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BESTSELLERS

Culture | The Top 5 best-selling hardbacks as measured by placement on four leading lists as of July 7, 2003

Issue: "Public-school reform," July 26, 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 Amazon.com (internet purchases).
1
Living History
Hillary Clinton 36 Points
CONTENT
A memoir focusing on the former first lady's trials and triumphs.

GIST
Mrs. Clinton was happiest when traveling to foreign countries, sometimes taking Chelsea and Bill with her. Foreign dignitaries and common people appreciated her; Americans, unable to accept such a groundbreaking figure, never did. That's one theme in this memoir-by-committee in which Mrs. Clinton often comes across as an observer of, rather than a participant in, her own life.

2
A Short History
Bill Bryson 30 Points
CONTENT
A whirlwind tour through the sciences, seen through the curious eyes of the best-selling travel writer.

GIST
A readable summary of where mainstream science stands, with complex theories made accessible but not dumbed down. Bryson accepts evolutionary theory but also recounts scientific advances and missteps and shows that much science is conjecture. His excitement is a pleasure: "We live on a planet that has a more or less infinite capacity to surprise."

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CAUTION

3
Moneyball
Michael Lewis 23 Points
CONTENT
Former investment banker Michael Lewis tries to figure out how the Oakland A's win so many games despite one of the smallest payrolls in major-league baseball.

GIST
The story of how A's general manager Billy Beane defies conventional baseball wisdom and transforms player scouting and drafting makes for one of the most compelling books ever written on behind-the-scenes sports management.

CAUTION
Some profanity.

4
Beyond Belief
Elaine Pagels 18 Points
CONTENT
An apologetic for a brand of Christianity based on the so-called Gospel of Thomas, which Pagels pits against the Gospel of John.

GIST
Pagel is a leading popularizer among the radical scholars who reject orthodoxy and search for "the historical Jesus." She argues that early church fathers mistakenly called the Gospel of Thomas heretical. Philip Jenkins's Hidden Gospels is a much better book, but it doesn't have the power of PBS and Bill Moyers behind it.

5
The Teammates
David Halberstam 19 Points
CONTENT
The story of Ted Williams, Bobby Doerr, Dominic DiMaggio, and Johnny Pesky-longtime Red Sox teammates, close friends ever after.

GIST
Halberstam structures this well-written bit of nostalgia around the trek DiMaggio and Pesky made in 2001 to visit the dying Williams, and shows how four baseball stars of the 1940s were even more important to each other off the field.

CAUTION
Some profanity.

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