He may have turned 20, but Harry Potter's still number one with Kiwi book buyers.

Author J K Rowling's seven book series heads this year's Whitcoulls list of the nation's top 100 books. The top 20 - all fiction - includes a mix of thrillers, fantasy and chick-lit plus a classic or two. The first New Zealand book, Eleanor Catton's The Luminaries, comes in at number 30.

Whitcoulls book manager Joan MacKenzie believes Harry's popularity is partly because there's been an extra focus on the boy wizard - and new some releases - during 2017, the 20th anniversary year of the publishing of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. But she says he really hasn't been out of favour since his early years, also due to his all-ages appeal.

The Top 100 list is now in its 21st year; this year's votes totalled nearly 9000 - up 8 per cent on last year. Of those votes, 5259 were cast online and 3703 in stores. The list points to some interesting trends, according to MacKenzie.


We prefer to read books that have been recommended to us and those that have been adapted for the screen. More than half the books in the top 20 have been made into film or television shows, including Me Before You (number 5), The Lord of the Rings (number 6), the Outlander Series (number 7) and George R. R Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series (number 8). While it didn't quite make the Top 20, Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale is enjoying a resurgence in popularity probably because of the recent TV adaptation.

However, just four NZ books make the Top 100: The Luminaries, The Cloud Leopard's Daughter by Deborah Challinor, perennial favourite The Edmonds Cookery Book and Dr Libby Weaver's Women's Wellness Wisdom. MacKenzie would certainly like to see more home-grown titles make the list.

"It's always been a challenge to get New Zealanders to read New Zealand authors and that's a real shame," she says, adding that those who avoid NZ fiction are missing out on some top-quality and reads. "The opportunities are there for people to discover these books; there's more mainstream fiction than ever before and much of it is extremely good."

"Joan's picks" - MacKenzie's recommended reads - feature strongly on the list. She says it's a way to promote new books and authors and cites I Am Pilgrim (number 3) as an example of this.

"Then readers say, 'well, I read that and liked it so what would you recommend that's similar and I might enjoy?' so it's a very useful way to bringing new authors to attention and of pointing out what may be the next big thing."

The most popular author is Jodi Picoult, who has six separate titles in the Top 100; more than any other writer. But nearly one third of the books to the Top 100 are newcomers, a mix of new releases and old favourites like To Kill a Mockingbird and The Edmond's Cookery Book.

"We're especially pleased to see the young poet Rupi Kaur, a huge success at this year's Auckland Writers Festival, receive so much attention," says MacKenzie. "Her book Milk & Honey (70 in the Top 100) has resonated with readers around the world and New Zealanders have equally taken her to their hearts."

As the Top 100 list is released, a new survey - made public just days before - has also revealed more about our reading habits. The first survey of its kind, Book Reading in New Zealand was carried out online, getting just over 2000 responses, by Horizon Research for the NZ Book Council.

It confirms we are a nation of book lovers with readers clocking up an average of 20.6 books a year. However, the survey also showed around 394,000 adult NZers didn't read a single book during 2016. A third said they didn't have time to read; a quarter said they didn't like reading and the remainder felt it was easier to watch movies based on a book.

NZ Book Council patron Albert Wendt says getting reading on the national agenda is a crucial step in breaking the poverty cycle. Reading for pleasure is linked to benefits like improved academic performance for school-aged children.

"There are already some excellent initiatives out there such as the Book Council's Writers in Schools and Writers in Communities programmes, but more needs to be done," says professor Wendt. Encouraging reading, particularly reading for pleasure, is critical to ensure all New Zealanders can be part of our nation's prosperity."

But there, was, perhaps, good news for NZ books; at least half of the respondents to the Book Council's survey had read at least one Kiwi author in the past 12 months.

The Book Council will use information for the research to bolster existing strategies for increasing the number of lifelong readers and for encouraging greater consumption of NZ fiction.

Who is Joan?

If you've browsed the shelves at Whitcoulls, you would have noticed books labelled "Joan's picks" but just who is Joan?

• She's Joan MacKenzie, Whitcoulls book manager
• It's her job to choose and buy books for the chain
• She's a life-long booklover who's worked in the book trade since 1983
• She doesn't have a favourite genre, saying she likes a good story well told
• She looks for books which captivate her from the first few chapters
• If a book doesn't captivate her within its first 30 - 40 pages, she'll stop reading
• She finds it hard to name a favourite book, saying there are simply too many good ones;
• She's presently recommending Lilac Girls, by Martha Hall Kelly, but says she could have a new favourite by this time next week
• She loved Black Beauty as a child but never read Anne of Green Gables because her mother kept begging her to read it