et al., $14.99)

Powerful collection of essays by various contributors, including Moana Jackson. Aaron Smales has joined Newsroom as Māori Issues Editor and wrote  from Jackson’s tangi in Hawkes Bay this week,  “His long-time colleague and friend Annette Sykes referred to him as her Ariki, the rangatira above rangatira, the highest expression of humanity. She referenced Bob Marley’s line ’emancipate yourself from mental slavery’ to describe the power of Moana’s work. She said there were those who always wanted to tame the radical challenge that Moana’s thought represented. But his words and work could not be co-opted or compromised because he could not be compromised.”

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

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

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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