Paperback Nonfiction Bestsellers For Jan. 28 Author Jonah Lehrer explores the science of how we make decisions and what we can do to make those decisions better. His book, How We Decide, debuts on the list at No. 10.
NPR logo Paperback Nonfiction Bestsellers For Jan. 28

Paperback Nonfiction Bestsellers For Jan. 28

Compiled from weekly surveys of close to 500 independent bookstores nationwide in collaboration with the American Booksellers Association. This list reflects sales ending Jan. 24. Book descriptions are based in part on publishers' information.

1. Food Rules

By Michael Pollan

Weeks on list: 4  •  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

2. Three Cups of Tea

By Greg Mortenson; David Oliver Relin

Weeks on list: 4  •  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

3. The Blind Side

Evolution of a Game

By Michael Lewis

Weeks on list: 10  •  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. Eat, Pray, Love

By Elizabeth Gilbert

Weeks on list: 10  •  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

5. Mountains Beyond Mountains

The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World

By Tracy Kidder

Weeks on list: 10  •  In Mountains Beyond Mountains,Tracy Kidder profiles Paul Farmer, a physician specializing in infectious disease, who has made it his mission to transform health care on a global scale by focusing on the world's poorest and sickest communities. In 1987, Farmer helped found a nonprofit called Partners in Health, which today treats scores of patients daily for free in the Haitian countryside.

Paperback, 352pp, $15.95, Random House Trade Paperbacks, Pub Date: Aug. 31, 2004

6. The Glass Castle

A Memoir

By Jeannette Walls

Weeks on list: 10  •  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

7. My Life in France

By Julia Child; Alex Prud'Homme

Weeks on list: 37  •  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

8. The Omnivore's Dilemma

By Michael Pollan

Weeks on list: 37  •  In The Omnivore's Dilemma, journalist Michael Pollan argues that many Americans suffer from a national eating disorder based on supersized, corn-fed diets. He traces four meals from their origins in the earth through their journey to the plate. After following industrial, organic and local food supply chains he documents the process of hunting and gathering a meal for himself.

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

9. In Defense of Food

By Michael Pollan

Weeks on list: 39  •  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. How We Decide

By Jonah Lehrer

Weeks on list: 1  •  "I found myself spending literally a half an hour, 30 minutes, in the cereal aisle of the supermarket, trying to choose between boxes of Cheerios," author Jonah Lehrer tells NPR. "That's when I realized I had a problem." The struggle over cereal led him to contemplate much bigger questions -- like what was actually happening in his head as he stood in the cereal aisle, and how much of that was rational versus emotional. Finally, he decided to write a book about it. In How We Decide, Lehrer explores the science of how we make decisions and what we can do to make those decisions better.

Paperback, 320pp, $14.95, Mariner Books, Pub Date: Dec. 23, 2009

11. Animals Make Us Human

Creating the Best Life for Animals

By Temple Grandin; Catherine Johnson

Weeks on list: 2  •  In Animals Make Us Human: Creating the Best Life for Animals, author Temple Grandin examines common notions of animal happiness and concludes that dogs, cats, horses, cows and zoo animals -- among other creatures -- possess an emotional system akin to that of humans.

Paperback, 360pp, $15.95, Mariner Books, Pub Date: Dec. 23, 2009

12. Are You There, Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea

By Chelsea Handler

Weeks on list: 3  •  Comedian and late-night talk show host Chelsea Handler takes a cringe-worthy walk down memory lane, mining her past for the most outrageous and humiliating stories. Fellow author Jennifer Weiner sums up the work this way: "Chelsea Handler writes like Judy Blume, if Judy Blume were into vodka, Ecstasy, and sleeping with midgets and 19-year-olds."

Paperback, 272pp, $16.00, Simon Spotlight Entertainment, Pub Date: Dec. 7, 2009

13. Food Matters

A Guide to Conscious Eating with More Than 75 Recipes

By Mark Bittman

Weeks on list: 3  •  In Food Matters, New York Times food columnist Mark Bittman covers the environmental impact of industrial farming -- and how individuals can make a difference by cutting down on the amount of animal products they consume.

Paperback, 336pp, $15.00, Simon & Schuster, Pub Date: Dec. 7, 2009

14. The World Almanac and Book of Facts 2010

By Alan C. Joyce

Weeks on list: 8  •  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 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

15. The Value of Nothing

How to Reshape Market Society and Redefine Democracy

By Raj Patel

Weeks on list: 2  •  Author and former World Bank economist Raj Patel challenges readers to think about the true cost of the products they buy: beyond the price on the label to the environmental and societal costs. He contends that cheap, market prices let consumers avoid thinking about the true cost. Obesity and diabetes, he cites as an example, cost the public millions in health care, but there but these expenses are not factored into the cost of cheap food. It is, he says, a fundamental flaw of the free market system.

Paperback, 256pp, $14.00, Picador, Pub Date: Jan. 5, 2010