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


1 Kāwai by Monty Soutar (David Bateman, $39.99)

Number one for the ninth consecutive week.

2 The Axeman’s Carnival by Catherine Chidgey (Te Herenga Waka University Press, $35)

Novel told by a magpie, which reminds me of this gothic observation as told by Dick Porter of Havelock North in a 1993 issue of Notornis, the magazine of New Zealand birdwatching: “On a farm near Bridge Pa, Hastings, I saw a Skylark being chased, killed, and eaten by a Black-backed Magpie. The Skylark tried to escape by diving steeply and landing on rough ground about 10m away. The Magpie swooped at the Skylark, which then took off and flew through a nearby eucalypt tree, with the Magpie a couple of metres behind. The Skylark headed for a car about 20 m away and landed underneath it. The Magpie landed beside the car, and the Skylark then moved under the vehicle, and flew again toward the eucalypt tree. The Magpie saw it leave and resumed the chase. The Skylark flew into a flock of three other Skylarks and two Welcome Swallows but still did not manage to shake the Magpie off. A few seconds later, the Skylark again landed on the ground near the car. This time the Magpie landed, ran up to the bird, picked it up in its bill and smacked it once on the ground. The Magpie then pulled feathers out of the Skylark and began to eat it. After about a minute it moved the body about 5m and then ate more of it. The Magpie fed for about five minutes before it flew away. The Magpie discarded most of the body, head, feet and wings of the lark, eating only part of the gut and most of the muscle…The impression I gained from this incident was that the Magpie had selected that Skylark and nothing was going to stop it from catching it.”

3 The Doctor’s Wife by Fiona Sussman (David Bateman, $37.99)

4 Tarquin the Honest: The Hand of Glodd by Gareth Ward (David Bateman, $34.99)

5 Eddy, Eddy by Kate De Goldi (Allen & Unwin, $29.99)

6 Harbouring by Jenny Pattrick (Penguin Random House, $30)

7 Kāwai by Monty Soutar (David Bateman, $49.99)

The hardback version.

8 Return to Harikoa Bay by Owen Marshall (Penguin Random House, $37)

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

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

The great Manawatu will write, at length, about JC Sturm’s classic short story collection The House of the Talking Cat in ReadingRoom next week, when Talia Marshall takes control as guest editor. Talia has also commissioned a stunning portrait of Auckland life in the 1980s by novelist Kelly Ana Morey, and a moving portrait of lesbian writer Heather McPherson by lesbian writer Emer Lyons.

The cover of Auē was designed by Makaro publisher Mary McCallum with images by Penny Howard.


1 Wawata by Hinemoa Elder (Penguin Random House, $30)

2 Straight Up by Ruby Tui (Allen & Unwin, $36.99)

The Black Ferns play England in the sports event of the year, the World Cup final, at a sold-out Eden Park on Saturday night; Tui’s form inspired this fantastic column from Mark Reason, at Stuff: “Thank you, Ruby Tui. You helped some of us fall in love with rugby all over again. You reminded us what a beautiful sport rugby is when it becomes a game of evasion rather than collision. You reminded us what it is like to play with joy and vision and skill and bravery. You showed us that if you have the spirit, then you can ride your unicorn out of the deepest spiral of despair and reach that rainbow.”

Tui’s memoir, as told to Margie Thomson, is one of the best books of the year. In an excerpt at ReadingRoom, she described an event in her childhood: “I’ve got a surprise for you, Dad said one day. I was 11 years-old. We were driving around in his van, and I just looked at him. And he dropped a bombshell. ‘You’ve got a sister. She’s sixteen and she works at KFC. Do you want to go see her?’ An older sibling, just like I’d always wished for….We went to KFC and Dad sat down and he made me line up to be served. And there she was behind the counter. I was so excited and nervous and shy and I didn’t know if she knew who I was, and I didn’t know what to say. I said hi, and she and Dad must have been talking because she did seem to know who I was, and she said hi, too. I ordered whatever I ordered and she added a chocolate bar and a drink to the tray. No one had ever given me free stuff before. I felt so cool.”

3 Simple Fancy by Margo Flanagan & Rosa Flanagan (Allen & Unwin, $45)


4 Kai by Christall Lowe (David Bateman, $59.99)


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

6 Rooms by Jane Ussher (Massey University Press, $85)

7 Whānaukai by Naomi Toilalo (HarperCollins Publishers, $55)


8 Dish Summer by Sarah Tuck & Claire Aldous (SCG Media, $45)


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


10 Learning to be French (and failing) by Anna Bibby (Allen & Unwin, $45)

Book about a Kiwi finding a place to live in the south of France. From a story in NZ Life & Leisure magazine: “After initially looking along the southern coast, she followed the suggestion of Chrystelle Baran (of Baran de Bordeaux Antiques in Auckland) to visit the Dordogne. Although never having heard of the region, which she later discovered is very popular with Anglo-Saxon holidaymakers, she loved it. In France’s south west, the area, with its rolling countryside, hectares of walnut trees, quaint medieval villages and 1500 chateaux often perched precariously above the Dordogne River, was magnificent. Just days before she was due to fly back to Auckland, her real estate agent took her on an early evening detour a few kilometers outside her target zone to the valley of the Dordogne. This region in the northern Lot, famous for its foie gras, canard, truffles and walnuts took Anna’s breath away. ‘As soon as the agent parked the car in Martel I knew that this was it, this was the village I wanted to live in,’ she said.”

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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