Paperback Nonfiction Bestsellers For Jan. 7

Compiled from weekly surveys of close to 500 independent bookstores nationwide in collaboration with the American Booksellers Association. This list reflects sales ending Jan. 3. Book descriptions are based in part on publishers' information.


1. Three Cups of Tea

By Greg Mortenson; David Oliver Relin

In Three Cups of Tea, American Greg Mortenson recounts his first encounter with rural Pakistan and the events that inspired him to found more than 50 schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan. He chronicles his work educating girls in the Taliban's backyard.

Paperback, 368pp, $16.00, Penguin (Non-Classics), Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2007


2. Food Rules

By Michael Pollan

Weeks on list: 1  •  Food Rules is a practical eating guide from the author of In Defense of Food and The Omnivore's Dilemma. Michael Pollan's rules are drawn from various ethnic and cultural traditions, and are intended for everyday supermarket shoppers looking to be more mindful about the foods they consume.

Paperback, 112pp, $11.00, Penguin (Non-Classics), Pub Date: Dec. 29, 2009


3. The Blind Side

Evolution of a Game

By Michael Lewis

Weeks on list: 7  •  The Blind Side is the true story of Michael Oher, a homeless, African-American teenager in Memphis who was taken in by a wealthy white family and a Christian high school. The book documents how his size and agility, paired with training and opportunity, propelled him onto the radar of college football coaches across the country.

Paperback, 339pp, $13.95, W. W. Norton & Company, Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2009


4. My Life in France

By Julia Child; Alex Prud'Homme

Weeks on list: 34  •  Julia Child wasn't always an iconic television cook. She led a colorful life, including a stint working for an American intelligence agency in South Asia during World War II. It was there that she met Paul Child. After the two married, his work took them to Paris, where she fell in love with French cuisine and trained to become "The French Chef" America came to love.

Paperback, 368pp, $15.00, Anchor, Pub Date: Oct. 9, 2007


5. Freakonomics

A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything

By Steven D. Levitt; Stephen J. Dubner

Weeks on list: 17  •   Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner set out to challenge any assumption that economics is a dull subject, removed from day-to-day life. In Freakonomics the co-authors apply economic principles of analysis to investigate human behavior. Their core message: Be leery of conventional wisdom; there is often far more to the story.

Paperback, 352pp, $15.99, Harper Perennial, Pub Date: Aug. 25, 2009


6. The Old Farmer's Almanac

By Old Farmer's Almanac

Weeks on list: 18  •  "Useful, with a pleasant degree of humor" is the motto of the Old Farmer's Almanac, a guide to the predicted weather for the year. The almanac is peppered with gardening advice, recipes and articles.

Paperback, 464pp, $16.00, Penguin (Non-Classics), Pub Date: Sep. 1, 2007


8. The Glass Castle

A Memoir

By Jeannette Walls

Weeks on list: 18  •  The Glass Castle is a memoir recalling Jeannette Walls' transient youth and her bohemian parents. Together her family traipsed across the Southwest, settling temporarily in desert towns and mountain campsites. But when the money ran out and the romance of the wandering life faded, the family settled into a sedentary life in West Virginia, which was soon darkened by alcoholism and dysfunction. Walls eventually left this life, but she looks back on it with honesty and compassion.

Paperback, 304pp, $15.00, Scribner, Pub Date: Jan. 9, 2006


9. In Defense of Food

By Michael Pollan

Weeks on list: 36  •  Michael Pollan asks the seemingly simple question: What should we have for dinner? Tracing from source to table each of the food chains that sustain us -- whether industrial or organic, alternative or processed -- he develops a portrait of the American way of eating. The result is a sweeping, surprising exploration of the hungers that have shaped our evolution, and of the profound implications our food choices have for the health of our species and the future of our planet.

Paperback, 256pp, $15.00, Penguin (Non-Classics), Pub Date: Apr. 1, 2009


10. Nightlight

A Parody

By The Harvard Lampoon

Weeks on list: 6  •  Complete with romance, danger, insufficient parental guardianship, creepy stalker-like behavior and a vampire prom, The Harvard Lampoon's parody of the hit novel and movie Twilight is the tale of a vampire-obsessed girl looking for love in all the wrong places.

Paperback, 160pp, $13.95, Vintage, Pub Date: Nov. 3, 2009


11. When You Are Engulfed in Flames

By David Sedaris

Weeks on list: 29  •  David Sedaris has made a career out of humiliation. Thanks to his ability to blush and take it, his readers know what it's like to be an elf in Macy's Santaland, carry a lisp through childhood and grow up gay in Raleigh, N.C. Fans of his earlier work will revel in yet another series of short stories filled with his bizarre encounters and acerbic internal monologues.

Paperback, 336pp, $15.99, Back Bay Books, Pub Date: Jun. 2, 2009


12. The World Almanac and Book of Facts 2010

By Alan C. Joyce

Weeks on list: 5  •  The annual guide to facts, both wacky and useful, this year includes a full-color photo spread of the top stories of 2009, in addition to 16 pages of world maps and flags. It is the book that The New York Times Crossword Editor Will Shortz calls his "No. 1 reference work for facts."

Paperback, 1008pp, $12.99, World Almanac, Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2009


13. Eat, Pray, Love

By Elizabeth Gilbert

Weeks on list: 5  •  Eat, Pray, Love is a memoir by Elizabeth Gilbert, a writer who drags herself out of the depths of depression following a bitter divorce. She rejuvenates her spirit by escaping from the routines of her life, traveling for four months in Italy, India and Indonesia, and surrendering to food, God and romance.

Paperback, 352pp, $15.00, Penguin (Non-Classics), Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2007


14. Blink

The Power of Thinking Without Thinking

By Malcolm Gladwell

Weeks on list: 5  •  In Blink Malcolm Gladwell explores everyday choices that seem to be made in an instant -- in the blink of an eye -- that actually aren't as simple as they seem. He asks: Why are some people brilliant decision makers, while others are consistently inept?

Paperback, 320pp, $15.99, Back Bay Books, Pub Date: Apr. 3, 2007


15. Hot, Flat, and Crowded 2.0

Why We Need a Green Revolution--and How It Can Renew America

By Thomas L. Friedman

Weeks on list: 6  •  With global warming and rapidly growing populations, the planet is increasingly becoming hot, flat and crowded. Friedman writes that this is a dangerously unstable path and advocates for wasteful, inefficient energy practices to be replaced with a strategy for clean energy and energy efficiency.

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