We continue our series of summer holiday snaps to illustrate the bestseller chart with this adorable photo posted on the Twitter account of Mitch Allison, showing his daughter Amelie, 10, with Jacinda Ardern at Lyall Bay beach – where Ardern and partner Clarke Gayford headed after her emotional farewell from Parliament on Wednesday.


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

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

The longlist for the 2023 Ockham New Zealand national book awards will be announced on Thursday, February 2, including 10 books competing for $64,000 as winner of the Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for fiction; it would be awesome if the longlist found room for Kāwai, after all the biggest-selling New Zealand novel of 2022 by a long, long stretch. The writing is generally quite poor. It’s clunky, and heavy-handed. But there’s no doubting the power and storytelling of Soutar’s debut, a sweeping historical novel set in Aotearoa in the 1700s, before the arrival of whitey.

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

3 The Whale Rider by Witi Ihimaera (Penguin Random House, $26)

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

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

2022 was another good year for New Zealand crime fiction – there were new books by JP Pomare and Paul Cleave, Poor People with Money by Dominic Hoey (below) was exciting, and Michael Bennett cleverly worked in colonisation as a theme of his book Better than Blood – but the most successful was The Doctor’s Wife, Auckland writer Fiona Sussman’s debut. From Jessie Nielson’s review at Kete: ” Browns Bay is a popular and scenic site, bookended by high cliffs. One unremarkable day the body of wealthy Tibbie Lamb is found, swirling at its base. Murder or suicide seems to be the dilemma and while police reach a preliminary verdict, this is soon overturned….”

A free copy is up for grabs in this week’s ReadingRoom giveaway. To enter the draw, email stephen11@xtra.co.nz with the subject line in screaming caps I WANT TO READ ABOUT A MURDER IN BROWNS BAY, and briefly describe the real-life New Zealand murder which has exercised the strongest fascination or horror or sense of injustice upon your mind. Entries close on Monday, January 30, at midnight.

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

Last year’s winner of Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for fiction.

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

Winner of the 2020 Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for fiction.

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

I really rate this book, and hope like hell it makes the longlist of the Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for fiction. It’s a fast, tense, and physical thriller, about drugs and money, set in shabby central Auckland and then in the empty, seething Far North.

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

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

From the best review of Reilly’s novel, by Becky Manawatu in Pantograph Punch: “Reilly uses expository dialogue – and not to the story’s detriment. I believe it is a theme of the book: to kōrero. To wānanga, lay a hāngi or share an auflauf, smoke a fish – kahawai, their mum Betty’s favourite – and party while talking, while revealing yourself and others through talking. What moves you, fucks you off, cracks you up. Figure out what’s got your brother, sister, mum, nephew hōhā. To talk about people not in the room with a genuine wish for them to be all good. For their brilliance to be seen and adored. This, I believe, is the tenderness Reilly achieves through her love for these characters, which translates page by page, word by word, to a love of people.”


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

Emma Christoffersen of Wellington won a free copy of Wawata in last week’s giveaway contest at ReadingRoom. Readers were asked to describe a whakataukī (the subject of Hinemoa Elder’s previous book, Aroha) which has particular personal meaning. Emma wrote, “I completed the He Pī Ka Pao level 1 & 2 course at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa last year (through my work). I always thought I couldn’t pronounce te reo Māori and couldn’t learn it and felt embarrassed about my lack of knowledge of Māori culture. This whakataukī really speaks to me because of how important learning te reo and sharing that knowledge with others has been to me: Whāia te mātauranga hei oranga mō koutou (Seek knowledge for the sake of your wellbeing.)”

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

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

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

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

My daughter Minka and her pal Zahra were on Ponsonby Rd on Thursday, and spotted Ruby Tui at the Blue Breeze. They went in and Minka told Ruby she had just this week started reading Straight Up, and loving it, which she absolutely is; I gave her my copy on Monday. And so then they did this of course. 

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

7 Māori Made Easy Workbook 1/Kete 1 by Scotty Morrison (Penguin Random House, $25)

Whāia te mātauranga hei oranga mō koutou (Seek knowledge for the sake of your wellbeing.)

8 Yum! By Nadia Lim (Nude Food Inc, $55)

9 Ripe Recipes – Thought For Food by Angela Redfern (Beatnik Publishing, $59.99)

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

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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