The Nielsen BookScan New Zealand bestseller list this summer, described by Steve Braunias

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

The biggest-selling novel of 2022 (set in pre-European Aotearoa in the 1700s) just kept on selling over Xmas and the New Year, and has held the number one spot for something like 10 weeks.

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

Te Papa chief exec Courtney Johnson wrote on her blog this week, “Is The Axeman’s Carnival the great New Zealand novel? I know it’s not a question we ask but for me – Pākehā New Zealand, child and grandchild and great-grandchild of farmers – maybe it is….It sits within New Zealand’s tradition of the cinema of unease, that gothic haunting of the settler imagination. It’s full of symbol and threat and tension….One of the greatest works of storytelling I’ve read in such a long time, effortless and memorable.”

3 Greta and Valdin by Rebecca K Reilly (Te Herenga Waka University Press, $35)

Max Harris, author of The New Zealand Project (2017), took to the Twitter machine in January to write, “Rebecca K. Reilly’s Greta & Valdin is just as good as everyone says it is – or better. I cracked up out loud reading it – a book that is tender, sharp, and totally compelling. There have been some wonderful books in the last few years about young working people in Auckland.”

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

“Subtle, intense, very funny and very sad, this is a richly layered novel written with elegance, style and love”: Paddy Richardson, ReadingRoom.

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

19th Century melodrama from a master of the historical novel.

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

The newly revitalised Bateman had a fantastic year in 2022, with Kāwai by Monty Soutar, and also this taut and expert thriller by a former GP. The blurb takes you there, immediately: “Nothing in pottery teacher Stan Andino’s regular existence prepares him for the moment he discovers his wife naked, except for a black apron, bleaching a stain from the lounge carpet that only she can see.”

7 Auē by Becky Manawatu (Mākaro Press, $35)

Yes, good old Auē; excitingly, the publishers hope to release the sequel, Kataraina, in September.

8 Poor People with Money by Dominic Hoey (Penguin Random House, $37)

Named one of the 10 best novels of 2022.

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

Winner of the 2022 Jann Medlicott Acorn prize for fiction at the Ockham New Zealand national book awards.

10 The Lighthouse by Christopher Parker (Beacon Press, $34.99)

What, who? Kudos to the Takapuna author for cracking the top 10 sales chart this summer. I’ve not heard of the book or the writer, but it sounds good. From the RNZ site (he was interviewed by Lynn Freeman): “Eight-year-old Amy is mourning her mother’s death. Her father Kevin is desperate to help her, but fears that their relationship is broken beyond repair because he was away from home so much when Amy was growing up. He takes her to the seaside town of Seabook on America’s West Coast, where the big tourist attraction is an historic lighthouse. There Amy meets a troubled young man called Ryan who’s unintentionally about to cause his father a whole lot of grief.” Hm!


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

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

We resume our weekly giveaway contest with a free copy of Dr Elder’s latest book up for grabs. A powerful excerpt from the book appeared in ReadingRoom in October. Her previous book, Aroha (number four, below), was a stunning collection of 52 whakataukī. To enter the draw for Wawata, email with the subject line in screaming caps I LOVE HINEMOA ELDER AND HER BOOK, and describe a whakataukī which has particular personal meaning. Entries close Sunday at midnight, January 22.

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

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

5 The Bookseller at the End of the World by Ruth Shaw (Allen & Unwin, $38.99)

6 Whānaukai by Naomi Toilalo (HarperCollins, $55)

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

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

Named one of the 10 best books of non-fiction of 2022, and the very best cookbook of the year.

9 A History of New Zealand in 100 Objects by Jock Phillips (Penguin Random House, $55)

10 New Zealand Gardens to Visit by Juliet Nicholas & Rosemary Barraclough (Penguin Random House, $55)

Sue McRae of Masterton won a free copy of this beautiful book late last year in a ReadingRoom giveaway contest. Readers were asked to send in a photo of something amazing in their own garden; Sue sent in a picture of thrush eggs in a nest in the wisteria wrapped around her veranda. I asked for an update and she sent in this photo on December 31. Aw is for awesome.

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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