The Greatest "New Zealand" Books of All Time

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This list represents a comprehensive and trusted collection of the greatest books. Developed through a specialized algorithm, it brings together 313 'best of' book lists to form a definitive guide to the world's most acclaimed books. For those interested in how these books are chosen, additional details can be found on the rankings page.

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  1. 1. The Worst Journey in the World by Apsley Cherry-Garrard

    "The Worst Journey in the World" is a gripping account of the Terra Nova Expedition to the South Pole in 1910-1913. The book vividly describes the perilous journey undertaken by a team of explorers, their struggles with brutal weather conditions, and the tragic loss of their leader and four other members on their return from the Pole. The narrative is not only about physical survival in harsh conditions, but also about the psychological toll of such an expedition, making it a timeless testament to human endurance and spirit.

    The 797th Greatest Book of All Time
  2. 2. The Voyage of the Beagle by Charles Darwin

    This book is a vivid and exciting travel memoir as well as a detailed scientific field journal covering biology, geology, and anthropology that demonstrates the author’s keen powers of observation, written at a time when Western Europeans were still discovering and exploring much of the rest of the world. The author's five-year journey took him from the coasts of South America, Australia, and Africa to the South Pacific islands, during which he collected and documented the natural history of these areas. The voyage and the specimens he brought back would later form the basis for his famous theory of evolution.

    The 984th Greatest Book of All Time
  3. 3. The Garden Party And Other Stories by Katherine Mansfield

    This collection of short stories delves into the complexities of human emotions and social dynamics through the lens of early 20th-century life. The narratives, often focusing on moments of epiphany or poignant realizations, explore themes such as class distinction, innocence, and the passage of time. The titular story captures the contrast between the carefree world of the wealthy and the harsh realities of the working class, as seen through the eyes of a young girl. Throughout the anthology, the author's keen observations and vivid prose invite readers to reflect on the subtleties of everyday experiences and the intricate tapestry of human relationships.

    The 1039th Greatest Book of All Time
  4. 4. 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.

    The 1144th Greatest Book of All Time
  5. 5. Owls Do Cry by Janet Frame

    This novel is a poignant exploration of the Withers family living in a small New Zealand town, focusing on the life of Daphne Withers, who is sent to a mental institution after a breakdown. Through lyrical and experimental prose, the narrative delves into themes of mental illness, societal expectations, and the struggle for individuality. It juxtaposes the harsh realities of institutional life with the rich inner world of its characters, particularly Daphne, who finds solace in the natural world and poetry. The book is a powerful critique of the stigma surrounding mental health and a testament to the resilience of the human spirit.

    The 1616th Greatest Book of All Time
  6. 6. In Search Of The Castaways by Jules Verne

    This adventure novel follows the thrilling journey of Captain Grant's children, who embark on a global quest to find their missing father with the help of a detailed but cryptic message found in a bottle. Accompanied by the generous Lord Glenarvan and his crew aboard the Duncan, they navigate through South America, Australia, and New Zealand, facing natural disasters, encountering exotic locales, and overcoming formidable obstacles. Throughout their perilous expedition, the group demonstrates resilience, ingenuity, and unwavering hope, showcasing the human spirit's capacity to endure in the face of uncertainty.

    The 1884th Greatest Book of All Time
  7. 7. 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.

    The 2505th Greatest Book of All Time
  8. 8. The Short Stories by Katherine Mansfield

    The book is a collection of short stories that delve into the complexities of human relationships and emotions, often focusing on moments of epiphany in the lives of ordinary people. Set primarily in the early 20th century, the stories explore themes such as love, loss, and the search for meaning amidst the mundane. The author's keen observations and subtle wit bring to life a range of characters, from lonely spinsters to disillusioned couples, each portrayed with a deep sense of empathy and psychological insight. Through her masterful use of language and narrative structure, the author captures the fleeting impressions and nuances of everyday existence, leaving a lasting impact on the reader.

    The 2703rd Greatest Book of All Time
  9. 9. Journals (Cook) by James Cook

    This book is a compilation of the personal journals of an 18th-century British explorer and naval captain, who embarked on three significant voyages of discovery across the Pacific Ocean. These entries provide a firsthand account of his encounters with various indigenous peoples, his detailed observations of the flora, fauna, and geography of newly discovered lands, and his experiences of seafaring life. The journals also record his scientific experiments and astronomical observations, contributing to the fields of geography, anthropology, and ethnography.

    The 3991st Greatest Book of All Time
  10. 10. Memoirs Of A Peon by Frank Sargeson

    "Memoirs of a Peon" is a fictional narrative that delves into the life of a laborer in New Zealand, offering a candid and often humorous account of his experiences and observations. Through a series of vignettes, the protagonist navigates the complexities of social hierarchy, economic hardship, and personal identity, all while working on a rural farm. The book provides a unique perspective on the working-class existence, exploring themes of resilience, camaraderie, and the quest for individual dignity against the backdrop of the early 20th-century New Zealand society.

    The 5176th Greatest Book of All Time
  11. 11. 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.

    The 5378th Greatest Book of All Time
  12. 12. 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.

    The 5405th Greatest Book of All Time
  13. 13. The Best Of Albert Wendt’s Short Stories by Albert Wendt

    This collection showcases a selection of short stories by a prominent Pacific writer, offering a vivid portrayal of Samoan life and culture. Through a diverse range of narratives, the author explores themes of identity, family, and social change, weaving rich, evocative tales that capture the complexities of traditional and contemporary Pacific Island society. The stories provide a deep insight into the human condition, set against the backdrop of Samoa's lush landscapes and the broader context of the Pacific Islands, making it a compelling read for those interested in the region's literature and cultural heritage.

    The 5509th Greatest Book of All Time
  14. 14. Tahuri by Ngahuia Te Awekotuku

    "Tahuri" is a poignant narrative that delves into the life of a young Maori girl navigating the complexities of her cultural identity and sexuality amidst the backdrop of contemporary New Zealand society. The story explores themes of tradition, family, and self-discovery as the protagonist grapples with the expectations placed upon her by her community and her own personal desires. Through her journey, the novel examines the intersections of indigenous culture and modern life, shedding light on the challenges faced by those striving to maintain their heritage while also seeking to forge their own path.

    The 8106th Greatest Book of All Time
  15. 15. Gipsy Moth Circles the World by Francis Chichester

    This book chronicles the author's solo sailing journey around the globe in his yacht, the Gipsy Moth IV. Battling harsh weather conditions, loneliness, and equipment failure, he successfully circumnavigates the world, starting and ending in England, and becoming the first person to do so by the clipper route, and the fastest circumnavigator, in nine months and one day overall. The book details his adventure and the challenges he faced, providing an intimate look at the world of sailing and exploration.

    The 8639th Greatest Book of All Time
  16. 16. The Night Sessions by Ken MacLeod

    This science fiction novel delves into a future where the world has largely moved beyond religion, following devastating religious wars. Set in a technologically advanced society, the story follows a police investigation led by Detective Inspector Adam Ferguson into a series of bombings. These attacks seem to be motivated by religious extremism, a concept thought to be a thing of the past. As Ferguson digs deeper, he uncovers a conspiracy that challenges the secular foundations of his world, involving robots and artificial intelligences who have developed their own faiths. The narrative explores themes of faith, science, and the nature of belief in a society where technology has reshaped every aspect of human life.

    The 8933rd Greatest Book of All Time
  17. 17. 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.

    The 10308th Greatest Book of All Time
  18. 18. 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.

    The 10308th Greatest Book of All Time
  19. 19. 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.

    The 10308th Greatest Book of All Time
  20. 20. 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.

    The 10308th Greatest Book of All Time
  21. 21. 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.

    The 10308th Greatest Book of All Time
  22. 22. 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.

    The 10308th Greatest Book of All Time
  23. 23. 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.

    The 10308th Greatest Book of All Time
  24. 24. 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.

    The 10308th Greatest Book of All Time
  25. 25. 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.

    The 10308th Greatest Book of All Time

Reading Statistics

Click the button below to see how many of these books you've read!


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.