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

Issue: "Cool hot spots," May 17, 2003
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 (internet purchases).
The Da Vinci Code
Dan Brown 37 Points
A curator at the Louvre is murdered, but before he dies leaves clues that send his granddaughter (a police cryptologist) and his colleague (a Harvard professor) on a search for the killer.

Brown will please goddess-worshipping conspiracy buffs who like weird theories of biblical interpretation and his profane premise: that Jesus and Mary Magdalene had an affair that produced a son.

Second Time Around
Mary Higgins Clark 29 Points
A scientist/businessman, whose company is on the verge of marketing a breakthrough cancer drug, dies in a plane crash in the midst of corporate scandal. Wall Street journalist Carly de Carlos investigates the businessman, which puts her in the way of a killer who blames the scandal for his wife's death.

This thriller features multiple murders without graphic violence and a chaste budding romance.

The Guardian
Nicholas Sparks 28 Points
Four years after her husband's death, a young widow is ready for love. Should she risk her heart on the dashing man who promises chocolates and roses, or mate with her husband's best friend, a mechanic with grease-stained hands?

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Sparks, the king of the tearjerkers, combines romance with menace. One of the men turns out to be a stalker, and Sparks's tale veers from romance (with some sex) to thriller to loyal dog tale.

Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins 25 Points
Book 11 of the Left Behind series continues the story, moving the action to the Middle East where the final battle occurs.

Even fans of the series complain that it has gone on too long and moves too slowly. But poor writing and weak characters don't seem to bother readers who pushed the book to the top of the NYT's list for the third week. Tyndale put out a 2.5 million first printing, according to Publisher's Weekly.

The Lovely Bones
Alice Sebold 20 Points
Susie Salmon, 14, is murdered by her neighbor. From "heaven" she watches the effects of her murder on family and friends.

Heaven in this novel has no God but is a place where what you want, you get. Eventually she sees her friends and family rebuild lives shattered by grief.

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



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