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


1 Birnam Wood by Eleanor Catton (Te Herenga Waka University Press, $38)

This week’s book giveaway is special: a hardback copy of Birnam Wood by Eleanor Catton. The paperback has gone straight to number one in the New Zealand charts, and greeted with very favourable reviews here (Rachael King, ReadingRoom: “This is a great book”) and  the UK (The Guardian: “This book is truly great”). It’s a thriller. It’s set in New Zealand, in 2017. It’s got hired mercenaries, do-gooders with troubled consciences, a psychopath, and a blathering right-wing shockjock munter who might remind you of someone. It’s fast and it’s smart and it’s yours, in expensive hardback, gratis, if you win. To enter the draw, imagine the fate you think should befall a blathering right-wing shockjock munter in 100 words or less, or more if the fate you imagine can only be described at length, and email it to, with the subject line in screaming caps I REALLY WANT TO READ BIRNAM WOOD BY ELEANOR CATTON. Get in fast or go slow: the giveaway will extend to next week’s chart as well, as befits a rare opportunity for one person to take possession of a very handsome $50 hardback copy of Birnam Wood. Entries close on Sunday midnight, March 12.

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

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

4 Birnam Wood by Eleanor Catton (Te Herenga Waka University Press, $50)

The hardback version, up for grabs in this week’s book giveaway (see above).

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

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

7 Letter to ‘Oumuamua by James Norcliffe (Otago University Press, $25)

The poet’s 11th collection. These lines are about Penguin Modern Classics:

We cannot help being dog-eared,

fly-spotted and ever so slightly foxed

as you are, dear reader, even as you are, even as

the fire goes out and the coffee goes cold.

Really good cover.

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

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

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

It wouldn’t be correct to say the long-awaited return of historical fiction superstar and Denniston Rose author Jenny Pattrick to her chosen field was underwhelming – Harbouring sold its socks off, and gained a loyal audience – but it was somewhat overshadowed by two other historical novels published in 2022, Kāwai by Monty Soutar, and Mrs Jewell and the Wreck of the General Grant by Cristina Sanders. Both have been longlisted for the fiction prize at this year’s Ockhams, as has The Axeman’s Carnival by Catherine Chidgey (number three this week); the shortlist is announced next Wednesday, at dawn. ReadingRoom will be up early to provide instant blathering analysis.


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

2 Be Your Best Self by Rebekah Ballagh (Allen & Unwin, $32.99)

3 Fear: New Zealand’s hostile underworld of extremists by Byron C Clark (HarperCollins, $39.99)

Last week’s book giveaway was a free copy of Fear, Byron C Clark’s timely investigation into extremists, or crypto-fascist racist shitheads, or alternative thinkers, or whatever you wish to name them. Readers were asked to describe an experience with these kinds of New Zealanders. There were a lot of entries and most of them made for sad reading. Quite a few people asked for anonymity and I think that’s totally fair enough; the last thing anyone needs is grief from the mad.

There was this entry, from X: “My most recent experience was unusual – a cashier as Farmers Te Rapa, Hamilton was telling every customer she was serving about govt conspiracy ‘cloud seeding’ and causing all the flooding, how they control the weather and that it’s the WEF trying to control us. Bizarre.”

From another X: “A woman I know who used to be police officer told me straight-faced that she knew the Government was sending maleficent vibrations through the air to affect the protesters in the Wellington Parliament occupation – because she could hear them when Trevor Mallard had loud music blasting out. She knew, because she was there, and she’d done her own research…”

From a third X, at length: “My father is prone to far-right thinking and conspiracy theories. He once almost joined some sort of race-based armed group back in the late 80s or early 90s – I wish I knew the name of it, but I can’t get anything about it out of either him or Mum. Believes that British culture is better than any other, believed in the ‘lost tribe of Israel’ white supremacist conspiracy theory, refused to let me learn Maori at school, owns a MAGA hat.. I could go on.

“I haven’t spoken to him in a few years now – it’s probably a good thing, as I stopped contact with him before Covid, and he would probably be down that rabbit hole now too. I have unfortunately lost a cousin to the Covid conspiracy theories though. The sad thing is, I used to think like him while I was a teenager and into my early 20s – I eventually grew a spine and my very own brain.”

The winning entry – yes, that’s right, from another X – also told about a mad Dad: “My lovely, kind 90-year old father, always on the right of the political spectrum (ie a life long National Party supporter), has gone from being overjoyed at the presidency of Barack Obama, to becoming a Trump supporter and now has an assassination list (he doesn’t own a gun) and buys extreme right wing literature. He has gone from respect for the social fabric to vehement rage…. I would like to understand how this could happen when he himself is so internet illiterate. I would love to win a copy of Byron Clark’s book.” X will receive a copy of Byron C Clark’s crypto-fascist racist alternative-thinking extremist shithead Kryptonite in due course.

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

5 Aroha by Hinemoa Elder (Penguin Random House, $30.00)

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

7 The Queen’s Wife by Joanne Drayton (Penguin Random House, $40)

Could this be the year’s best memoir? The publisher’s advance blather is fairly foaming at the mouth with excitement: “In 1989, two married women met by chance. They instantly hit it off, but little did they know that their new relationship would turn their lives upside-down. This is the true story of that relationship, which threatened to cost them their children, families and friends and forced them to reassess their sexuality, identity and heritage. Along the way, one — an acclaimed biographer — was to explore the power of objects, while the other — a painter — was to follow her whakapapa back to the first Māori king, Te Wherowhero.”

Frankly bizarre cover.

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

9 The Sharesies Guide to Investing by Brooke Roberts & Leighton Roberts & Sonya Williams (Allen & Unwin, $36.99)

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

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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