This week’s bestselling books

The latest Nielsen BookScan New Zealand bestseller list, described by Steve Braunias (plus massive book giveaway)


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

Commercial fiction.

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

Commercial fiction.

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

Everyone knows there is an audience for commercial fiction – that’s the point of commercial fiction – but some audiences are bigger than others, and Tierney’s novel set in Ireland and NZ has really caught fire. From the lively Aotearoa New Zealand Review of Books site: “Joy, mother of the Tobin clan, has spent thirty years in New Zealand but has felt ‘between lives forever’. The events of this dramatic first chapter leave Joy in a coma, and her point of view confined to brief snatches of memory. Most of the novel is shared between the three adult Tobin siblings, who gather around their mother’s hospital bed, trying to make sense of what has happened, untangling the past, while navigating personal crises in their own lives.”

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

This week’s book giveaway is the same as last week, and next week too: all 16 shortlisted books for this year’s Ockham New Zealand book awards (including Kāwai, and the novel at number 6) 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, 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.) Full details were published last week and include a helpful guide to some of the best books of 2022.

Already hundreds of readers have entered the draw. Email your entry – don’t forget, for God’s sake, to name and actually write something about your favourite NZ book of 2022; quite a few entries haven’t even bothered and of course they have been consigned to trash – 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 on Saturday, May 11. 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)

The author is scheduled to appear at the Central Hawkes Bay literary festival in September. It’s one of the best writers and readers events in the country; the hospitality is genuine, the audiences are smart, there’s lots to eat and drink, and any money going to the Central Hawkes Bay this year, after the cyclone, is good money. Book now.

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

A copy of La Chidgey’s novel is among the 16 Ockham-shortlisted titles up for grabs in the 2023 ReadingRoom Greatest Book Prize of All Times Since Last Year and the Year Before That.

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

The author is scheduled to appear at the Auckland Writers Festival in May alongside novelists Murdoch Stevens and Fiona Sussman; I will take the chair.

8 Kind by Stephanie Johnson (Penguin Random House, $37)

“Bad-arse Joleen McAnulty, the central character in Stephanie Johnson’s riotously engaging new novel, Kind, is not a woman to play by the rules. As a teen, she falsely accused her foster father of improper touching, to get back at him for not letting her go to a party and – though we never get details – wreaked havoc for years in the family home. By 2022, nearly 40, she writes to her best childhood friend from prison…The book is a virtual theme park of twisting turning rides, some terrifying, some hilarious, some a house of mirrors, and all of them page-turning”: from a review by Anna Knox.

9 Biter by Claudia Jardine (Auckland University Press, $24.99)

A collection of poetry on love and relationships, alongside translations of poems from the Classical and Byzantine periods.

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

Latest novel by one of the masters of literary fiction in NZ. Publisher’s blurbology: “A little way off in the future, during a time of plague and profound social collapse, a group of friends escapes to a house in the country where they entertain themselves by playing music, eating, drinking and telling stories about their lives.” A review will appear any day now at ReadingRoom.

Busy cover.


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

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 (Penguin Random House, $30)

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

6 Laughing at the Dark by Barbara Else (Penguin Random House, $40)

Very likely the best memoir of 2023, by a woman “who finally rebelled against being a handmaiden”. A review will appear any day now at ReadingRoom.

Great cover! Very Emma Peel.

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


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


9 Butter, Butter by Petra Galler (Allen & Unwin, $49.99)


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







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