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Publisher’s Picks 2022

By December 19, 2022December 20th, 2022No Comments

Thank you to all of you who have managed to select a special title from your 2022 lists — we know it is a tough ask to pick just one or two.  Below you will find many amazing and varied books demonstrating the health and breadth of publishing in Aotearoa. I for one have found that my Christmas gift list and summer reading pile has just got a lot longer…

And congratulations go to Allen & Unwin for once again being the publisher who inspired the most envy amongst their peers — impeccable timing capturing the mood of the nation as it got behind the Black Ferns at the Rugby World Cup with the excellent Straight Up by Ruby Tui. 


Holly Hunter Commissioning Editor, HarperCollins Publishers New Zealand

I can’t look past Blue Blood by Andrea Vance, which became my first ever #1 bestseller. Piecing together the inside story of the National Party’s chaotic and embarrassing recent years in opposition, this book made me gasp and cackle. To echo John Key, ‘at the end of the day’ it’s just a bloody good read.

It’s also been a privilege to publish Naomi Toilalo’s debut baking book, WhānauKai. With luscious recipes in te reo Māori and in English, and mouthwatering photography throughout, this book is packed with sweet treats to whip up for friends and whānau this summer. The best thing about publishing a cookbook is seeing people on Instagram make the recipes at home.

I’m looking on in awe and a touch of envy at Straight Up by Ruby Tui (A&U). It’s amazing to see the book reach beyond typical nonfiction buyers in the wake of the Ferns’ RWC win – to see kids at the game waving their signed copies to the camera. Great story, great packaging, great timing.


Nicola Legat, Publishers Massey University Press and Te Papa Press

Massey University Press pick

Sylvia and the Birds by Johanna Emeney and Sarah Laing.

MUP doesn’t publish many children’s books so when we do they have to be pretty special, as this one is. Important, engaging, amusing and information-packed, we think it’s a bit of a triumph by Jo and Sarah.

Te Papa Press pick:

Robin White Something Is Happening Here, edited by Sarah Farrar, Nina Tonga and Jill Trevelyan

It was a privilege to work with the Auckland Art Gallery to co publish this survey of the career and work of the remarkable Dame Robin White and to then see visitors to the major exhibitions at Te Papa and AAG respond so warmly to her work. Sarah, Nina and Jill brought together a crack team of guest writers and was a pleasure to work with them all.

From other publishers:

Straight Up by Ruby Tui.  A&U strikes again and correctly picks the zeitgeist. Who wouldn’t want all that turnover?


Deborah Coddington, Ugly Hill Press

My book of the year is The Axeman’s Carnival by Catherine Chidgey. It was so original and clever. I admire the imagination of a writer who can think of using a magpie as the narrator. The story was dark, yes, but also very funny. And the husband was not a total monster which would have been too easy, and too lazy. And what a piece of work the sister was. OMG. I also learned a lot about magpies. Great cover too, excellent cover.

When I finished the book I gave it to my (conservative) husband and at first he thought, “what have you gotten me into, woman?” but he loved it too. Thought it was an excellent, accomplished, and very smart novel.

I am from Hawke’s Bay so I could be biased toward magpies.


The Otago University Press team

In terms of OUP’s Publishing Picks for 2022, we’re extremely proud of all our publications and would love to pick each one for various reasons. But to select two, we’d love to highlight Notes on Womanhood by Sarah Jane Barnett and Fossil Treasures of Foulden Maar: A window into Miocene Zealandia by Daphne Lee, Uwe Kaulfuss and John Conran. We’ve picked Notes on Womanhood as it’s such a beautifully-written and powerful memoir / coming-of-middle-age story, where Sarah starts an open conversation about what the concept of womanhood means to her. It’s also the first book in our new KA HAEA TE ATA series (KA HAEA TE ATA: books that cast light on issues of importance in Aotearoa today). We pick Fossil Treasures of Foulden Maar because of it’s amazing local, national and international significance and because of its beautiful illustrations. This book is a fantastic tribute to years of focused research at the Foulden Maar paleontological site and tells an amazing story of discovery and preservation. I’ve attached the cover image files for both if you’d like to use.

A book we admired from another publisher is By the Green of the Spring by Paddy Richardson, published by Quentin Wilson Publishing. We love how immersive the writing is and how it makes you feel like you’re really there while reading it. A gripping read!


Craig Gamble, Publishing Manager Te Herenga Waka University Press 

We loved publishing all our diverse, original and popular books this year but it was really satisfying seeing Gaylene Preston’s wonderful memoir Gaylene’s Take receive such a warm response, a welcome that was echoed for John Martin’s huge ang comprehensive history of early Wellington – Empire City. The book we would have most liked to publish was definitely Grand – Becoming My Mother’s Daughter by Noelle McCarthy. We look forward to welcoming Noelle to Te Herenga Waka Victoria University of Wellington next year as the IIML writer in residence. 


Peter Dowling, Publisher, Oratia Books 

Among the Oratia offspring this year, one that really deserves recognition is Richard Wolfe’s Footprints on the Land: How Humans Changed New Zealand. As we increasingly experience the impacts of climate change and environmental depredation, it’s instructive to explore what got us to this point. Richard does this in a brilliant summary that’s enlivened by his curatorial selection of artwork. 

If we published fiction and had been free to sign up Monty Soutar, I’d have loved to publish his novel Kāwai. How good to see a Māori historical novel, one actually written by an historian, head to the top of the bestseller lists. Bateman has put together a fine editorial and marketing combo to back Monty’s work.


Claire Murdoch, Head of Publishing, Penguin Random House NZ

There was a LOT to be admiring of in 2023 from all NZ publishers and, for the sake of readers (if not our gnashing teeth), long may that be the case!

Top of my team’s green-eyed little list are Ruby Tui: Straight Up from A&U, Rooms by Jane Ussher from MUP and Kāwai by Monty Soutar from Bateman.

We’re impressed with Ariana Tikao’s Mokoruangā kōrero mō tōku moko kauae – my story of moko kauae which is a multi-layered poem of a book, published by AUP. Ka rawe!

And from our own stable? Anyone (left) who hasn’t yet read Hinemoa ‘Aroha’ Elder’s next-level wonder Wawata, Noelle McCarthy’s Grand, Jenny Pattrick’s Harbouring or Coco Solid’s How to Loiter in a Turf War will not be disappointed — and none could regret bathing in Juliet Nicholas and Rosemary Barraclough’s New Zealand Gardens to Visit.

For the kids, we think every book the team at Huia puts out is beyond amazing and [heart emoji] Potton and Burton’s books by Ned Barraud. Among Puffins, there are three little words for one big book we love.: Roar, Squeak, Purr – Paula Green’s epic anthology of animal poems adorably illustrated by Jenny Cooper. Little Tales of Hedgehog and Goat is gentle, poetic and characterful, with each chapter a perfect bite of story to read at bedtime – and Have You Seen Tomorrow just makes you smile. Kyle’s spare, careful writing at its best, complemented by Laura Bee’s delicately delightful illustrations.

Happy holidays. 


Louise Russell, Publisher, Bateman Books 

We’ve been absolutely delighted at the response to Monty Soutar’s debut novel, the first in a trilogy: Kāwai – For such a time as this. Number one on the NZ fiction bestseller list for 12 weeks straight and counting, its success indicates a clear appetite for Māori stories written by Māori writers.

Speaking of Māori writers, though a completely different genre this time, we’re also pretty chuffed with Christall Lowe’s exquisite and unintimidating cookbook, and homage to whanau and the power of food memories, Kai. In terms of other publishers’ successes, that’s a tough one as the standard of local publishing this year has been so high across the board, but like many of the other publishers no doubt, I’d probably have to go with the phenomenal Ruby Tui’s memoir Straight Up. Well done, A&U. 


Jenny Hellen, Publishing Director, Allen & Unwin

The biggest highlight of my year has to be publishing Ruby Tui’s memoir Straight Up. As everyone now knows, Ruby is an absolutely extraordinary person – on and off the rugby field – and the response to her book has also been nothing short of extraordinary. I’ve never seen anything like it before. People have taken her story and her messages to heart and the book inspires people of all kinds. The book has sold out numerous times since the Black Ferns won the Rugby World Cup and we have been reprinting constantly in New Zealand to try and keep up with demand. It’s exceptional. I’m so delighted for Ruby and for the fact that the memoir of a woman sports star can sell so strongly here. It feels like just the beginning of a new way for books to be in this country.

A book I very much admire from another publisher is Empire City by John Martin, published by THWUP. It’s a non-fiction account of Wellington from early contact between Māori and Pākehā in 1839 until the 1870s. I’m obsessed by prehistory and also NZ’s early history so this is a must-read for me.

Michelle Hurley, Publisher, Allen & Unwin NZ 

The book that tugged on my heartstrings this year is I Am Autistic, by a fantastic young writer and illustrator, Chanelle Moriah. The book has sold incredibly well, including selling U.S. rights to it. I also had a great time publishing Chris Finlayson’s memoir, Yes, Minister. He’s a very funny man.

The book I wish I had published is The Axeman’s Carnival by Catherine Chidgey. Honestly, who wouldn’t? But also for the lolz of @tamamagpie’s Twitter account throwing shade on just about everyone in publishing.


Mel Winder, Managing Director, Hachette Aotearoa New Zealand

Hard to narrow it down to just two highlights from 2022; Olga Dies Dreaming by Xochitl Gonzalez is the story of a feisty whip smart young Puerto Rican woman and her emotionally and politically complicated family and was a revelation from start to finish. I love everything Maggie O’Farrell writes, and The Marriage Portrait was no exception; she is absolutely at the top of her game and this beautifully written page turning novel about Lucrezia de Medici is on all the 2022 Must Read lists with good reason.

I inhale books about clothes and fashion and have spent many happy hours dipping in and out of Dressed by Claire Regnault (Te Papa Press) – a gorgeous looking book with vivid descriptions that bring the clothes and their wearers alive.


Dahlia Malaeulu Author / Publisher / Director Mila’s Books

The top picks for 2022 from Mila’s Books are:

A New Dawn by Emeli Sione (Mila’s Books) and The Greatest Kapa Haka Festival on Earth by Pania Tahau-Hodges (Huia).

Author Pania Tahau-Hodges is pictured here with both Mila’s Books’ top picks for 2022

A New Dawn by Emeli Sione (Mila’s Books).  Pictured here along with Polynesian Panthers members Tigilau Ness and Alec Toleafoa.


Quentin Wilson, Publisher, Quentin Wilson Publishing

Favourite titles from QWP:

A Runner’s Guide to Rakiura: A Novel by Jessica Howland Kany

The Lovelock Version meets Moby Dick meets Treasure Island
Playful, funny and romantic, this delightful debut novel is braided with stories of love and war, treasure maps, bobbing buoys, floating libraries, island lore, and the joys of running. “A festival of plot, story and wonderful writing… A worthy successor to Maurice Shadbolt” – Prof Patrick Evans, author of The Penguin History of New Zealand Literature

The Crate: A Ghost Story by James Norcliffe

A riveting supernatural tale with a bittersweet ending as unexpected as it is satisfying. “The Crate will be an outstanding addition to the literature for children in Aotearoa.” – Gavin Bishop

A Month at the Back of My Brain: A third memoir by Kevin Ireland

This unpredictable experiment allows the ordinary and everyday to take a rightful place among the souvenirs of Ireland’s life. It’s all here: childhood shoplifting challenges and trips to the murder house, ruminations on reputable poets and disreputable poseurs, encounters with many a picturesque character, madcap adventures in London, stories behind several of Kevin’s poems, a tall tale or two about fishing, and much more…

From another publisher:

Bushline: A Memoir by Robbie Burton

I am really enjoying Robbie’s memoir. Highly recommended…