Culture

Bestsellers

Culture | The Top 5 best-selling nonfiction hardbacks as measured by four leading lists as of May 19

Issue: "Middle East: No easy answers," May 31, 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
Leap of Faith
Queen Noor 30 Points
CONTENT
Memoir of a Princeton-educated American woman who becomes the Queen of Jordan.

GIST
Part jet-set love story and part Arab apologetic, Queen Noor's tale of her unlikely romance with Jordan's King Hussein is more political than personal. Defending her late husband's reputation, she explains his positions on Iraq and the Arab-Israeli crisis. Although the book was finished at the end of 2002, she writes nothing about extremist Islam or al-Qaeda.

2
Patriot's Handbook
Caroline Kennedy 23 Points
CONTENT
A collection of poems, songs, speeches, and other writings celebrating American virtues.

GIST
Ms. Kennedy sometimes shows her partisan leanings, but the inclusion of critical pieces adds interest. In the section on the flag, for instance, she includes "The Star Spangled Banner" and the Pledge, as well as the Supreme Court decision on flag burning. But she also includes the lyrics to the Grateful Dead's "U.S. Blues" and Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the U.S.A."

3
Krakatoa
Simon Winchester 21 Points
CONTENT
Part history of science, part history of Dutch colonialism, part history of a disastrous volcanic eruption, and part political history, Krakatoa rewards patient readers.

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GIST
Geologist Simon Winchester tells a meandering tale of a volcanic eruption in which the main event doesn't occur until 150 pages into the book. His leisurely approach may put off some readers. Others will enjoy the time spent with a knowledgeable and usually entertaining tour guide.

4
What Should I Do With My Life?
Po Bronson 13 Points
CONTENT
Profiles of young professionals who have had interesting career paths. Examples: the college dropout in her 30s trying to balance her passion for shot-putting and the time demands of her daughter; the Pittsburgh lawyer who quit his job to become a trucker.

GIST
Without simple answers, Bronson gently shows that people should follow their passions in choosing jobs and careers.

5
Dereliction of Duty
Robert Patterson 13 Points
CONTENT
A thin, anecdotal volume by the guy who carried the nuclear football for President Clinton for two years.

GIST
Lt. Col. Patterson witnessed the president's contempt for the military, cheating at golf, and fondling of a military stewardess on Air Force One. Mr. Clinton also failed to act decisively against terrorism, on at least one occasion reportedly paying more attention to one of his pastimes than to urgent national security needs.

CAUTION
Some profanity.

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