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Bestselling books

Notable Books | The top five bestselling hardback nonfiction books as of Oct. 4

Issue: "Terrorism: Unmasked men," Oct. 16, 2004

The top 5 best-selling hardback novels

Based on lists from the American Booksellers Association, Amazon.com, USA Today, and The New York Times

1. America (The Book) -- Jon Stewart

Content: Mr. Stewart and his Daily Show team send up education (the book is a parody of a civics textbook), government, the courts, politics, and the media.

Gist: Fans of The Daily Show will think this book is hilarious. Others might chuckle at the sophomoric jokes and swipes at American institutions. Conservatives will probably not find it as funny as liberals since the humor comes mostly from the left (but is not always directed at the right). Those who don't like cussing won't like it at all.

2. Unfit for command -- John O'Neill and Jerome Corsi

Content: A scathing indictment of John Kerry by Vietnam War vets who served on Swift Boats with the presidential candidate.

Gist: The book challenges John Kerry's war record, claiming he sometimes lied and often exaggerated his exploits. Eyewitness accounts and documentation portray a man who was always looking forward to a political career. The second and stronger half of the book documents Mr. Kerry's anti-war activities.

3. The Family -- Kitty Kelley

Content: Peel back the Bushes' attractive facade family and find the family is corrupt, its members are corrupt, and the current president is corrupt.

Gist: Kitty Kelley's defense of this book and her method is that a team of lawyers looked it over, and she's never been sued. It's almost impossible for a public figure to win a libel suit, so the bar Ms. Kelley set for herself is low. Even then, the few on-the-record sources are either partisans or have denied saying what she attributes to them.

4. Between a Rock and a hard place -- Aron Ralston

Content: Mr. Ralston, the outdoor adventurer who amputated his arm after being pinned in a Utah canyon by a rock, tells his story and explains the thrill of the outdoors.

Gist: Readers know the ending, but Mr. Ralston stretches out the drama by interlacing grim chapters on his predicament with chapters on other outdoor experiences. Using the camcorder and digital camera he carried with him, Mr. Ralston recorded his plight as he went through it, and the writing has a captivating immediacy.

5. American Soldier -- Tommy Franks

Content: A memoir by the recently retired general who led U.S. forces as they ousted the Taliban and Saddam Hussein.

Gist: When Mr. Franks talks about his childhood, this book sings. It's also a gritty war memoir, with shades of Tom Clancy as Mr. Franks describes weapons and strategy. While rising from enlisted man to four-star general, Mr. Franks oversaw a major transformation in military strategy. His language is rough, so this fascinating story will be uncomfortable reading for some.

In the spotlight

Several big names in Christian publishing are in the news. Rick Warren's The Purpose Driven Life recently celebrated its 85th week on the Publishers Weekly bestseller list. Since its publication in the fall of 2002, the book has sold about 19 million copies in English and a million more in Spanish. Recently 50,000 copies were sent to soldiers in Iraq and 25,000 went to those in South Korea.

Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins are producing more books in the Left Behind series, which already has sold 65 million books and related items. Three of the upcoming titles will be prequels, providing the backstory to the series; the fourth will be a sequel. According to Publishers Weekly, the first prequel, The Rising, will be available on March 1, 2005. Mr. Jenkins and Mr. LaHaye are also in talks about writing another series, tentatively called The Jesus Chronicles, this time with Viking.

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