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Bestsellers

Culture | The five best-selling hardback novels as measured by placement on four leading lists as of Oct. 31, 2000

Issue: "Here we go again," Nov. 11, 2000
Scoring system:10 points for first place, 9 for second, down to 1 for 10th, on the lists of the American Booksellers Association (independent, sometimes highbrow stores), The New York Times (4,000 bookstores, plus wholesalers), USA Today (3,000 large-inventory bookstores), and Amazon.com (web purchases).
1
Drowning
Ruth Christina Schwarz 36 points (ABA:3rd; NYT: 1st; USA Today: 3rd; Amazon.com: 1st)
PLOT
A young mother drowns mysteriously and her sister steps in to fill her place.

GIST
When Matilda's husband Carl returns from WWI, no one can tell him how his wife drowned or why she was living on an isolated island during winter. His young daughter has a memory of drowning also, but she's alive. And the sister/aunt isn't talking because she's hiding secrets of her own, which threaten to explode in the present.

WORLDVIEW
Soap "Oprah" fatalism.

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CAUTION
N/A

2
The Rescue
Nicholas Sparks 27 points (ABA: 6th; NYT: 2nd; USA Today: 4th; Amazon.com: 5th)
PLOT
A single mom with a learning-disabled child is rescued by a volunteer firefighter.

GIST
Taylor McAden is often first on the scene and willing to take the greatest risks. But his personal life is a mess; he's haunted by the death of his father when he was 9. When he meets Denise Holton he falls in love but demons from his past threaten to sabotage his future once again.

WORLDVIEW
Sentimental.

CAUTION
Sexual situations.

3
The Bear and the Dragon
Tom Clancy 25 points (ABA: 7th; NYT: 3rd; USA Today: 6th; Amazon.com: 3rd)
PLOT
Typical Tom Clancy plot, with former CIA agent Jack Ryan now the president of the United States.

GIST
Instability in China and a mysterious missile attack/ possible assassination attempt in Russia, plus the discovery of vast quantities of Russian oil and gold, lead the two nations to war and the world to the brink of nuclear destruction.

WORLDVIEW
Conservative materialism.

CAUTION
Language, sexual situations.

4
Shopgirl
Steve Martin 20 points (ABA: 9th; NYT: 6th; USA Today: 7th; Amazon.com: 2nd)
PLOT
Neiman-Marcus salesgirl struggles with ennui in L.A.

GIST
Mirabelle holds on to a meaningless job with the help of anti-depressants. She drifts in and out of a two-year affair with a well-heeled businessman in this story of depression, meaninglessness, and modern-day love. Martin's characters never become more than well-described mannequins on a well-decorated stage.

WORLDVIEW
Everything under the sun is meaningless.

CAUTION
Language, sexual situations.

5
Prodigal Summer
Barbara Kingsolver 15 points (ABA: 2nd; NYT: not listed; USA Today: 5th; Amazon.com: not listed)
PLOT
The story of three women in the southern Appalachians during one particularly hot and wet summer.

GIST
The females embrace the interconnectivity of all creation, but the males fear it and try to control the natural world with guns, chemicals, and "god." All attempts to control the world are ineffective, and wisdom is realizing that mankind is just one thread in the fabric of life.

WORLDVIEW
Feminist pantheism.

CAUTION
Sexual situations.

IN THE SPOTLIGHT
In his preface to A Personal Odyssey (Free Press 2000), Thomas Sowell promises that the book will not "try to cover a continuous lifespan or to tell an exhaustive story." If only it had! Mr. Sowell is one of the most influential economists of our time, a black American who rose from poverty in North Carolina to academic heights at Stanford. The journey included growing up in Harlem, serving a stint in the Marines during the Korean War, and studying at Harvard. Mr. Sowell has no shortage of interesting anecdotes to tell, but readers looking for heavy introspection will be disappointed. The narrative is often frustratingly distant from his personal life, and details needed to understand this important thinker are absent. What's left is a well-written collection of some of Mr. Sowell's struggles against the stereotypes and assumptions foisted on blacks in the academic world, especially by liberals, along with some tantalizing glimpses into his personal life that leave the reader wanting to know more.

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