Time Out Books’ NZ Bestsellers
For the week ending 12 December 2021
1. Isobar Precinct by Angelique Kasmara (Cuba Press)
This ‘stylish, sparkling’ debut novel soars into #1 after a launch at the Parisian Tie Factory, attended by lit mavens including Steve Braunias, Tze Ming Mok, Amy McDaid and Ruby Porter. Set largely on Auckland’s K Road where ‘disturbing deaths among the homeless and street workers of the neighbourhood, and rumours about a powerful new street drug with unusual side effects’ has tattooist Lestari rattled. 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.
2. 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.
3. Bug Week by Airini Beautrais (VUP)
A return to the charts for this year’s winner of the Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction—worth $57,000—at the Ockham NZ Book Awards. Steve Braunias calls it ‘a sharp, funny, tender, shocking and precise collection of short stories which delve in and out of sexual politics in New Zealand.’
4. Auē by Becky Manawatu (Mākaro Press)
A return to the charts for last year’s winner of the Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction at the Ockham NZ Book Awards. Auē was one of the bestselling NZ books nationally in 2020 and continues to lure new readers. Rights were sold to the US, UK and Australia this June.
5. Entanglement by Bryan Walpert (Mākaro Press)
Walpert is best known as a poet: earlier this year Otago University Press published his collection Brass Band to Follow. (Read Sophie van Waardenberg’s review here.) He’s also the author of short fiction and a novella. This first novel reveals ambition and accomplishment, with three stories—set in the US, Australia and New Zealand—that may be linked by love and tragedy. As one character suggests, are we all time travellers?
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. 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’.
3. 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.
4. The Forager’s Treasury by Johanna Knox (Allen & Unwin)
The ‘essential guide to finding and using wild plants in Aotearoa’ suggests places rural and urban to discover edible greens and includes recipes for meals, medicines, skincare and perfumes. Knox describes herself as a ‘food activist’ keen to show ways to save money and sustain our natural world. Kawakawa is #1 on her list.
5. The Mirror Book by Charlotte Grimshaw (Vintage/PRH)
A ‘fascinating portrait of not only a family, but the writing process. How we magpie material (go and make a story out of it) and what we build from it —and at whose expense? And where the line between fact and fiction is drawn: “I’d been inventing and writing stories since I was a child. When I decided to try something different, to write a true account of my life, I ran into a wall of fiction.” Read Rachael King’s full review here.