Culture | The five best-selling nonfiction paperbacks as measured by placement on four leading lists as of April 15

Issue: "Summer Travel 2001," May 12, 2001
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), Publisher's Weekly (general bookstores), and (Web purchases).
1st to Die
James Patterson 35 points (ABA: 4th; NYT: 2nd; PW: 2nd; Amazon: 1st)
A maniac kills couples on their honeymoons, and a tough female police investigator and her girl friends solve the crime.

A page-turner pitting one of San Francisco's finest, who's suffering from a possibly fatal disease, against a serial killer with a strange power over women. Should appeal to those who like perverse crimes, short chapters, and scant text-along with a plot twist at the end.

Cheap thrills materialism.

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Sex and crudity.

Bonesetter's Daughter
Amy Tan 31 points (ABA: 1st; NYT: 6th; PW: 4th; Amazon: 2nd)
Ghostwriter deals with her mother's Alzheimer's and ghosts that haunt their pasts.

Evocative cross-generational and cross-cultural tale of a Chinese-American woman who struggles with commitment (she's been living with a guy for 10 years) and with her mother. The increasingly argumentative mother's stories about her past keep changing, but journals, translated from Chinese, reveal the truth and open up new possibilities for the future.

Thoughtful humanism.


Painted House
John Grisham 30 points (ABA: 5th; NYT: 3rd; PW: 3rd; Amazon: 3rd)
A boy and his family gather in the cotton crop with the help of a family from the Ozarks and a truckload of Mexicans.

Luke Chandler lives in rural Arkansas, 1952. His world consists of the family's 80 acres and the nearby small town with its handful of stores and the Baptist and Methodist churches. Harry Caray's baseball broadcasts are the highlights of summer evenings. Then come the events that change his life forever.

Down-home humanism.

Some profanity.

Stephen King 29 points (ABA: 2nd; NYT: 1st; PW: 1st; Amazon: not listed)
An alien invasion in New England puts a damper on a hunting trip.

Incoherent story made up of one part Carrie, one part Stand by Me, and one part Aliens. While on their yearly hunting trip, four boyhood friends encounter a man with foul-smelling gas. Turns out there's a nasty alien eating him alive from the inside out. The aliens spread like a fungus, and wherever they go so goes an ability to read minds.


Foul language.

Scarlet Feather
Maeve Binchy 26 points (ABA: 3rd; NYT: 5th; PW: 6th; Amazon: 4th)
Two friends launch their long-dreamed-of catering business amid family joy and sadness.

Binchy is a master of the big sprawling family saga, set in modern day Dublin. She shows two partners in a catering business, both happily involved in relationships-one married and one not. Over the course of the business's first year, through good times and bad, she follows these family relationships to the predictable outcome.


Accepting of divorce, homosexuality, adultery.

Fans Of Jan Karon's Mitford series will cheer the appearance of her latest, A Common Life: The Wedding Story (Viking, 2001). It's a piffle of a book, with all the old characters making an appearance. Esther Bolick stews over her orange marmalade cake and Uncle Billy tries to come up with the perfect joke for the reception. Maybe it's because Ms. Karon has done such a good job developing Mitford's cast of oddball characters over the years, or maybe it's because they've become clichés, but they react to the joyous news just as you'd expect them to. At the heart of the book is the happy couple: Father Tim and Cynthia ponder the goodness of the God who brought them together. There's a lot of reminiscing, a bit of doubting, and just enough humor to keep the sweet concoction from causing a bellyache. The short book is being marketed as the perfect gift for Mother's Day, Father's Day, and weddings.


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