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


1 Harbouring by Jenny Pattrick (Penguin Random House, $36)

Woah! The long-awaited return of one of the great masters of New Zealand historical fiction sees her novel hit number one with a bullet in its first week of release. A new Pattrick – the author of The Denniston Rose (2003), one of the biggest-selling New Zealand novels of the millennium – is a publishing event.

Synopsis: “It is 1839 and Huw Pengellin is desperate to find a better life for his family than the one he ekes out in Wales. His wife, Martha, is fully aware just how foolhardy Huw’s schemes can be, but she is keen to escape the foundry slums, as well as Huw’s brother Gareth, with his hot eyes and roving hands. Might Colonel Wakefield’s plans to take settlers to the distant shores of New Zealand offer a solution?

“On the other side of the world, watching the new arrivals, is Hineroa, who is also desperate to find a better life. Will she be a slave forever, will she ever be reunited with her people, and will the ships that keep sailing into the bay bring further trouble?

“Change is underway, not just for these characters but also for the crescent of beach, thick bush and steep hills that are about to become the bustling settlement of Wellington.”

2 The Leonard Girls by Deborah Challinor (HarperCollins, $36.99)

Woah, again! More historical fiction, also racing up the chart in its first week in the shops, also by a master of the form. Challinor is more contemporary and harder-edged in her approach. Synopsis: “In 1969, at the height of the Vietnam war, nurse Rowie Leonard is serving a 12-month tour of duty. She supports the war and is committed to caring for wounded New Zealand and Australian troops. After a few months, however, she realises that nothing at all about the conflict is as clear-cut as she’d assumed.

“Her younger sister, Jo, is the opposite – a student at Auckland University, a folk singer and a fervent anti-war protestor. But when Jo falls for professional soldier Sam Apanui, home on leave to visit his ill father, she finds herself torn between her feelings and her convictions. As the three of them grapple with love, loss, and the stresses and sorrows of war, each will be forced to confront and question everything they believed.”

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

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

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

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

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

“She’s on fire”: reviewer Kiran Dass, on the author of a wildly exciting and popular ecothriller.

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

Yet another rave review in Australia has greeted the publication across the Tasman of Orr’s powerful novel about Charlie, a teenage girl who decides against having an abortion. This, in the Saturday Paper by Geordie Williamson: “Our compassion for Charlie – a prickly involute who cannot help but spy on her grandson and his new girlfriend, and a woman for whom long non-disclosure has hardened into a blockage at once physical and psychological -grows as we become aware of how little she has granted herself over time. The result is a novel of modest, domestic scale, freighted with outsized emotional intensity. The suburban stillness of its setting – the latter sections of which unfold during pandemic lockdown allows the significance of past events to resonate loudly.

“Orr brings wisdom as well as craft to her fiction. Her sentences are weighed to the last syllable, and her characters’ voices are shaped by humour, psychological acuity and an honesty that is painfully raw…Loop Tracks is a novel to shake Australian readers out of our parochial ignorance of writing from across the Tasman, the sort of achievement that local authors should be aspiring to.”

Yes, and: “involute”! What a fantastic word. In geometry, it’s the locus of a point considered as the end of a taut string being unwound from a given curve in the plane of that curve.

9 Meat Lovers by Rebecca Hawkes (Auckland University Press, $24.99)

Dazzling collection of poems about meat, farming, cruelty, hunger, bloodlust, and love. Viz:

The old station-holders used to castrate lambs
to wethers with their teeth – isn’t that your area
of interest? Hard men rousing on the muster
posing the evergreen question: to spit or swallow?
But think how tender those shepherds must have been
with their incisive surgery – the cutting kiss –
and all that bleating.


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


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

The best book of the year so far. Alcohol and a mother’s love form the two powerful and obviously resonant themes in McCarthy’s memoir, which ReadingRoom devoted an entire week to, with a long excerpt, an even longer interview, and an epic review by Rachael King, who wrote, “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.”

2 The Bookseller at the End of the World by Ruth Shaw (Allen & Unwin, $36.99)

Charming vignettes of a bookseller who has two shops in Manapōuri. In an excerpt in ReadingRoom on Monday, she wrote about a customer who picked out very rare and expensive books – because they all had green spines, and she wanted to colour co-ordinate her bookshelf: “I stood looking at her in total disbelief. After about 20 seconds of stunned silence I managed to blurt out, ‘Well, my books have to be read! I will not sell any of my books just to be put in a fake library and forgotten. You can’t buy any of these books!’ She gathered up her things and stormed out of the shop.”

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

The author explained in ReadingRoom last week, “I wrote my book to help autistics feel understood and validated.”

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

5 The Boy from Gorge River by Chris Long (HarperCollins, $39.99)

Memoir of a West Coaster born into New Zealand’s most isolated family. Publisher’s blurbology: “His parents were committed to freedom from capitalist society and connection to the natural world. Chris describes a childhood with nature on his doorstep – helping his father catch crayfish and his mother grow vegetables, playing with toys crafted from driftwood and jade, and learning to live in the wild – until, in his teenage years, he began to wonder: could he survive in the wider world?”

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

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

8 The Good Partner by Karen Nimmo (HarperCollins, $37.99)

Self-helper on relationships by a respected psychologist. One of her subjects is trust – actually, self-trust. She said on Nine To Noon, “We focus a lot on whether we can trust someone else, our partner, but in the end, we can’t control that. We can’t actually keep tabs on our partner. The more important aspect of trust is being able to trust yourself – your choices, your reactions, how you are in a relationship.”

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

10 Imagining Decolonisation by Rebecca Kidde & Bianca Elkington et aL (Bridget Williams, $14.99)

Essays, including a contribution by the late Moana Jackson, who has also written an Introduction to the astonishing and beautiful book of the art exhibition Toi Tu Toi Ora.

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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