Time Out Books’ NZ Bestsellers
For the week ending 19 December 2021
1. 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.’
Adam’s follow-up to the New Animals, which won the Acorn Foundation Prize for Fiction at the 2018 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards, explores ‘overlooked and unglamorous work, the work that is in danger of being automated, rendered post-human — sorting clothes in warehouses, working in call centres, even moderating comments on websites.’ Philip Matthews notes the ‘slightly satirical political edge and a leaning towards the fantastic and the playful’: read his full review.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. Isobar Precinct by Angelique Kasmara (Cuba Press)
This ‘stylish, sparkling’ debut novel is 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.
1. Shifting Grounds: Deep Histories of Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland by Lucy Mackintosh (BWB)
Another week at number one for this lauded exploration of 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. 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.
4. Small Bodies of Water by Nina Mingya Powles (Canongate/Allen & Unwin)
Powles was a poetry finalist in this year’s Ockham New Zealand Book Awards for her superb collection Magnolia木蘭, reviewed here by Saradha Koirala. Her work was also featured in the anthology A Clear Dawn: New Asian Voices from Aotearoa NZ (AUP). This essay collection explores losing languages and re-visiting notions of home, migration and memories—from learning to swim as a child in Borneo to eating Tip Top ice cream in Wellington to looking for the haunted places of Shanghai.
5. Conservātiō: in the company of bees by Anne Noble (Massey University Press)
Noble is one of New Zealand’s most acclaimed photographers, and for the past decade her work has focused on bees. This book of essays, interviews and pictures—edited by Zara Stanhope and designed by Anna Brown—reveals Noble’s experiments and collaborations, including an installation in a former Cistercian monastery in France. Look inside this unique and beautiful work here.