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Steve Braunias

This week's bestselling books

We continue our election campaign series of photos of party leaders with proof that they can read. Labour leader Chris Hipkins has a political operative's bookshelf, eg Victory Lab by Sasha Isenberg, about how the Obama campaign pioneered the modern big data and analytics based campaigns that everyone on the left freaked out about when it was repurposed for Trump and Brexit. Drew Western's The Political Brain was a hugely influential book on the modern left which describes the importance of emotion in modern politics, and how manipulating voters based on fears and stories rather than facts and figures can swing elections. The PM also owns For Whom the Bell Tolls! Hemingway's great novel is a problematic book for a figure on the modern left, filled with racial stereotypes about gypsies and the objectification of women. On the other hand, it's anti-fascism. Bookshelf rating: 9/10

The latest Nielsen BookScan New Zealand bestseller list, described by Steve Braunias


1 The Bone Tree by Airana Ngarewa (Hachette, $37.99)

Every week is a good week to be number one, but there is a special sweetness to the debut novel by the Taranaki author (Ngāti Ruanui, Ngāruahine, Ngā Rauru) holding onto the top spot for the fifth consecutive week, in the same week as Te Wiki o te Reo Māori, and just as the 2023 Māori Writers Festival is about to take place in Rotorua.

2 Pet by Catherine Chidgey (Te Herenga Waka University Press, $38)

3 Birnam Wood by Eleanor Catton (Te Herenga Waka University Press, $38)

4 Everything is Beautiful and Everything Hurts by Josie Shapiro (Allen & Unwin, $36.99)

Blurbology: "It plunges the reader into the gruelling world of the long distance runner — every pleasure, every pain. Shapiro deftly weaves the coming-of-age story of Mickey Bloom into a gripping account of adult Bloom running the Auckland Marathon."

It's been one of the year's most consistent bestsellers from the novelist who won the inaugural 2022 Allen & Unwin Commercial Fiction Prize (this year's winner is due to be announced this month), and was judged among the top 20 entries to the 2023 Surrey Hotel Writers Residency Award in association with Newsroom and Dick and Judy Frizzell.

5 The Axeman’s Carnival by Catherine Chidgey (Te Herenga Waka University Press, $35)

6 Kāwai by Monty Soutar (David Bateman, $39.99)

7 The Waters by Carl Nixon (Penguin Random House, $37)

8 Ocian’s Elven (Tarquin the Honest 2) by Gareth Ward (David Bateman, $34.99)

Blurbology: "In this sequel to The Hand of Glodd, award-winning author Gareth Ward, aka The Great Wardini, has delivered yet another fast-paced, fantastical tale filled with magic, mayhem and memorable characters, both old and new."

Interesting cover.

9 The Whale Rider by Witi Ihimaera (Penguin Random House, $15.99)

10 Hiwa: Contemporary Māori Short Stories by Paula Morris & Darryn Joseph (Auckland University Press, $45)

Excellent anthology of new writing. Three stories ran recently at ReadingRoom: the inspired flash-fiction "Work and Income Gothic" by Jack Remiel Cottrell, the brilliant satire set in Mt Roskill, "Isn't It", by Paula Morris, and "Alternate Realities" by Pamela Morrow, a fantasy of Kiri Te Kanawa.


1 Summer Favourites by Vanya Insull (Allen & Unwin, $39.99)

2 The Dressmaker and the Hidden Soldier by Doug Gold (Allen & Unwin, $37.99)

Number two with a bullet; a free copy is up for grabs in this week's book giveaway. Last week's book giveaway was a copy of From the Pilot’s Seat by Fletcher McKenzie. Readers were asked to share a story about flying and the winner is Melissa Harward, who wrote, "My Dad learnt to fly when he was 15. His Dad was a flying instructor at Paraparaumu so naturally he was in the sky as soon as he could be. He's told my sister and I about many flying adventures but my favourite is one I often picture. His mates were walking the Heaphy Track. They were on their last day, tramping on the beach to Karamea. Dad organised a supplies drop in the form of a six pack of beer. I've always imagined it hurtling down from the sky and immediately becoming mostly foam on impact." Good yarn! Huzzah to Melissa; a copy of From The Pilot's Seat is hers.

Back to The Dressmaker and the Hidden Soldier. Blurbology: "A prisoner of war's daring escape from a speeding train ... a Greek resistance heroine's fateful decision to harbour the fugitive ... and a young dressmaker's curiosity spark a chain of events that has consequences none of them could ever have imagined. The Dressmaker & the Hidden Soldier is based on the extraordinary true story of Peter Blunden, the New Zealand soldier, and Thalia Christidou, the young Greek dressmaker, and Tasoula Paschilidou, the resistance heroine."

To enter the draw to win a free copy, share any kind of story about dressmaking, and email it to it to with the subject line in screaming caps I WOULD VERY MUCH LIKE THIS BOOK ABOUT A DRESSMAKER. Entries close at midnight, Sunday September 17. 

Pretty cover.

3 Our Land in Colour by Jock Phillips & Brendan Graham (HarperCollins, $55)

4 The Art of Winning by Dan Carter (Penguin Random House, $40)

5 On the Record by Steven Joyce (Allen & Unwin, $37.99)

6 Fungi of Aotearoa by Liv Sisson (Penguin Random House, $45)

7 Adventures with Emilie by Victoria Bruce (Penguin Random House, $40)

Blurbology: "In 2021, Victoria Bruce quit her corporate job, packed up her life and embarked on Te Araroa trail with her seven-year-old daughter, Emilie. On the 3000-kilometre journey that traverses the length of Aotearoa, the duo faced Covid lockdowns, the harsh elements of New Zealand’s backcountry and even a near-death experience.

"A keen tramper, Victoria’s drive to complete the walk was to take time out, create lasting memories with Emilie and reconnect with nature. But it was also a way for her to face her past, and the events that led to her post-traumatic stress disorder."

8 Head On by Carl Hayman & Dylan Cleaver (HarperCollins, $39.99)

9 Eat Up New Zealand: The Bach Edition by Al Brown (Allen & Unwin, $49.99)

10 Te Reo Kapekape: Māori Wit and Humour by Hona Black (Oratia Books, $39.99)

Blurbology: "Explore the rich vein of humour in Māori life ... This book will be a valuable resource for anyone wanting to spice up their te reo or English with some fun and cheeky Māori sayings, and will appeal to both language learners and fluent speakers of te reo Māori."

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