This week’s top 10 NZ books

Introducing our new weekly top 10 sales chart of the best-selling New Zealand books.

Nielsen BookScan New Zealand bestseller list

New Zealand Fiction

When It All Went to Custard by Danielle Hawkins (HarperCollins, $35)

Great title, good premise for a novel: Jenny Reynolds, a part-time building control officer and full-time mum, discovers her husband has been sleeping with the next door neighbour. The author, who lives on a sheep and beef farm near Otorohanga with her husband and two children, was asked by the excellent NZ Booklovers site what inspired her to write it; she replied, “It started as one of those ‘what if’ scenarios. What if I’d married a dickhead rather than a top bloke? My husband’s the farmer and I help out as required – how on earth would I manage work and kids and farming without him?”

2 A Dream of Italy by Nicky Pellegrino (Hachette, $34.99)

Four strangers arrive in a beautiful town nestled in the mountains of Basilicata, in Italy; Pellegrino shapes another entertaining escapist adventure, full of good food and nice scenery.

3 The Unreliable People by Rosetta Allan (Penguin, $38)

Set in the Academy of Art in St Petersburg! Paula Morris: “An absorbing novel of disappearances and discoveries against the atmospheric backdrop of the dissolving Soviet empire.”

4  Loving Sylvie by Elizabeth Smither (Allen & Unwin, $36.99)

An early and very, very strong contender to win the 2020 Ockham New Zealand fiction award. The stories of three women – Sylvie, who rows across a lake to her wedding; Madeleine, who flees to Paris and works in Le Livre Bleu bookshop; and Isobel, who is summoned to her doctor's surgery late one afternoon – are threaded together by one of New Zealand’s finest writers of poetry and prose.

A Mistake by Carl Shuker (Victoria University Press, $30)

Another early and very, very strong contender to win the 2020 Ockham New Zealand fiction award. An emergency operation goes wrong, the patient dies, and the surgeon, Dr Elizabeth Taylor, has to deal with it.

Necessary Secrets by Greg McGee (Upstart Press, $37.99)

Very well, yet another early and very, very strong contender to win the 2020 Ockham New Zealand fiction award. Den, who's turning 70 and is about to die, gathers his three children at the family home. Dionne Christian, NZ Herald: “It's sharply observed social commentary that doesn't for one moment feel preachy or distant. Some of it isn't very nice; despite that, if you're of a certain age and disposition, it's scarily relatable – maybe not the arson and murder but addiction, infidelity, work and money problems, the pressing issue of who you are and where you are going even though you thought you'd have this stuff sorted years ago.”

Conventional Weapons by Tracey Slaughter (Victoria University Press, $25.00)

Poetry by the awesomely bouffanted author from Thames: “The seventies tasted/ like orangeade, like groovy wars & honeybrown/ explosions in the wallpaper.”

All This by Chance by Vincent O'Sullivan (Victoria University Press, $35.00)

Finalist in this week’s 2019 Ockham New Zealand book awards; complex generational saga, masterfully told.

Death of an Agent by David McGill (Silver Owl Press, $34.95)

Set in Wellington, in 1965; a woman’s body is discovered in a bathtub, she turns out to be an Australian spy, the cops get involved, so do anarchists, and Prime Minister Keith Holyoake. A busy novel.

10 Call Me Evie by JP Pomare (Hachette, $34.99)

Debut thriller by a gifted 26-year-old crime writer.

New Zealand Non-Fiction

1 Magnolia Kitchen by Bernadette Gee (Allen & Unwin, $45.00)


2 The Note through the Wire by Doug Gold (Allen & Unwin, $36.99)

A true wartime love story of Josefine Lobnik, a Yugoslav partisan heroine, and Bruce Murray, a New Zealand soldier.

3 The Billion Dollar Bonfire by Chris Lee (Projects Resources, $40)

Fascinating account of the collapse of Allan Hubbard’s South Canterbury Finance.

4 Dead People I Have Known by Shayne Carter (Victoria University Press, $40)

Almost certainly the best book published in any genre in New Zealand in 2019. Carter’s autobiography takes in his damaged childhood in Brockville, his teenage years as a punk rock asshole, and his career as the genius singer and songwriter with Straitjacket Fits and Dimmer, all told with honesty, wit, and attitude.

5 The Baker's Companion by Allyson Gofton (Penguin, $55)

More baking.

6 The Recipe by Josh Emett & Kieran Scott (Upstart Press, $49.99)

300 recipes; likely includes some baking.

7 The Meaning of Trees by Robert Vennell (HarperCollins, $55)

Illustrated compendium of native plants.

8 The Book of Knowing by Gwendoline Smith (Allen & Unwin, $24.99)

Instructions for living.

9 Rich Enough? by Mary Holm (HarperCollins, $36.99)

Mary Holm’s question-and-answer column in the Weekend Herald is appointment reading every Saturday for anyone interested in personal finance; her latest book offers “laid-back” investment advice.

10 What the Fat Recipes by Grant Schofield & Caryn Zinn & Craig Rodger (Blackwell & Ruth, $49.99)

More than 130 low-carb and keto-friendly recipes; includes an avocado and chocolate mousse, which sounds absolutely ghastly and looks even worse.

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