This week’s bestselling books

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


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

I liked this interesting aside in a review of Birnam Wood in the Times Literary Supplement: “The comparison that comes to mind is Jonathan Franzen. It’s not just the commanding state of the nation/world perspective or the eco-lit elements. This book is everything I wanted from Franzen’s Purity (2015) – another chunky thriller about a tech mastermind and some young idealists – to be. Catton’s novel is tauter, more exciting, less po-faced and, crucially, less ploddingly enslaved to its source than is Franzen’s.” Hm. I loved Purity when it came out, and the experience of reading it was almost transcendent – as the novel neared its end, I felt so uplifted that I had the distinct feeling Franzen was about to reveal The Actual Meaning of Life. But he didn’t, and the book ended up as a bit of a fizzer. I don’t remember anything about Purity now – nothing, no idea of what happened – but suspect I’ll long remember the storytelling of Birnam Wood. It’s less of An Important Statement About Life on Planet Earth than Purity but the TLS is right to say it has a better plot. Mind you, I felt Birnam Wood ended up as a bit of a fizzer.

2 P.S. Come to Italy by Nicky Pellegrino (Hachette, $36.99)

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

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

Yes, yes, it’s true I have been dragging it out a bit long, but this week’s book giveaway is the same as last week and the week before: all 16 shortlisted books for this year’s Ockham New Zealand book awards (including Kāwai, and the novel at number 7) are on offer in the 2023 ReadingRoom Greatest Book Prize of All Times. One reader will win the lot.

To enter, name the one book you regard as the very best book published in New Zealand last year (to the people who are disqualified from the draw because they wasted their vote on Birnam Wood: it was published this year), and say why it is that you esteem it so highly. Write a few lines, or a great many lines, up to you. (The book that gets the most nominations, by the way, can be informally regarded as winner of a People’s Choice Award.)

A helpful guide to some of the best books of 2022 could be of assistance.

Already hundreds of readers have entered the draw. To add to the pile, email your entry  to with the subject line in screaming caps I REALLY WANT TO WIN THE 2023 READINGROOM GREATEST BOOK PRIZE OF ALL TIMES. Entries close at midnight next Sunday, May 13. The winner will be announced in ReadingRoom on Wednesday, May 17; the Ockhams will be announced that night.

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

6 The Deck by Fiona Farrell a Random House, $37)

Paddy Richardson’s review will appear any day now at ReadingRoom.

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

Quite a lot of readers have nominated The Axeman’s Carnival as their favourite NZ book of 2022 in the ReadingRoom Greatest Book Prize of All Times (see above). I liked these comments from an entry I received this week: “The magpie in The Axeman’s Carnival represents the outsider in this country. pastor are bad, animals are economic units, women are sluts. The magpie arrived from another country and like all outsiders it has to use its wit and tenacity to survive in a country that values silence and detests the outspoken outsider.”

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

A pretty incredible self-portrait, written by the author and commissioned by ReadingRoom, will appear any day now. What a piece of writing it is. I’m chairing a panel of three novelists at the Auckland Writers Festival this month; McCauley is one of the authors, and I’m really looking forward to meeting her.

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

Quite a lot of readers have nominated Eddy, Eddy as their favourite NZ book of 2022 in the ReadingRoom Greatest Book Prize of All Times. An entry this week talked of a recent conversation about it with a mate: “No Mah Jong; instead we’d met for a cuppa and discussed how much we had enjoyed Kate De Goldi’s Eddy Eddy. We talked of the language, the characters, human and animal, remembered incidents.” No Mah Jong!

10 Kind by Stephanie Johnson a Random House, $37)


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

GoodReads review by Steve Worsley, lead pastor at the Mt Albert Baptist Church: “This book is seriously good. I’ve never watched The Crowd Goes Wild or Dancing With the Stars. So I didn’t expect to read more than the opening pages…Most of us hide our failures from the world. Hayley puts them up front and holds nothing back. In doing so she makes this more than a biography. It’s a road map for recovery from addiction….[It] made me appreciate again, the value of life, and the intimate connection between parent and child. Living in Mt Albert, with a family of performers, I had no idea how closely I would identify with this book.”

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

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

4 Aroha by Hinemoa Elder a Random House, $30)

5 The Everyday Herbalist by Jane Wrigglesworth (Allen & Unwin, $49.99)

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

Medical memoir. “Gutsy, fierce, reflective. Dr Emma Espiner tells compelling stories about finding and then making her own path — as a modern Māori woman; a descendant, mother, friend and partner; a doctor of medicine. She does not skip over the twists and turns . . . her insights are both useful and at times provocative”: Dr Hinemoa Elder.

7 Wawata by Hinemoa Elder a Random House, $30)

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

9 Resilience by Inge Woolf (The Holocaust Centre of New Zealand, $35)

Holocaust memoir. “A chapter heading offers up the essence of her valiant approach to an extraordinary life: ‘Disaster, Grief and my Mission’. Escape from Hitler’s Europe, starting again in New Zealand, the country she came to love and to which she contributed so much: her story is a memorial candle lit in the darkness”: Diana Wichtel.

10 A Forager’s Life by Helen Lehndorf (HarperCollins, $39.99)






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