The first King’s Birthday Nielsen BookScan New Zealand bestseller list, described by Steve Braunias 


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

Next week’s Book of the Week review at ReadingRoom is by Philip Matthews (crowned Best Reviewer at last year’s Voyager Media Awards, for his reviews at ReadingRoom) of Pet, the latest novel by the one and only Catherine Chidgey. Is it possible she will become the only novelist in recent memory – maybe ever, I don’t know – to be the author of the number one bestselling book and the number two bestselling book?

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

3 Everything is Beautiful and Everything Hurts by Josie Shapiro (Allen & Unwin, $36.99)

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

5 PS Come to Italy by Nicky Pellegrino (Hachette, $36.99)

6 The Last Days of Joy by Anne Tiernan (Hachette, $36.99)

7 The Deck by Fiona Farrell (Penguin Random House, $37)

“I love novels that you fall into and languish, trusting that each word will be perfectly placed, that each action will be either consistent or surprising, that each character will be rounded and real. Fiona Farrell’s sumptuously written, impeccably paced and frankly terrifying new novel, The Deck, exactly fits”: from Paddy Richardson’s rave review of a novel set on Banks Peninsula.

8 The Glasgow Smile by Chris Stuart (Original Sin Press, $35)

Latest crime novel by a previous winner of the Ngaio Marsh Best First Novel Award. Synopsis: “In a grimy graffiti-covered recess in one of Melbourne’s tangled inner city laneways, a woman is found murdered. ‘Why would anyone want to kill her? She was so ordinary,’ was the oft-repeated phrase DI Robbie Gray heard when the name of the deceased was revealed.

“So why, then, she asked herself, was the body found propped up in such an extraordinary position, almost as if she was intimate with the portrait on the wall. Was this death intended to be symbolic, or was the placement merely a device to deceive?”

That’s um quite a cover.

9 One of Those Mothers by Megan Nicol Reed (Allen & Unwin, $36.99)

The author recently spoke at the Central Hawkes Bay Literary Festival. I have received this information: “Megan had CHB agog with her frank and open discussions of her book and her life.” Another onlooker emailed, “She read out a passage which traverses a lot of the book’s central themes. It also contained one of the novel’s raciest scenes. The good farmers’ wives of the Central Hawkes Bay did not quite know what had hit them.”

10 Landed by Sue McCauley (David Bateman, $37.99)

McCauley, too, recently spoke at the Central Hawkes Bay Literary Festival. I was told: “She brought the house (well Waipawa Museum) down.”


1 Whakawhetai: Gratitude by Hira Nathan (Allen & Unwin, $36.99)

The author of this wonderful gratitude journal with te ao Māori at its core has written a self-portrait for ReadingRoom and it is one of the best pieces of writing we will publish in 2023. It might appear next week.

2 Fungi of Aotearoa by Liv Sisson (Penguin Random House, $45)

3 There’s a Cure for This by Emma Espiner (Penguin Random House, $35)

A free copy of the good doctor’s essay collection was up for grabs in last week’s book giveaway. But it was all a bit disappointing.

Amy McDaid, writing in the New Zealand Review of Books site, described the book thus: “Espiner tells tales of debauched student life at Otago and her anxieties as a mother as springboards for a deeper conversation around intergenerational trauma and its ramifications for Māori.” And so readers were asked to write about either a) their debauched student life b) their anxieties as a parent, or c) enter into a deep conversation around intergenerational trauma and its ramifications for Māori.

However everyone only chose a). What, are deep conversations around intergenerational trauma and its ramifications for Māori a bit much for ReadingRoom readers? That’s kind of the essential point of the book.

Worse, the tales of debauchery duly arrived, and they were all very not all that debauched. Among those who entered were Brian, who wrote about some ancient student prank where “two enterprising partygoers attempted to hide up the chimney flue”. Peter’s email began, “1969, flatting in Christchurch. It was just after the 24-hour beer drinking race that we crated 12 dozen empty big brown bottles of that era” – I didn’t get any further. And then there was Emma, who wrote, “Maybe not debauched but I did steal something while at uni once and I felt compelled to tell my husband about it last week. I’m not sure why.

“In the dormitories of Canterbury Uni, a guy brought his electric guitar and amp for us all to enjoy. He’d pull it out into the hallway, turn it up and make us all listen to his really shit playing.

“So one day, the playing just stopped mid-awful song. I popped my head out into the hallway and the guitar and amp were sitting alone. I took my chance and ran down the hall, unplugged the guitar and made off with the cord. He kept asking around about it and I played dumb. Our hall got about seven months of guitar-free bliss.

“Four weeks before graduation, he got kicked out of uni. And on one of his trips up and down the stairs to collect his stuff, the cord appeared undamaged but a little dusty, beside his door. He just shouted ‘Thank you’ down the hallway and left.”

I think that guy showed a lot of class. If he is reading this, or if anyone knows who this guy is and can get in touch with him, he will win a free copy of There’s a Cure for This. He’s the only one who deserves it. O scorned guitarist! Are you out there? Come forward, and claim your prize. I feel sure Emma Espiner – rebel, outsider, the soul of an artist – would approve.

4 Second Chances by Hayley Holt (HarperCollins, $39.99)

5 Winter Warmers by Philippa Cameron (Allen & Unwin, $49.99)

6 From There to Here by Joe Bennett (HarperCollins, $35)

A free copy of the great Christchurch prose stylist’s memoir is up for grabs in this week’s book giveaway. Good old Joe; no one writes like him; in addition to his syndicated newspaper column, he also writes a fantastic column for New Zealand Gardener magazine. I love New Zealand Gardener magazine. I love Joe’s columns in New Zealand Gardener magazine, which only glancingly have anything to do with gardens – and yet have everything to do with nature, with beauty, with sunlight and shadow. To enter the draw for a copy of From There to Here, email with the subject line in screaming caps I WANT THE PLEASURE OF JOE BENNETT’S COMPANY, and attach a photo of a garden that evokes nature, that evokes beauty, that evokes sunlight and shadow. A few words wouldn’t hurt. Entries close on Monday, June 5, at midnight.

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

8 Together by Cherie Metcalfe (Allen & Unwin, $45)

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

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

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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