The Greatest New Zealander Books of All Time

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This list represents a comprehensive and trusted collection of the greatest books in literature. Developed through a specialized algorithm, it brings together 210 'best of' book lists to form a definitive guide to the world's most acclaimed literary works. For those interested in how these books are chosen, additional details about the selection process can be found on the rankings page.

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  1. 1. The Bone People by Keri Hulme

    "The Bone People" is a complex, emotional novel that explores the lives of three characters - a reclusive artist, a young mute boy, and his adoptive father - in New Zealand. The narrative delves into themes such as Maori culture, love, violence, and isolation while showcasing the struggle of these individuals as they try to form a family unit despite their personal traumas and societal pressures. The book's unique blend of prose and poetry, along with its blend of English and Maori language, adds to its depth and richness.

  2. 2. Faces In The Water by Janet Frame

    "Faces in the Water" is a chilling exploration of mental illness, based on the author's own experiences in psychiatric hospitals. The protagonist is a woman who is institutionalized after a suicide attempt and suffers through the dehumanizing treatment of the era, including electroshock therapy. The narrative is a surreal and fragmented reflection of her mental state, as she grapples with her sanity and the inhumane conditions of her confinement. The novel serves as a powerful critique of the mental health system and the societal attitudes towards mental illness in the mid-20th century.

  3. 3. The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton

    Set during the New Zealand Gold Rush of the 19th century, this novel follows Walter Moody, a prospector who stumbles upon a secret meeting of twelve local men who are trying to solve a series of unsolved crimes. As the story unfolds, it becomes clear that the crimes, which include a rich man's disappearance, a prostitute's attempted suicide, and a huge fortune found in a drunkard's cottage, are all interconnected. The novel's complex narrative structure, which uses astrology to organize its characters and events, adds another layer of intrigue to the story.

  4. 4. Plumb by Maurice Gee

    In "Plumb" by Maurice Gee, readers are introduced to a small New Zealand town called Waimaru, where a tragic accident occurs, leaving a young boy dead. The aftermath of this event reveals the dark secrets and hidden tensions within the community, as the lives of various characters intertwine and unravel. With beautifully crafted prose and a keen exploration of human nature, Gee delves into themes of guilt, loss, and the complexities of human relationships, creating a gripping and thought-provoking narrative.

  5. 5. A Man Lay Dead by Ngaio Marsh

    "A Man Lay Dead" is a captivating murder mystery set in a country house, where a group of guests gather for a weekend of games and entertainment. When a harmless game of murder turns into a real-life crime, Inspector Alleyn is called in to solve the case. As he delves into the lives and secrets of the eccentric characters, he uncovers a web of deceit, jealousy, and hidden motives. With a clever plot, intriguing characters, and a touch of humor, this book keeps readers guessing until the final twist.

  6. 6. Badjelly The Witch by Spike Milligan

    The book is a whimsical children's story that follows the adventures of siblings Tim and Rose as they search for their lost cow, Lucy. Their quest leads them into an enchanted forest where they encounter a host of magical creatures, including giants, a fairy, and an evil witch named Badjelly who can turn people into sausages with her magic wand. With courage and the help of their new fantastical friends, the children must outwit Badjelly and rescue their beloved cow, embarking on a journey filled with humor, whimsy, and the triumph of good over evil.

  7. 7. Kurangaituku by Whiti Hereaka

    "Kurangaituku" by Whiti Hereaka is a captivating and thought-provoking novel that delves into the life of a young Maori girl named Te Arepa. Set in New Zealand, the story follows Te Arepa as she navigates the challenges of her cultural identity, family dynamics, and the impact of colonization. Through her journey, the book explores themes of self-discovery, resilience, and the power of storytelling. With its rich cultural backdrop and engaging narrative, "Kurangaituku" offers a compelling exploration of identity and the complexities of the human experience.

  8. 8. Tu by Patricia Grace

    "Tu" is a heartfelt novel that explores the life of a young Maori boy named Tu, who is raised by his grandparents in rural New Zealand. Set in the 1960s, the story follows Tu's journey as he navigates the challenges of growing up in a changing society, grappling with his identity, and finding his place within his community. Through vivid storytelling and rich cultural references, the novel delves into themes of family, tradition, and the enduring power of love and resilience.

  9. 9. Blindsight by Maurice Gee

    In a dystopian world where a mysterious disease has left people blind, a young boy named Theo possesses the ability to see. As he navigates through a society that fears and shuns him, Theo discovers a hidden underground community of others with sight. Together, they embark on a dangerous journey to uncover the truth behind the epidemic and restore hope to their shattered world. This captivating novel explores themes of resilience, acceptance, and the power of perception.

  10. 10. Opportunity by Charlotte Grimshaw

    "Opportunity" is a gripping novel that delves into the lives of a wealthy New Zealand family, exploring themes of ambition, betrayal, and the pursuit of success. As secrets unravel and hidden desires come to light, the characters navigate a world of privilege and power, where choices made in the pursuit of opportunity have far-reaching consequences. With its compelling narrative and complex characters, this book offers a thought-provoking exploration of the lengths people will go to in order to seize their chance at success.

  11. 11. The Hut Builder by Laurence Fearnley

    "The Hut Builder" is a captivating novel that follows the journey of a middle-aged man named Boden Blackwood, who retreats to the remote wilderness of New Zealand to build his dream hut. As he immerses himself in the challenging task of constructing the hut, Boden's solitude is interrupted by unexpected encounters with the locals, each bringing their own stories and struggles. Through these interactions, Boden discovers the profound impact that human connections can have on one's sense of purpose and belonging. With beautiful prose and a deep exploration of solitude and community, this novel takes readers on a reflective and moving journey of self-discovery.

  12. 12. As The Earth Turns Silver by Alison Wong

    Set in early 20th century New Zealand, "As The Earth Turns Silver" is a historical novel that explores the complex relationships between Chinese immigrants and the European settlers. The story follows the lives of two characters, a Chinese immigrant named Yung, who works as a valet for a wealthy white family, and Katherine, the wife of the family's lawyer. As their lives intertwine, they navigate the societal prejudices and expectations of the time, while also confronting their own desires and secrets. Through their forbidden love affair, Wong delves into themes of identity, racism, and the struggle for acceptance in a changing world.

  13. 13. This Mortal Boy by Fiona Kidman

    Set in 1950s New Zealand, "This Mortal Boy" tells the gripping true story of Albert "Paddy" Black, a young Irish immigrant who finds himself caught up in a tragic turn of events. When Paddy is accused of murder, his fate rests in the hands of the justice system and the public's perception of him as an outsider. As the trial unfolds, the novel explores themes of prejudice, class division, and the power of love and hope in the face of adversity.

  14. 14. Rangatira by Paula Morris

    "Rangatira" is a historical fiction novel set in 19th century New Zealand. The story follows the journey of a young Maori chief, who, after being chosen as a rangatira (leader) of his tribe, embarks on a voyage to England. Through his experiences in the unfamiliar Western world, the protagonist grapples with cultural clashes, identity, and the complexities of colonialism. The narrative seamlessly weaves together Maori mythology, European history, and personal reflections, offering a thought-provoking exploration of indigenous perspectives in a changing world.

  15. 15. The Wish Child by Catherine Chidgey

    "The Wish Child" is a powerful and haunting novel that explores the lives of two children, Sieglinde and Erich, growing up in Nazi Germany. Set against the backdrop of World War II, the story delves into the complexities of their friendship and the impact of the Nazi regime on their lives. Through vivid and evocative prose, the author skillfully captures the innocence and resilience of children in a time of darkness and uncertainty, while also shedding light on the moral dilemmas faced by ordinary individuals during a tumultuous period in history.

  16. 16. The Big Music by Kirsty Gunn

    "The Big Music" is a profound and lyrical novel that explores the life of a Scottish bagpiper and his obsession with composing a piece of music that captures the essence of his family's history and the rugged landscape of the Highlands. Through a series of interwoven narratives, the book delves into themes of love, loss, and the power of music to transcend time and connect generations. With its rich prose and evocative descriptions, the novel immerses readers in a mesmerizing tale of creativity, heritage, and the enduring power of the human spirit.

  17. 17. A Novel About My Wife by Emily Perkins

    "A Novel About My Wife" is a captivating exploration of a marriage on the brink of collapse. Told from the perspective of the husband, the story delves into the complexities of love, desire, and the secrets that can unravel even the strongest of relationships. As the husband grapples with his own insecurities and suspicions, he becomes consumed by the mystery surrounding his wife's past, leading him down a path of self-discovery and ultimately forcing him to confront the truth about their marriage.

  18. 18. Harlequin Rex by Owen Marshall

    "Harlequin Rex" is a captivating novel that explores the life of a man named Rex, who is born with a rare condition that causes him to have a clown-like appearance. Despite the challenges he faces, Rex embarks on a journey of self-discovery and acceptance, navigating through a world that often judges based on appearances. Through his unique perspective and experiences, the book delves into themes of identity, love, and the complexities of human relationships.

  19. 19. The Axeman's Carnival by Catherine Chidgey

    "The Axeman's Carnival" is a gripping historical novel set in 1918 New Orleans, during the height of the Spanish flu pandemic. As the city grapples with fear and uncertainty, a serial killer known as the Axeman terrorizes its inhabitants. The story follows three main characters—a jazz musician, a young girl, and a detective—as their lives intertwine amidst the chaos. With vivid descriptions and a suspenseful narrative, the book explores themes of resilience, identity, and the power of music in the face of darkness.

  20. 20. The New Animals by Pip Adam

    "The New Animals" by Pip Adam is a thought-provoking and unsettling novel that explores the lives of a group of young adults navigating the complexities of modern society. Set in a futuristic world where societal norms and expectations have drastically changed, the story follows Carla, a young woman trying to find her place amidst the chaos. As she encounters various characters and situations, the book delves into themes of identity, relationships, and the blurred boundaries between humans and animals. With its raw and evocative prose, "The New Animals" challenges readers to question the constructs of society and the essence of humanity itself.

  21. 21. The Shag Incident by Stephanie Johnson

    "The Shag Incident" by Stephanie Johnson is a captivating coming-of-age novel that follows the journey of a young woman named Emma as she navigates the complexities of love, friendship, and self-discovery. Set in a small coastal town, Emma finds herself entangled in a scandalous affair that challenges her perceptions of morality and forces her to confront her own desires. With richly developed characters and an engaging plot, this thought-provoking novel explores themes of identity, societal expectations, and the consequences of our actions.

  22. 22. Stonedogs by Craig Marriner

    "Stonedogs" by Craig Marriner is a gritty and atmospheric novel set in New Zealand, following the lives of a group of disillusioned young people living on the fringes of society. The story delves into their struggles with addiction, violence, and the search for meaning in a world that seems to offer them little hope. With vivid and raw prose, Marriner explores the complexities of human nature and the consequences of one's choices, ultimately painting a haunting portrait of a generation lost in a haze of drugs and desperation.

  23. 23. Auē by Becky Manawatu

    "Auē" is a powerful and heartbreaking novel that explores the lives of three individuals in a small New Zealand town. It delves into the themes of family, loss, and resilience as the characters navigate their troubled pasts and search for redemption. With vivid storytelling and raw emotions, the book offers a profound examination of the human spirit and the impact of trauma on individuals and communities.

  24. 24. Bug Week & Other Stories by Airini Beautrais

    "Bug Week & Other Stories" is a collection of short stories that explores the complexities of human relationships and the impact of everyday occurrences on individuals. From a woman's obsession with bugs to a couple's struggle with infertility, the book delves into various themes such as love, loss, and the search for identity. With its vivid storytelling and diverse characters, the collection offers a captivating glimpse into the intricacies of human nature.

  25. 25. The Vintner's Luck by Elizabeth Knox

    "The Vintner's Luck" is a captivating novel that follows the life of a young vintner named Sobran, who forms an unlikely friendship with an angel named Xas. Set in 19th century France, the story explores themes of love, passion, and the pursuit of dreams as Sobran navigates the challenges of winemaking and the complexities of his relationships with both mortals and celestial beings. Through beautifully descriptive prose and rich character development, the book delves into the intricacies of the human spirit and the intertwining of the mundane and the divine.


If you're interested in downloading this list as a CSV file for use in a spreadsheet application, you can easily do so by clicking the button below. Please note that to ensure a manageable file size and faster download, the CSV will include details for only the first 500 books.