Paperback Fiction Bestsellers For Feb. 4 Abraham Verghese, author of Cutting For Stone, is also a practicing physician, and he spares no detail in his novel in revealing the inner workings of the world of medicine. His story, about a family of doctors, debuts on the list at No. 5.
NPR logo Paperback Fiction Bestsellers For Feb. 4

Paperback Fiction Bestsellers For Feb. 4

Compiled from weekly surveys of close to 500 independent bookstores nationwide in collaboration with the American Booksellers Association. This list reflects sales ending Jan. 31. Book descriptions are based in part on publishers' information.

1. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

By Stieg Larsson

Weeks on list: 32  •  The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is the first book in a trilogy of thrillers by Swedish writer Stieg Larsson. It is a mystery that peeks into the darker elements of contemporary society. Part corporate corruption tale, legal thriller and dysfunctional-family psychological suspense story, it is witty, at times violent, and unflinching in its feminist social commentary.

Paperback, 608pp, $14.95, Vintage, Pub Date: Jun. 23, 2009

2. Olive Kitteridge


By Elizabeth Strout

Weeks on list: 41  •  A Elizabeth Strout's short stories are connected in that they all take place in the small Maine town -- and they all include local schoolteacher Olive Kitteridge. In some stories, Olive is the central figure; in others she is merely peripheral. But regardless of her involvement, her big, sometimes unpleasantly overbearing personality touches all of the town's inhabitants and draws them closer to one another.

Paperback, 304pp, $14.00, Random House Trade Paperbacks, Pub Date: Sep. 30, 2008

3. Let the Great World Spin

By Colum Mccann

Weeks on list: 9  •  On a gray morning in August 1974, Philippe Petit stepped off the edge of the yet-to-be completed World Trade Center and into history. He crossed a wire stretched between the towers eight times. He performed for the crowd that had gathered more than 100 stories below his feet, before dismounting into the custody of New York police officers. The tight-rope walk is the event around which the novel revolves. Let the Great World Spin won the National Book Award for fiction in November 2009.

Paperback, 400pp, $15.00, Random House Trade Paperbacks, Pub Date: Nov. 30, 2009

4. The Elegance of the Hedgehog

By Muriel Barbery; Alison Anderson

Weeks on list: 9  •  Muriel Barbery's wry and erudite novel won the 2007 French Booksellers Prize and was translated into English and published in paperback. This tale of a middle-aged French concierge named Renee, who hides her hard-won self-education in the humanities from her building's wealthy tenants, astutely comments on class, presumption and power.

Paperback, 325pp, $15.00, Europa Editions, Pub Date: Sep. 1, 2008

5. Cutting for Stone

By Abraham Verghese

Weeks on list: 1  •  Cutting For Stone is at once a family saga that crosses continents and cultures and a love story with tragic consequences. As the novel begins, an Indian nun gives birth to conjoined twins in a small mission hospital in Adis Ababa, Ethiopia. She dies in childbirth, and the father, a brilliant surgeon, disappears almost as soon as they are born. The boys are physically separated shortly after birth, but remain unusually close throughout their childhood. Raised by a childless couple who also practice medicine at the hospital, the twins grow up to be doctors as well. Abraham Verghese, a practicing physician, spares no details in revealing the inner workings of the world of medicine. He offers fascinating descriptions of complex and harrowing medical procedures.

Paperback, 688pp, $15.95, Vintage, Pub Date: Jan. 26, 2010

6. The Art of Racing in the Rain

By Garth Stein

Weeks on list: 34  •  The Art of Racing in the Rain is a collection of insights and observations on the life of a family as told from the dog's perspective. Enzo, a lab terrier mix with an old soul, tells the story of his master, Denny, a race car driver; his wife, Eve; and daughter, Zoe.

Paperback, 336pp, $14.99, Harper Paperbacks, Pub Date: May. 15, 2009

7. A Reliable Wife

By Robert Goolrick

Weeks on list: 4  •   In rural Wisconsin in 1909, Ralph Truitt stands alone on a train platform waiting for the woman who answered his newspaper advertisement for "a reliable wife." But when Catherine Land steps off the train from Chicago, she's not the "simple, honest woman" that Ralph is expecting.

Paperback, 305pp, $14.95, Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, Pub Date: Jan. 5, 2010

8. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

By Annie Barrows; Mary Ann Shaffer

Weeks on list: 39  •   The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is set after World War II and follows a London writer who becomes enthralled with the stories of Nazi occupation of the island of Guernsey, off the British coast. The book was written by Mary Ann Shaffer, who died before she could complete it. After Shaffer died, her niece, Annie Barrows, helped finish the novel.

Paperback, 304pp, $14.00, Dial Press Trade Paperback, Pub Date: May. 5, 2009

9. Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

By Jamie Ford

Weeks on list: 17  •  Jamie Ford tells the story of Japanese internment in Seattle during World War II, through the eyes of a Chinese-American boy, Henry Lee. Lee's parents send him a mostly-white private school, in the hopes of making him "more American." There he meets a classmate named Keiko, whose Japanese parents have sent her for the same reasons. Ford's story volleys between their childhood friendship in the 1940s, when hostility toward Japanese Americans is rampant in the country and in Lee's family, and the 1980s, when he is a grown man reflecting on his first love.

Paperback, 320pp, $15.00, Ballantine Books, Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2009

10. Sarah's Key

By Tatiana de Rosnay

Weeks on list: 17  •  In Sarah's Key Tatiana de Rosnay hones in on the 1942 Vel' d'Hiv roundup, in which thousands of Jewish families in Paris were detained at the Velodrome d'Hiver dome outside the city and later transported to the Auschwitz concentration camp. The story is told through the eyes of Sarah, who was 10 years old when she was arrested with her family. In 2002, she is contacted by journalist Julia Jarmond, who is reporting on the 60th anniversary of the roundup. As she relives Sarah's trials, Jarmond begins to more critically examine her own modern-day life in France.

Paperback, 320pp, $13.95, St. Martin's Griffin, Pub Date: Sep. 30, 2008

11. The Lovely Bones

By Alice Sebold

Weeks on list: 6  •  The Lovely Bones centers on the story of Susie Salmon, a 14-year-old girl looking down from heaven after her own rape and murder. Sebold is not an author to shy away from tough topics. One of the first lines of the novel would qualify, in most stories, as a spoiler: "I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973." Susie clings to her earthly life while trying to accept her death, and she narrates her story from beyond the grave, watching her family struggle with grief as her murderer evades detection.

Paperback, 368pp, $14.99, Back Bay Books, Pub Date: Sep. 1, 2009

12. The Piano Teacher

By Janice Y. K. Lee

Weeks on list: 11  •  The first novel by former Elle editor Janice Y. K. Lee, The Piano Teacher is the story of a high-level English official living in British-controlled Hong Kong in the years leading up to and following the invasion by the Japanese in 1941.

Paperback, 352pp, $15.00, Penguin (Non-Classics), Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2009

13. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

A Flavia de Luce Mystery

By Alan Bradley

Weeks on list: 2  •  Early one summer morning in 1950, 11-year-old Flavia de Luce discovers a man dying among the cucumbers in the garden of her family's estate in the British countryside. When her reclusive father is arrested for the man's murder, she takes it upon herself to discover the real perpetrator of the crime.

Paperback, 416pp, $15.00, Bantam, Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2010

14. When Will There Be Good News?

By Kate Atkinson

Weeks on list: 3  •  When Will There Be Good News is Kate Atkinson's third novel in her mystery series featuring cop-turned-private investigator Jackson Brodie. Multiple story lines intersect in this story hinging on domestic brutality.

Paperback, 416pp, $13.99, Back Bay Books, Pub Date: Dec. 22, 2009

15. Lark and Termite

By Jayne Anne Phillips

Weeks on list: 2  •  It is clear from the beginning of this novel that the central character, Cpl. Robert Leavitt, will die in the Korean War. Novelist Jayne Anne Phillips skips between 1950, the year of Leavitt's harrowing war experience, and 1959, where she focuses on the people he left behind -- namely, a severely handicapped son nicknamed "Termite" and his older half-sister, "Lark."

Paperback, 304pp, $14.95, Vintage, Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2010