Time Out Books’ NZ Bestsellers
For the week ending 5 December 2021
1. She’s a Killer by Kirsten McDougall (VUP)
McDougall’s third novel is a smart dystopian black comedy set in a New Zealand where water is an expensive commodity, restaurants have armed guards, and ‘wealthugees’, fleeing the impact of climate change overseas, swarm in to buy up land. Protagonist Alice is brainy and odd, with an imaginary friend and a dull job in university admin: she communicates with her mother via Morse Code. A new arrival sucks her into a scheme to save the planet, in which a slacker has to become a radical.
2. Huia Short Stories 14 (Huia)
This anthology celebrates the best short fiction from the 2021 Pikihuia Awards, run by the Māori Literature Trust/Te Waka Taki Kōrero. The awards are for first-time and emerging writers, in te reo and in English: this year’s judges were Emma Espiner, Carol Hirschfeld, Vincent Olsen-Reeder and Maiki Sherman. Including stories by Emma Hislop, Shelley Burne-Field and Zeb Tamihana Hicklin.
3. Isobar Precinct by Angelique Kasmara (Cuba Press)
Moving up from number five last week, this ‘stylish, sparkling’ debut novel is set among the denizens of Auckland’s K Road beset by ‘disturbing deaths among the homeless and street workers of the neighbourhood, and rumours about a powerful new street drug with unusual side effects.’ There’s a ‘speculative edge to the novel’s visceral realism’—including drug-induced time travel—and Kasmara’s narrative voice ‘is cool, assured and always pitch perfect.’ Read Tom Moody’s full review here.
An ‘an elegant, delicately told, thoughtful story of triumph’ that moves between the late 70s—when schoolgirl Charlie is about to fly to Sydney for an abortion—and contemporary lockdown Wellington. Charlie is in her 50s, caring for her ASD grandson and fending off her ‘amoral, unpleasant son’. In Orr’s ‘Orr’s hands the subtleties of familial and blood connections are complex, challenging and inspirational.’ Read Stephanie Johnson’s full review here.
5. Please, Call me Jesus by Samuel Te Kani (Dead Bird Books)
A debut collection of erotic stories from a Ngāpuhi writer described as full-time sexpert and part-time generator of critical essays and fiction ranging from innocuous to blasphemous’; he’s also host of video series Sex with Sam and Sam Tries Stuff, and ‘public face for the Ending HIV campaign’. Science fiction and suburbia, werewolves and WINZ: it’s all here.
1. Shifting Grounds: Deep Histories of Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland by Lucy Mackintosh (BWB)
Mackintosh, a curator at Auckland Museum, explores the cultural histories of three of Auckland’s most iconic landscapes: Pukekawa (the Domain), Maungakiekie (One Tree Hill) and the Ōtuataua Stonefields at Ihumātao. With superb illustrations, maps, visual art and photography, this is the story of ‘a city that has overlooked and erased much of its history,’ from the early Polynesian migrations through Wesleyan mission stations and Chinese market gardens to the olive groves in Cornwall Park.
2. Aroha by Hinemoa Elder (Penguin)
More than a year after publication, this compendium of ‘Māori wisdom for a contented life lived in harmony with our planet’ continues to strike a chord. Psychiatrist Elder (Te Aupōuri, Ngāti Kurī, Te Rarawa, Ngāpuhi) gathers one-a-week whakatauki (proverbs) to discuss happiness, leadership and care for ourselves, our communities and the natural world.
3. Too Much Money by Max Rashbrooke (BWB)
A clear and persuasive—if depressing—account of wealth, poverty and privilege in New Zealand and our increasing social inequity. Journalist and academic Rashbrooke has written on this topic before, but this is essential reading. No surprise that it’s on the Prime Minister’s ‘Summer Reading List’.
4. How to Take a Breath by Tania Clifton-Smith (Penguin)
More proof that New Zealand post-lockdown is stressed and anxious: physiotherapist Clifton-Smith steps up with advice on correcting your breathing patterns, meditation and mindfulness, and managing pain. Observing your breathing is the first step, she says, ‘takes you towards the relaxation chemicals in your brain.’
5. Things I Learned at Art School by Megan Dunn (Penguin)
A ‘rich, rewarding, funny and poignant memoir written as a series of essays beginning from early childhood and ending in the ICU ward with her mother in 2019.’ Via Gen-X pop-cultural icons and moments, we move through Dunn’s misadventures in art school, her obsession with mermaids and bar-tending at a massage parlour. Read Sally Blundell’s full review here.