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Bestsellers

Culture | The five best-selling hardback novels as measured by placement on four leading lists as of March 4

Issue: "Welfare to work," March 16, 2002
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), Publishers Weekly (general bookstores), and Amazon.com (Web purchases).
1
The Summons
John Grisham 30 points (NYT: 1st; ABA: 1st; PW: 1st; Amazon.com: not listed)
PLOT
Law professor Ray Atlee and his prodigal brother are summoned home to Clanton, Miss., by their dying father, a retired judge and community benefactor.

GIST
When Ray Atlee arrives he finds his father already dead and a small fortune in cash hidden in some cabinets. While he tries to figure out the source of the money-Was his father's piety a sham?-and what to do with it, he finds himself being twisted out of shape by greed and lust for wealth.

CAUTION
N/A

2
Up Country
Nelson DeMille 26 points (NYT: 2nd; ABA: 3rd; PW: 2nd; Amazon.com: not listed)
PLOT
Retired warrant officer Paul Brenner, last seen in The General's Daughter, is called back into service to find a witness to a 30-year-old murder of a U.S. soldier in Vietnam.

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GIST
In this overlong novel that is part travelogue, part thriller, Brenner returns to Vietnam, where he served two tours of duty, to track down his elusive witness. He travels with a beautiful American businesswoman, who provides sexual relief while hiding secrets of her own.

CAUTION
Language and sexual situations.

3
Journey through Heartsongs
Mattie J.T. Stepanek 26 points (NYT: 3rd; ABA: 2nd; PW: 3rd; Amazon.com: 10th)
PLOT
A collection of poetry by a young man afflicted with a rare form of muscular dystrophy, which has already claimed the lives of his three siblings.

GIST
These poems have delighted many who are inspired by the cheerful spirit of their 11-year-old author. As poetry they aren't much, but the boy's life story and the sweet optimism of his work appeal to many.

CAUTION

4
The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer: My Life at Rose Red
Joyce Reardon 23 points (NYT: 4th; ABA: not listed; PW: 4th; Amazon.com: 2nd)
PLOT
The purported diary of a young woman in turn-of-the-century Seattle.

GIST
Ellen Rimbauer's husband proves unfaithful, leading a sexually debauched life. She ponders her sexual identity. Together they live in Rose Red, a mansion troubled by paranormal phenomena. If this sounds like Stephen King, it should. The book, authored by a "professor" of paranormal studies, is a tie-in to a made-for-TV miniseries by King.

CAUTION
See above.

5
The Corrections
Jonathan Franzen 22 points (NYT: 6th; ABA: 4th; PW: 8th; Amazon.com: 4th)
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
Language and graphic sexual situations.

IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Publishers Weekly reports, "For the first time since 1994, John Grisham will not command the top fiction spot on the annual [bestseller] chart." Taking his place are Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, authors of Desecration, which sold more than 2.9 million copies in 2001. Mr. Grisham had two books on the bestseller lists, Skipping Christmas and A Painted House, selling 2 million and 1. 7 million, respectively. According to PW, "in past years, these sales levels assured Grisham the top spot." Publishers Weekly also reports that "a Christian book will also take the top spot on the 2001 nonfiction chart." Bruce Wilkinson's The Prayer of Jabez sold more than 8 million copies last year, while Secrets of the Vine sold 3 million copies. According to the magazine, "this is the first time that two Christian titles have headed our annual charts." PW began compiling the fiction list in 1895 and the nonfiction list in 1912.

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