Culture

Bestsellers

Culture | The five best-selling fiction hardbacks as measured by placement on four leading lists as of Dec. 10

Issue: "Daniel of the year 2001," Dec. 22, 2001
Scoring system:10 points for first place down to 1 for 10th on The New York Times list (4,000 bookstores, plus wholesalers), the American Booksellers Association list (independent, sometimes highbrow stores), USA Today (general bookstores), and Amazon.com (web purchases).
1
Skipping Christmas
40 points (NYT: 1st; ABA: 2nd; USA Today: 1st; Amazon: 1st)
PLOT
When his adult daughter leaves on a mission trip, a cynical dad wages a campaign to skip Christmas gift-giving and spend his savings on a cruise instead.

GIST
A heavy-handed parable that mocks some modern expressions of Christmas (expensive parties, glitzy decorations, extravagant foods, fancy presents) and celebrates sentimental ones (families and friends).

CAUTION
N/A

2
Violets are Blue
James Patterson 32 points (NYT: 2nd; ABA: 5th; USA Today: 2nd; Amazon: 3rd)
PLOT
Alex Cross pursues human "vampires" who commit grisly murders.

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GIST
James Patterson's thrillers have become increasingly bizarre, as if in order to shock he needs to depict ever more depraved behaviors. Murder is no longer sufficiently evil in itself; his killers are sadistic, sexually depraved predators, who hunt their prey like beasts and suck their blood like vampires.

CAUTION
N/A

3
The Corrections
Jonathan Franzen 31 points (NYT: 5th; ABA: 2nd; USA Today: 4th; Amazon: 2nd)
PLOT
An elderly mother strives to bring her family together for one last Christmas.

GIST
Reviewers love this novel, not in spite of, but because of its portrait of family dysfunction. The characters find that nothing satisfies, but they have no solution. Reacting to their parents' mistakes, each grown child makes corrections-and thus ends up with mistakes of his own.

CAUTION
N/A

4
Last Man Standing
David Baldacci 23 points (NYT: 7th; ABA: 7th; USA Today: 3rd Amazon: 4th)
PLOT
Web London of the FBI's Hostage Rescue Team survives an ambush and seeks out those who set it.

GIST
A complicated thriller involving an ace FBI agent who, as the ambush's only survivor, becomes suspect. In his search for the real culprits he uncovers several bands of bad guys including white supremacist terrorists and drug dealers. He also gets his head examined by a beautiful psychiatrist.

CAUTION
Bad language.

5
Best Loved Poems of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis
Caroline Kennedy 16 points (NYT: not listed; ABA: 3rd; USA Today: 6th; Amazon: 8th)
CONTENT
A collection of the former first lady's favorite poems, compiled by her daughter.

GIST
Caroline Kennedy put together this short, 100-poem collection as a way of honoring her mother and her mother's love for language and literature. Each section is illustrated by a family photo, and Caroline's short introductions recall her parents and their interests.

CAUTION
N/A

IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Soon it will be 2002, and time for some of us to make course corrections and for others to enter new stages of life. Two books that are helpful in that regard are Kay Cole James's What I Wish I'd Known before I Got Married (Multnomah, 2001) and James Dobson's Bringing Up Boys (Tyndale, 2001). Kay James has written a personal book about getting married and making marriage work. The book, structured around the engagement and wedding of her daughter, uses personal stories to discuss various topics and a biblical approach to them. Even if you disagree with Mrs. James at points, she provides a good starting point for further thought and discussion. Dr. Dobson has written a book that parents and teachers of boys should read. He examines, in the same comfortable style that makes his radio program popular, the biology and psychology of boys. He shows how modern, feminist-influenced culture seeks to squelch the spirit of boys, and shows why we need to understand gender differences to raise a generation of healthy men. The book is full of anecdotes and practical advice, some in response to listener questions.

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