38 Points (ABA: 1st; NYT: 2nd; PW: 2nd; Amazon: 1st)
PLOT Susie Salmon, 14, is murdered by her neighbor. From "heaven" she watches the effects of her murder on family and friends.
GIST Heaven in this novel has no God. Susie mourns her death and experiences vicariously through her sister the milestones of growing up. Eventually she sees her friends and family rebuild their lives.
CAUTION Some bad language, violence, and sexual situations; graphic opening chapters.
24 Points (ABA: 3rd; NYT: 3rd; PW: 3rd; Amazon: Not listed)
PLOT Husband abandons middle-aged wife for younger woman. Middle-aged wife meets her soulmate during a ferocious storm one weekend on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. He leaves, they write, tragedy strikes.
GIST A cliche-ridden tearjerker. Adrienne, the middle-aged wife, tells the story of her romance to her grieving daughter. The daughter, seeing parallels to her own marriage, begins the road to recovery.
23 Points (ABA: 2nd; NYT: 4th; PW: 4th; Amazon: not listed)
PLOT A young couple abandons a baby in a cardboard box on a large estate. A 19-year-old caretaker finds the baby and determines to raise her.
GIST The baby teaches a miserly old woman and her basically good ex-con caretaker to make something positive of their lives. The mummified novel meanders between the present and Mrs. Blessing's recollections of painful secrets.
CAUTION Bad language.
20 Points (ABA: not listed; NYT: 1st; PW: 1st; Amazon: not listed)
PLOT Pennsylvania state troopers try to discover the secrets of a mysterious 1954 Buick Roadmaster, which turns out to be a gateway to and from another creepy world.
GIST A normal Stephen King novel with a little less action than usual and a little more introspection about the things in life that we can never hope to understand.
CAUTION Bad language.
18 Points (ABA: 7th; NYT: 5th; PW: 5th; Amazon: 9th)
PLOT 1981-The KGB is scheming to assassinate Pope John Paul after he threatens to resign in protest of Poland's Communist government. It's up to young Jack Ryan to save the day.
GIST Clancy shows his knack for an insider's description of Cold War espionage and political intrigue; unfortunately, he has hidden his knack in 618 pages of dull and heavy-handed writing.
Those who like tough-talking books will enjoy How to Beat the Democrats (Spence, 2002) by David Horowitz. [Note to conservative Democrats: Mr. Horowitz mostly discusses how to beat liberals, but the current makeup of the national Democratic Party's leadership and its media-anointed spokesmen gives us no choice but to cheer for that party's defeat, and its reconstitution along pro-life lines.] Mr. Horowitz argues that "'compassionate conservatism' is a winning agenda." He wants the Republican Party to "reposition itself on the side of the underdog," and argues that "the Republican agenda of lower tax rates, school vouchers, private Social Security accounts, respect for constitutional order, opposition to race preferences, and maintenance of a strong national defense would immensely benefit the American people." That's right-all the people except those who want to retain their power over massive domestic programs.
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), Publisher's Weekly (General bookstores), and Amazon.com (web purchases).