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Bestselling books

Notable Books | The five bestselling hardback nonfiction books as of Feb. 7

Issue: "Social Security breach," Feb. 19, 2005

Bestselling books

The five bestselling hardback nonfiction books as measured by their rankings on four lists as of Feb. 7

1. Blink - Malcolm Gladwell

Content: Sub-rational, snap decisions are often as accurate as those made rationally and scientifically.

Gist: Mr. Gladwell illustrates the ability of the human brain to make snap decisions, often based on information too subtle for the rational mind to grasp. With examples drawn from the military, emergency rooms, car sales, the art world, tennis, and psychology, the book demonstrates the power of the "adaptive unconscious" and the need to keep it from being hijacked by false presuppositions.

2. French Women Don't Get Fat - Mireille Guiliano

Content:French women don't get fat and they don't endlessly talk about diets. Using common sense and a bit of self-control, you won't either.

Gist: Ms. Guiliano came to America as an exchange student and put on weight. After returning to France, she learned the secrets that she passes on here: Eat smaller portions and sit down to eat. Buy fresh, better-quality ingredients and cook for flavor. This book will appeal to those who enjoy food and are tired of by-the-numbers diet books.

3. Collapse - Jared Diamond

Content:What divides ancient civilizations that collapsed and those that didn't? The catalyst was often ecological, made worse by slow reactions.

Gist: Lots of people are buying this book and picking up the message that our society, like some ancient ones, faces environmental disaster if we don't act. Mr. Diamond is a naturalistic determinist who discounts the role of ideas in culture and draws sweeping conclusions, but his credentials and the book's scientific, historical gloss suggest it will influence policy debates.

4. He's Just Not That Into You - Behrendt & Tuccillo

Content:Women tempted to make excuses for guys who don't call and can't commit should listen to Greg Behrendt, who says the problem is that "he's just not that into you."

Gist: The advice here is better than you'd expect from two writers involved with the TV show "Sex and the City": Let men initiate, expect them to commit, don't tolerate unfaithfulness, expect them to be responsible. The book's blind eye to the problems caused by out-of-wedlock sex makes it of limited usefulness to Christians.

5. America (The Book) - Jon Stewart

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

Gist: Obnoxious elements-bad language and pictures with the heads of Supreme Court justices stuck on naked bodies-kill this book for all except "Daily Show" fans and others who relish sophomoric jokes and swipes at American institutions. The humor comes mostly from the left but is not always directed at the right.

In the spotlight

If you read Malcolm Gladwell's Blink and come away thinking that you have an excuse to always go with your gut instinct, you'll take away the wrong message. Yes, he gives lots of examples where snap judgments are more accurate than those relying on lots of data and analysis, but he also devotes crucial chapters to times when our gut misleads. For example, we should watch for the "Warren Harding Effect," which Bible readers might call the "Saul effect," after a tall but lousy king.

Blink is particularly useful in its warning that we can make too much of superficial characteristics, such as race. Mr. Gladwell summarizes work on racial attitudes going on at Harvard (implicit.harvard.edu) and argues that unexamined gut feelings can undermine our best intentions about color blindness. The good news: Once we are aware of our wayward gut, we can consciously work to overrule it.

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