Brooke van Velden, Act's deputy leader, is seen here at her Wellington flat, with a marvellously diverse bookcase that includes a Vonnegut, Mophead by Selina Tusitala Marsh, some Bill Brysons, two (two!) copies of Max Rashbrooke's Too Much Money (a text that should be anathema to an Act Party politician), fantasy superstar N K Jamesin's Fifth Season and the Gilded ones by Namina Forna (both anti-racist left-wing darlings) and Alan Moore's Watchmen, a graphic novel that deconstructs superhero comics as fascist propaganda. Brooke comments: "I have loved reading since I was a child. In year 6 I won a prize for reading every book in the local library." Bookcase rating: 10/10


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

Number one for the seventh straight week. A free copy was up for grabs in last week’s book giveaway; readers were asked to comment about another example of contemporary Māori writing as featured in the new anthologies Te Awa o Kupu (fiction and poetry) and Ngā Kupu Wero (nonfiction). The winning entry came from Chris Fitzpatrick, who nominated the flash fiction story  “Reasons why I called in sick rather than go to the mihi whakatau for new employees last Friday” by Jack Remiel Cottrell. Chris’s comment: “Jack’s writing made me cringe, laugh and shudder with recognition, empathy and shame.”

Huzzah to Chris! A free copy of The Bone Tree by Airana Ngarewa is theirs.

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

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

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

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

I popped over to see my neighbour Stacy Gregg for a cup of tea on Thursday. We talked about American Psycho, the Sex Pistols, bad love, side tables, Christopher Luxon’s poor performance at the leaders’ debate, her not knowing who her mother’s father was and me not knowing who my father’s father was, and Pet by Catherine Chidgey. She said she had just finished reading it. I asked her if I could borrow her copy and she said yes. I’ll read it this weekend.

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

7 Root Leaf Flower Fruit by Bill Nelson (Te Herenga Waka University Press, $30)

Novel told in verse. From Ashleigh Young’s launch speech: “The story goes something like: a young man wakes up from an accident, mud in his mouth, his fingernails, his ears. The world feels different and he can’t say in what way. He’s fallen off his bike and hit his head badly. After a recovery of sorts – though, as with all head injuries it’s uncertain how long recovery will really take – he tries to go back to work, where he’s a physicist studying hydrogen molecules in deep space. But his project funding is about to come to end, and the opportunity comes up to go to his grandparents’ farm. His grandfather has just died, and his grandmother has had another stroke and is in a care facility. They had owned a biodynamic farm on a place called Aka Aka Road, with old pine trees nearby and a creek full of watercress and eels, and where the earth is depleted but restorable. So, the young man’s task will be to get the property ready for sale. He decides to leave his job, hoping to get his old self back, and throws himself into this project… I think of it as a book of questions, beautifully asked and explored.”

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

The ubiquitous Jack Remiel Cottrell, a star of the new anthology Te Awa o Kupu, also features in Hiwa; his flash fiction story, “Work and Income Gothic” was recently republished in ReadingRoom. But wait there’s more: one of the most exciting new writers in the country has a new short story in ReadingRoom tomorrow (Saturday). It’s part of the series of election campaign stories that I commissioned Stephanie Johnson, Kirsten McDougall, Vincent O’Sullivan, and Tracey Tawhiao to write; I asked them to imagine a party candidate. I hoped Jack would imagine a Green candidate but he said he’d prefer to imagine a New Zealand Loyal candidate. I won’t say it’s the best of the stories in the series because that wouldn’t be kind to the others but I will say it’s my favourite. Do please read tomorrow. It won’t take you long: it’s only 381 words.

9 How to Loiter in a Turf War by Coco Solid (Penguin Random House, $28)

10 The Garden Party & Other Stories by Katherine Mansfield (Penguin Random House, $15.99)

A free copy of a new edition (well – 2018) of the 1922 classic by the one true genius of New Zealand literature is up for grabs in this week’s free book giveaway. To enter, write a few words describing what you think she’d be like if you ran into KM – her looks, her manner, her conversation, her clothes, her consumption, her fingernails, anything like that – and email it to with the subject line in screaming caps I WANT KM. Entries close at midnight, Sunday September 31.


1 The Dressmaker and the Hidden Soldier by Doug Gold (Allen & Unwin, $37.99)

2 Summer Favourites by Vanya Insull (Allen & Unwin, $39.99)

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

4 The Art of Winning by Dan Carter (Penguin Random House, $40)

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

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

“A collection of more than 200 old black and white photographs colourised by Wellington digital colourist Brendan Graham. It’s the past, but a lot of it looks as fresh as the present. It’s one of the best-selling books of the year and I’m pretty sure it’s also the best illustrated coffee-table book of the year… There are pictures of gum diggers, of trams, of auto assembly lines, of ballroom dancing, of the public bar, of free milk in schools….The target market is old people but Our Land in Colour is a hit for any age. Great book, recommended”: from my rave review.

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

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

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

10 Māori Made Easy by Scotty Morrison (Penguin Random House, $40)

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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