The Best Books Of The Year (So Far), According To Booksellers

By Madeleine Crutchley
Viva
Iconic British model Twiggy reading at London Airport, 1967. Photo / Jim Gray, Getty Images.

Booksellers from local shops consult their personal libraries and share their picks for the best books of the year so far.

Although we’re only halfway through 2024, this year has welcomed the release of so many great stories. And, with the piles of books building, it can be tricky to

Here, we defer to the experts, asking booksellers across Aotearoa for their recommendations for the best of the year — so far (knowing that plenty of spellbinding plots are yet to be released).

As you might expect, the bibliophiles commonly reach for local authors, who have made blazing debuts or returned with stellar additions. But overseas writers have also made their mark, with “belly-deep hilarity” and “unputdownable” tales.

All That We Know by Shilo Kino

Māreikura Pohe is going viral. After her high-school speech denouncing racism leads to her gaining an online following, her views on being Māori and colonisation are reaching wide. Fitting this in while studying te reo full time, living with her Nana and navigating friendships old and new, Māreikura is asking confronting questions — to others, herself and the reader. All That We Know pulses with the energy of modern-day life, probing authenticity and identity with eagle-eyed humour and nuance. For fans of Greta & Valdin and How to Loiter in a Turf War. — Jenna, Time Out Books

All Fours by Miranda July

From the very first page — where we meet the FBI agent neighbour who our main character thinks wears his FBI vest way more than must be required — All Fours’ astute humour careens between bemusing and belly-deep hilarity. Semi-autobiographical, the story of a semi-famous artist confronted with writer’s block and menopause is infused with honesty to the point of outlandishness. Most pages had me either clutching my pearls, crying with laughter, or texting the group chat “omgomgomg”. July’s kooky style is unbelievably compelling, and as soon as I’d finished All Fours I couldn’t wait to read everything else she’s ever written to be inside her mind again. — Abby, Time Out Books

Hine Toa: A Story of Bravery by Ngāhuia te Awekōtuku

A compelling coming-of-age memoir, following Ngāhuia from her childhood growing up on a Rotorua pā, to working as a Meter Maid in Surfers Paradise, to protesting for peace, women’s and Māori rights on the streets of Aotearoa. Full of vividly told stories that are honest, heartbreaking and tender, this is a must-read biography from an inspirational wahine toa. Ngāhuia is nothing short of an icon. — Hollie, Time Out Books

kitten by Olive Nuttall

It’s not often that I want to re-read a book. kitten is a brilliant debut novel, a blueprint of a blueprint, in that it so wonderfully converses with existing trans literature and writers such as Nevada by Imogen Binnie and De-Transition, Baby by Torrey Peters, pieces that will forever hold such funny yet serious dialogue in my mind. They show and allow trans folk to be real, messy, perfect and imperfect. That is what kitten is about and does so well. It builds on something that exists and can exist. kitten is the Nevada of Aotearoa and it stirs up the gravel roads of our minds in a cult classic queer sense. — Demi, Unity Books, Auckland

American Mother by Colum McCann & Diane Foley

American Mother is an examination of the power America holds over the rest of the world. Centred around the public killing of the beloved American journalist James Foley, the story unfolds as both a wide lens of political power, presidency, negotiation and regret, and a close lens of family, bravery, courage and grief. This story humanises the criminals and looks at the effects of disparaging nations on small, insular families. It’s captivating, unputdownable and the story of a century. — Lisa Jean, Unity Books, Auckland

The Grimmelings by Rachael King

We love this compelling middle-grade read which is rich with strong, original characters and a vengeful kelpie. When you discover Ella has awoken ancient magic, by placing a curse on the school bully, you fall into a gripping story that beautifully weaves Scottish and Māori mythology. The lyrical prose takes you on a fast-paced adventure full of startlingly vivid imagery. You’ll feel like you’re living in the book. — Elka and Roger, Little Unity

The Heart In Winter by Kevin Barry

The usual Western tropes but with language that draws engaging and haunting characters. One can’t help but root for the main protagonists; to urge them to outwit the society that wants to force them to conform. Another excellent wee novel from Barry that deserves a wide audience. — Lisa, Unity Books, Wellington

Ash by Louise Wallace

How do I even begin to tell you how amazing Ash is. No words will be enough to do justice to the brilliance of this book that so many women will feel seen in. A blend of poetry and prose, a small but mighty novel that packs a punch with every well-considered word. — Melissa, Unity Books, Wellington

The Spirit Bares Its Teeth by Andrew Joseph White

Young adult but barely, this supernatural historical horror had me by the throat until the very end. An excellent depiction of a young autistic trans man in the Victorian era; exploring shared lived female experience and the powerful bonds formed in the place of insurmountable adversity. Bloody brilliant. — Eden, Unity Books, Wellington

The Night Alphabet by Joelle Taylor

It’s Hackney, 2233, and our narrator Jones enters a tattoo parlour run by two women, Cass and Small. She asks for one last tattoo, a line combining all of her other designs together. As the women tattoo her, she tells them stories of what each existing tattoo means. These are stories from what she calls rememberings. The author describes the book “as a sort of weird sci-fi I’m calling queer futurism”. I would place it in the magical realism realm. It is highly original — our advice is to give this book a chance. As with anything highly original you need to read the first few chapters to become enveloped in the writing style. It is so worth it once you fall into its rhythms as this is an outstanding read. There are few books I wish to read again and this is one of them. — Mandy Myles, Bookety Book Books

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