1 On the Record by Steven Joyce (Allen & Unwin, $37.99)

Woah! Number one with a bullet, in its first week; and a copy of the memoirs by an unsullied legend of National Party politics is up for grabs in this week’s free book giveaway. To enter the draw, tell us what you think of Steven Joyce. Political analysis welcome; psychological portrait acceptable; anything genuinely interesting is worthwhile. Email your remarks to with the subject line in screaming caps I WANT A COPY OF STEVEN JOYCE’S BOOK. Entries close on Sunday, August 27 at midnight.

I’ve rifled through a few pages and although it struck me as boring as batshit, that it was absent of wit and good prose and self-examination, it had a robust energy about it, and the pages have a strange nostalgic glow: as National prepares to re-enter government in the coming election, Joyce’s book is a reminder of the best of the party at the best of times, led by Key with Joyce being practical and diligent and sensible across all areas 24/7. The book ends with the blue bloodbaths of Simon Bridges, Judith Collins, JLR, and, the worst of the lot, the most underhand and duplicitous – who Joyce treats with thrilling disdain and doesn’t bother with the usual tactic of going easy on him cos he’s, you know, BOO HOO!, mentally unwell – Todd Muller. Joyce then makes the case that he was actually really relieved he was overlooked as National leader. But his affectation of supreme indifference is hard to take seriously. I bet he really wanted it and was really gutted not to get it. He took politics seriously and knew how to manage. On The Record documents his glory years. They also anticipate and tap into a feeling that glory days are on their way again.

2 Our Land in Colour by Jock Phillips & Brendan Graham (HarperCollins, $55)

3 The Art of Winning by Dan Carter (Penguin Random House, $40.00)

4 Fungi of Aotearoa by Liv Sisson (Penguin Random House, $45.00)

5 From the Pilot’s Seat by Fletcher McKenzie (Penguin Random House, $40)

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

7 Eat Up New Zealand: The Bach Edition by Al Brown (Allen & Unwin, $49.99)

8 Far North by David White & Angus Gillies (Upstart Press, $39.99)

True-crime yarn about a failed drug import into New Zealand; its publication ties in with a new TV show about it, starring Temuera Morrison.

9 Hands in the Dirt: Grow your own kai with Mrs Evans by Leah Evans (Allen & Unwin, $45)

Beginner’s guide to growing beetroot, beans, broccoli, carrots, cucumber, herbs, pumpkin, leafy greens, potatoes, zucchini and tomatoes; me want.

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


1 The Bone Tree by Airana Ngarewa (Hachette, $37.99)

A free copy of the new bestseller was up for grabs in last week’s free book giveaway at ReadingRoom. Readers were asked to make any kind of remark about the author or his book, based on what they’d read or heard; it was an immensely popular contest, with lots of good entries; the best are as below.

A couple whose names I best withhold wrote, “We are grandparents caught up in the Family Court system in a bid to protect our precious mokopuna from a cycle of violence. We would love to read this book.”

Emma wrote, “The setting by Taranaki maunga makes me want to immerse myself in this book. I’m so over our bookclub books which barely scratch their settings. It sounds like Airana Ngarewa writes like a boss, especially as he hated school, yet has become a writer.”

Sharon wrote, “I took a sneaky peaky of the book whilst passing Whitcoulls at Sylvia Park. It caught my eye on the new books table. I can tell when reading a book that if the first paragraph of the first page jumps out at me, it’s going to be a good read and quickly after scanning five pages I knew it to be a potential top seller. I love the raw truth about the childhood of the character. I identify with Kauri. I am 67, Māori wahine, my background was similar. I feel the passion and the pain Airana expresses so well … If I am so lucky to win this book I will pass it on as I always do to others to enjoy. Because that’s what books are for, to be shared.”

But the winner is Feby Idrus, who wrote, “When I saw that Airana Ngarewa had a book out, I went, Oh, I know that name. I’m a volunteer proofreader type person for the journal Headland, as well as a short story writer, and I’ve read his plainspoken stories before in magazines and journals about the place, so I guess I’ve seen him round the traps, so to speak. Then I saw that ReadingRoom had done a whole article on him and I clicked on the link and saw the photo of him in MMA gear – bare-chested, Venum shorts, four ounce gloves – and thought: Whaaaa? As well as being a writerly type person, I’m also the partner of a former mixed martial artist and current Brazilian jiu-jitsu teacher, so I immediately recognised Airana’s photo as one of him walking out before a cage fight.

“Then I went on to read that Airana is a teacher. There are famous examples of MMA fighters being teachers – most teach a martial art of some kind, and Rich Franklin fought in the UFC while also being a maths teacher in Ohio – but an mixed martial artist who’s a teacher and a writer? That’s a bit cool.

“Anyway, I don’t know the guy, but I know that he, like me, has been steadily pushing his writing boat out over the years, and he teaches, like me, and he probably watched today’s UFC event, like me, so I feel like if I saw him across a crowded room, I’d probably give him a head nod. And then congratulate him, very sincerely, on doing the thing we’re all trying to do: get a book out.”

Fantastic entry. Huzzah to Feby! A free copy of The Bone Tree is hers.

2 Pet by Catherine Chidgey (Te Herenga Waka University Press, $38)

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, $38)

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

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

7 The Waters by Carl Nixon (Penguin Random House, $37)

8 Hiwa: Contemporary Māori Short Stories edited by Paula Morris & Darryn Joseph (Auckland University Press, $45)

ReadingRoom is running three short stories from this excellent anthology. The first appeared last week, and was actually really popular, lots of views: “Work and Income Gothic”  by Jack Remiel Cottrell.

9 Tangi by Witi Ihimaera (Penguin Random House, $30)

I saw the author on Thursday. He was sitting outside a cafe on Jervois Rd and eating a club sandwich.

10 Tung by Robyn Maree Pickens (Otago University Press, $25)

Poetry. Blurbology ravings: “It is attuned to the fine murmurings of the earth and to the louder sound and content of human languages.”

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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