Culture

Bestsellers

Culture | The five best-selling hardback novels as measured by placement on four leading lists as of May 24

Issue: "Bush wins one," June 9, 2001
Scoring system:10 points for first place, 9 for second, down to 1 for tenth, 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
Death in Holy Orders
P. D. James 32 points (NYT: 7th; ABA: 2nd; WP: 1st; Amazon.com: 2nd)
PLOT
Commander Adam Dalgliesh of New Scotland Yard investigates a series of deaths at a remote theological school.

GIST
P. D. James sets her latest novel at a small, out-of-the-mainstream theological school slated for closing by the Anglican church. While solving the mystery, Dalgliesh glimpses the outworking of faith and lack of faith, and he grapples with his own life's purpose.

CAUTION
A priest is a convicted pederast, and half-siblings are having an affair.

2
On the Street Where You Live
Mary Higgins Clark 28 points (NYT: 1st; ABA: 5th; WP: 9th; Amazon.com: 1st)
PLOT
A criminal defense lawyer returns to a small waterfront town in New Jersey where she is stalked and targeted for murder.

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GIST
Mary Higgins Clark avoids the bad language and graphic sex popular among most current suspense writers. The plot is a page turner about a female lawyer stalked by a killer intent on copying three murders committed in the town 100 years ago. The book adds a dollop of reincarnation talk for those who want an otherworldly element to jazz up their summer reading.

CAUTION
N/A

3
A Common Life: The Wedding Story
Jan Karon 27 points (NYT: 4th; ABA: 1st; WP: 8th; Amazon.com: 4th)
PLOT
The little town of Mitford, N.C., comes together to celebrate Father Tim's wedding to Cynthia.

GIST
For those familiar with the Mitford stories, familiar friends are back: Esther Bolick stews over her orange marmalade cake and Uncle Billy tries to come up with the perfect joke for the reception. Newcomers to Mitford will be introduced to a gentle series of novels featuring Episcopal priest Father Tim, who cares for his eccentric flock with love and Christian compassion.

CAUTION
N/A

4
Bonesetter's Daughter
Amy Tan 22 points (NYT: 10th; ABA: 4th; WP: 5th; Amazon.com: 3rd)
PLOT
San Francisco ghostwriter deals with her mother's Alzheimer's and ghosts that haunt their pasts.

GIST
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.

CAUTION
Adultery.

5
Back When We Were Grownups
Anne Tyler 20 points (NYT: 8th; ABA: 3rd; WP: 2nd; Amazon.com: not listed)
PLOT
A late mid-life crisis sends Rebecca in search for the person she was when she was 20.

GIST
In this endearing book, Rebecca drops out of college to marry a man who already has three young daughters. He dies, and she works at the family business, holding together her odd, unappreciative family. Now 53, her early hopes are gone, but she realizes she has had a wonderful life.

CAUTION

IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Readers familiar with P. D. James know that an undercurrent of theological concern sweeps through her books. That undercurrent flows to the top in Death in Holy Orders. It's a classic golden age whodunit set in a theological school slated for closure because it's elitist and out of the mainstream. The school contains flawed individuals whose often sinful pasts have consequences in the present-and as Dalgliesh tracks down a killer, he uncovers these unsavory secrets. P. D. James skewers modern moral relativism and materialism, painting convincing portraits of sinful men trusting in Christ. With penetrating insight she depicts the clash of two ways of seeing-Christian faith and atheism. Her books are not quick poolside reads, but her evocative descriptions, deft characterizations, and wise psychological and theological insights make them worth reading.

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