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Bestsellers

Culture | The Top 5 best-selling hardback novels as measured by placement on four leading lists as of Jan. 6

Issue: "30 years of destruction," Jan. 18, 2003
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
Prey
Michael Crichton 38 Points
PLOT
An unemployed computer consultant begins to suspect his scientist wife is having an affair. He visits her lab and finds swarms of particles that exhibit sophisticated forms of artificial intelligence and hurt everything that moves.

GIST
The early development of strong characters becomes irrelevant as the plot gives way to Crichton's usual mixture of formulaic thriller and obscure scientific detail.

CAUTION
Scattered obscenities.

2
The Lovely Bones
Alice Sebold 36 Points
PLOT
Susie Salmon, 14, is murdered by her neighbor. From "heaven" she watches the effects of her murder on family and friends.

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GIST
Heaven in this novel has no God, but is a place where you get what you want. Susie mourns her death and experiences growing up vicariously through her sister. Eventually she sees her friends and family rebuild their lives.

CAUTION
Some bad language, violence, and sexual situations; graphic opening chapters.

3
Skipping Christmas
John Grisham 26 Points
PLOT
When his adult daughter leaves on a mission trip, a cynical dad campaigns to skip Christmas gift-giving and spend his savings on a cruise instead.

GIST
A heavy-handed parable that mocks the modern expressions of Christmas (expensive parties, glitzy decorations, extravagant foods, fancy presents) and celebrates the sentimental ones (families and friends). The story is broadly written and predictable.

CAUTION
None.

4
Four Blind Mice
James Patterson 20 Points
PLOT
Alex Cross is back on the case, this time chasing the trail of the "Three Blind Mice," typical serial killers/Vietnam veterans. But who is controlling the Three Blind Mice? Detective Cross solves this mystery, while finding time for a new love on the side.

GIST
Patterson churns out another low-quality page-turner with large print, short chapters, cookie-cutter characters, and no surprises.

CAUTION
None.

5
The Christmas Train
David Baldacci 17 Points
PLOT
A world-weary journalist finds himself revitalized by a cross-country train ride filled with plot twists and eccentric characters. Along the way he gets a second chance at love.

GIST
No shocks in this story, just a pleasant secular Christmas tale about the joys of a relaxing train ride with good-hearted people. Friends are made, problems are solved, happiness is found, and only occasionally does the book cross the line from cheery to cheesy.

CAUTION
None.

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