Paperback Nonfiction Bestsellers For Feb. 25 In The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them, Elif Batuman explores the lives of the great Russian authors, from Pushkin to Platonov, and of the people they continue to influence up through today. Her story makes the list at No. 14.
NPR logo Paperback Nonfiction Bestsellers For Feb. 25

Paperback Nonfiction Bestsellers For Feb. 25

Compiled from weekly surveys of close to 500 independent bookstores nationwide in collaboration with the American Booksellers Association. This list reflects sales of trade paperbacks ending Feb. 21. Book descriptions are based in part on publishers' information.

1. Food Rules

By Michael Pollan

Weeks on list: 8  •  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: 8  •  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 Lost City of Z

A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon

By David Grann

Weeks on list: 4  •  The Lost City of Z is David Grann's vivid retelling of the remarkable life of Amazon explorer Percy Fawcett. A tall, handsome Brit possessing nearly superhuman stamina, Fawcett embodied all the manly traits admired by his era. In the early 20th century, he had successfully, if harrowingly, explored regions of the Amazon on behalf of the Royal Geographical Society. In his final expedition, he set out to prove definitively that the "green hell" of the Amazon basin could nurture a large-scale civilization. Embarking with only his 21-year-old son and his son's best friend, Fawcett hiked into the jungle. They were never heard from again.

Paperback, 448pp, $15.95, Vintage, Pub Date: Jan. 26, 2010

4. Animals Make Us Human

Creating the Best Life for Animals

By Temple Grandin; Catherine Johnson

Weeks on list: 6  •  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

5. People's History of the United States

1492 to Present

By Howard Zinn

Weeks on list: 4  •  Howard Zinn's iconic book, A People's History of the United States, first published in 1980, transformed the way many Americans view history by focusing on voices that other historians had long ignored. He looked at Columbus' discovery from the perspective of American Indians and the early years in America from the point-of-view of African Americans. The ground-breaking writer died of a heart attack in January, prompting many readers to pick up his seminal work, returning it to the bestseller list.

Paperback, 768pp, $18.99, Harper Perennial Modern Classics, Pub Date: Jul. 14, 2005

6. The Blind Side

Evolution of a Game

By Michael Lewis

Weeks on list: 14  •  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

7. In Defense of Food

By Michael Pollan

Weeks on list: 43  •  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

8. Mountains Beyond Mountains

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

By Tracy Kidder

Weeks on list: 43  •  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, $16.00, Random House Trade Paperbacks, Pub Date: Aug. 31, 2004

9. The Omnivore's Dilemma

By Michael Pollan

Weeks on list: 43  •  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

10. Eat, Pray, Love

By Elizabeth Gilbert

Weeks on list: 43  •  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

11. The Glass Castle

A Memoir

By Jeannette Walls

Weeks on list: 43  •  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

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

By Chelsea Handler

Weeks on list: 7  •  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. How We Decide

By Jonah Lehrer

Weeks on list: 5  •  "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

14. The Possessed

Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them

By Elif Batuman

Weeks on list: 1  •  In The Possessed, Elif Batuman explores the lives of the great Russian authors, from Pushkin to Platonov, and of the people they continue to influence up through today. She retraces Pushkin's wanderings in the Caucuses, explores why Old Uzbek has a hundred different words for crying and visits an 18th century ice palace reconstructed on the Neva River in Russia.

Paperback, 304pp, $15.00, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Pub Date: Feb. 16, 2010

15. My Life in France

By Julia Child; Alex Prud'Homme

Weeks on list: 41  •   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