Time Out Books’ NZ Bestsellers
For the week ending 28 November 2021
1. 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?
2. Before you knew my name by Jacqueline Bublitz (Allen and Unwin)
A novel of suspense set in New York by a writer who is either from New Plymouth or Melbourne, depending on which country’s media is reporting: this is the story of two women, one of whom is a murdered girl—and the narrator of the other woman’s New York excursions. Pacy and political, this is an unconventional crime novel.
3. The Piano Girls by Elizabeth Smither (Quentin Wilson Publishing)
This collection of 20 elegant, witty stories by the accomplished poet and fiction writer ‘is dense with linked melodies and recurring motifs.’ Each story ‘is composed with the gentle touch and elegance of a seasoned, assured writer.’ Read Josie Shapiro’s full review here.
4. Butcherbird by Cassie Hart (Huia)
Supernatural suspense on Taranaki farmland by a Kai Tāhu author and alum of Te Papa Tupu writing mentorship. Twenty years after her family dies in a mysterious barn fire—and her banishment—Jena Benedict returns to see her dying grandmother, and to discover the sinister forces plaguing the past and present.
5. Isobar Precinct by Angelique Kasmara (Cuba Press)
A ‘stylish, sparkling’ debut novel 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.
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. Cover Story by Steve Braunias (Oratia)
From the author’s own vast collection of records, a showcase of ‘100 beautiful, strange and frankly incredible NZ LP covers’ at full size, with his insights on our popular culture, changing fashions and musical mavens. The years covered are 1957—87 (when we stopped pressing LPs here); artists include Hello Sailor, the Patea Māori Club, the Yandall Sisters and Mr Lee Grant.
4. The Mirror Book by Charlotte Grimshaw (RHNZ Vintage)
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.
5. Voices of World War II: New Zealanders Share Their Stories by Renee Hollis (Exisle)
Hollis (who is either from Nelson or Dunedin, depending on which city’s media is reporting) spent two years uncovering mysteries, conducting interviews and reading diaries and hundreds of letters to create this illustrated social history. It’s based around a unique collection of oral histories and personal memories of the war, from land girls to Polish refugees to secret agents ..to the Dam Busters, in New Zealand and the Pacific.