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Notable Books | The Top 5 nonfiction paperbacks as measured by placement on three leading lists as of June 10

Issue: "NEA: School bully," June 22, 2002

The Top 5 nonfiction paperbacks as measured by placement on three leading lists as of June 10

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 book,stores, plus wholesalers), and Publishers Weekly (general bookstores).
Laura Hillenbrand
30 points [nyt: 1st; aba: 1st; pw: 1st]

The story of the horse who became a legend in the 1930s and the men who were with him on his way to the top.

Seabiscuit was the greatest racehorse in the world at a time when horse racing was a bigger deal than it is now. Three fascinating men worked hard to get him to this pinnacle. All four personalities come alive in this engaging biography.

Barbara Ehrenreich
23 points [nyt: 3rd; aba: 2nd; pw: 5th]

A Ph.D. puts down her pen and picks up her mop as she seeks insight into the lives of the working poor.

Her ideology leads her to look for evidence that entry-level jobs-the kind that women leaving welfare are likely to land-are dehumanizing. Naturally, she finds what she is looking for while working as a maid, a nursing home worker, a Wal-Mart clerk, and a waitress. She doesn't stick around long enough to see how lives change and people progress.

Hampton Sides
17 points [nyt: 2nd; aba: 9th; pw: 4th]

Daring rescue of American POWs held in a prison camp in the Philippines.

Action moves back and forth between the POWs, held in near starvation conditions; increasingly desperate Japanese soldiers; and Rangers sent behind enemy lines to extract the prisoners before the Japanese could kill them. One chapter shows the crucial role chaplains played in keeping up POW morale.

Joseph J. Ellis
15 points [nyt: 4th; aba: 3rd; pw: n/l]

A discussion of the early years of our republic centered around the interactions of several key founders during crucial times.

In the years immediately after ratification of the Constitution, it was not clear that a republic spread over such a vast territory could survive. Ellis looks at the issues, personalities, and compromises to increase the odds of survival. Through his portrayal of the Founders he shows that ideas have consequences.

Eric Schlosser
9 points [nyt: 10th; aba: 3rd; pw: n/l]

A muckraking probe of the fast-food industry.

In this lively exposé, Eric Schlosser depicts the fast-food industry as the source of many evils: decline of the family farm, homogenization of the urban landscape, enlargement of the American waistline. With sometimes twisted statistics and an eye for gruesome detail, he portrays a fast-food threat and demands a governmental solution.

Contains scattered profanities.

Last year sales of paperback books revealed a strong interest in spiritual things among readers, as well as the influence of several competing worldviews. According to Publishers Weekly, the paperback publishing world in 2001 belonged to an author who had been dead for 28 years. Spurred by movie publicity, sales of J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings and related books soared past 10 million volumes-5.6 million in mass market sales and 4.9 million in trade paper. Other popular paperbacks in 2001 were new titles in the Chicken Soup for the Soul series, books in the Left Behind series, volumes about Islam (post 9/11), and paperback editions of previous hardback bestsellers. Two books, The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz and The Red Tent by Anita Diamant, appeared on the list every week of 2001. John Grisham's The Painted House sold the most of any single paperback title (more than 3 million in mass-market sales), but romance writer Nora Roberts, writing under her own name and the pen name J.D. Robb, had eight top-selling paperbacks last year, with total sales of almost 14 million books.


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