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The bestsellers of the week | Writing


Reading room

This week’s best-selling New Zealand books, as recorded by the Nielsen BookScan New Zealand bestseller list and described by Steve Braunias


1 Greta and Valdin by Rebecca K Reilly (Victoria University Press, $35)

The 2022 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards shortlist will be announced next week. Greta and Valdin was shortlisted with the novels at numbers 4, 7 and 9 in this week’s ranking. Good luck to all writers, in fiction, non-fiction and poetry. ReadingRoom will be available with instant feedback the second the embargo on the shortlist is lifted at 5 a.m. Wednesday. Exciting!

2 In Ambers Wake by Christine Leunens (David Bateman, $34.99)

A film version of Nelson’s author’s latest novel – a romantic drama, set in the 1980s – will be produced by Mimi Polk Gitlin, whose credits include Thelma and Louiseand Freak Power: The Bomb Ballot, a fantasy documentary based on Hunter S Thompson’s 1970 fantasy campaign for the sheriff of Pitkin County, Colorado. Below: A still from the documentary, showing a weirdly wigged Thompson giving his concession speech at the Jerome Hotel on election night.

3 The last guests by JP Pomare (Hachette, $34.99)

4 She’s a killer by Kirsten McDougall (Victoria University Press, $30)

The Wellington author worked as an advertising executive at Victoria University Press (now renamed Te Herenga Waka University Press) for eight years and finished this week. I will really miss her. There are actually a lot of very good and very clever comms in the New Zealand edition – Penny Hartill, Sarah Thornton, Sandra Noakes and Erena Shingade immediately come to mind – but Kirsten had something else, a touch of genius, as the author of the superb eco-thriller She’s a killer and as last year’s winner Sunday Star Hours news price. She was also what all writers are looking for: a very good reader, someone who cared about the text and what it took to put it on the page. But in addition to an enthusiasm and an understanding of literature, she had another, rarer quality: a sense of generosity. She really wanted the best for her authors at VUP – and for everyone who writes, including idiots.

I first heard of Kirsten before she started VUP. I was writing a weekly fiction series that ran in six Stuff newspapers. He alternated between life as Act party donor and Auckland mother-of-two Danyel Southwark and Labor activist Harriet Wakefield who shared her Wellington home with her daughter Hinemoa and partner Cheng Qi. Both went off the rails. Danyel hit his daughter in a mall and a member of the public reported her to the police. The scandal drove her to drink. Harriet left Cheng Qi for a wife, an ex-lover who turned out to be Hinemoa’s biological mother. The consequences led Harriet to an addiction to synthetic cannabis. Anyway, melodramatic and terrible, but Kirsten very kindly wrote a letter of praise and encouragement. It meant a lot.

She commented, “I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s the hardest thing to write first-person POV fiction. I guess one of the reasons your first-person plays work is because you get the voice very good. It’s all about the voice. Grace Paley, one of my favorite short film writers, has a killer voice.” Well, seven years later, VUP released She’s a killerwritten in first person POV and that voice (prickly, witty, crazy) is fucking king killer.

Well done and goodbye, Kirsten. You are awesome.

5 Virginia by Lani Wendt Young & Sisilia Eteuati (Dalia Malaeulu, $35)

New to the charts: an anthology of short fiction by 38 Oceanian women writers

6 Shelter by Douglas Lloyd Jenkins (David Bateman, $34.99)

New to the charts is the acclaimed design writer’s debut novel, telling a two-decade love story set in Auckland between builder Joe and the enigmatic Leo, who teaches him to appreciate music and literature.

7 Loop tracks by Sue Orr (Victoria University Press, $35)

8 Auē by Becky Manawatu (Makaro Press, $35)

9 Kurangaituku by Whiti Hereaka (Huia Editors, $35)

ten The frog prince by James Norcliffe (Penguin Random House, $36.00)


1 Your money, your future by Frances Cook (Penguin Random House, $35)

2 salad by Margo Flanagan & Rosa Flanagan (Allen & Unwin, $45)

Salads certainly have their place. It’s good to grow lettuces and that. But below is a picture of real food, taken at a party I went to with CK Stead a few years ago in South Auckland.

3 Aroha by Hinemoa Elder (Penguin Random House, $30)

4 Words of Comfort by Rebekah Ballagh (Allen & Unwin, $24.99)

5 Do not worry by Nicky Pellegrino (Allen & Unwin, $36.99)

6 Maori simplified by Scotty Morrison (Penguin Random House, $38)

7 Maori Made Easy Workbook 1 / Kete 1 by Scotty Morrison (Penguin Random House, $25)

8 find calm by Sarb Johal (Penguin Random House, $37)

9 Lost and found by Toni Street (Allen & Unwin, $36.99)

ten imagining decolonization by Rebecca Kiddle & Bianca Elkington & Moana Jackson et al (Bridget Williams Books, $14.99)