Hardcover Nonfiction Bestsellers For Aug. 12 Space exploration is in some ways an exploration of what it means to be human. How much weirdness can a person take? What happens if you vomit in your helmet during a spacewalk? In Packing for Mars, Mary Roach explores the quizzical and startlingly bizarre space simulations that space agencies use to answer these questions.
NPR logo Hardcover Nonfiction Bestsellers For Aug. 12

Hardcover Nonfiction Bestsellers For Aug. 12

Compiled from weekly surveys of close to 500 independent bookstores nationwide in collaboration with the American Booksellers Association. This list reflects sales ending Aug. 8. Book descriptions are based in part on publishers' information.

1. Sh*t My Dad Says

By Justin Halpern

After being dumped by his longtime girlfriend, 28-year-old Justin Halpern found himself living at home with his 73-year-old dad, Sam Halpern. The younger Halpern describes his father as being just "like Socrates, but angrier and with worse hair." His Twitter feed of his dad's musings gained a massive following, and his greatest hits are recorded in this book.

Hardcover, 176pp, $15.99, It Books, Pub Date: May. 1, 2010

2. Medium Raw

A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook

By Anthony Bourdain

Ten years ago, Anthony Bourdain was standing next to a deep fryer 14 to 16 hours a day, and that was the world he thought he'd be in for the rest of his life. Then, his book Kitchen Confidential came out, and his life changed almost overnight. In short order he found himself traveling the world as host of his own television program, No Reservations. The past 10 years of eating, drinking and traveling have provided plenty of fodder for his new book, Medium Raw. In it, he details a very different food world from the one he saw from the deep fryer.

Hardcover, 304pp, $26.99, Ecco, Pub Date: Jun. 8, 2010

3. The Big Short

Inside the Doomsday Machine

By Michael Lewis

The financial meltdown wasn't a surprise to everyone, according to Michael Lewis. His new book, The Big Short, tells the story of the lucky few who bet against the market, and ended up with big fortunes to show for it.

Hardcover, 266pp, $27.95, W. W. Norton & Company, Pub Date: Mar. 1, 2010

4. Women Food and God

An Unexpected Path to Almost Everything

By Geneen Roth

Since adolescence, Geneen Roth has gained and lost more than 1,000 pounds. She has been dangerously overweight and dangerously underweight. She has been plagued by feelings of shame and self-hatred, and she has felt euphoric after losing a quick few pounds on a fad diet. Then one day, on the verge of suicide, she did something radical: She dropped the struggle, ended the war, stopped trying to fix, deprive and shame herself. She began trusting her body and questioning her beliefs -- and it worked. She begins her book with her most basic concept: The way you eat is inseparable from your core beliefs about being alive.

Hardcover, 224pp, $24.00, Scribner, Pub Date: Mar. 1, 2010

5. Empire of the Summer Moon

Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American Hist

By S. C. Gwynne

In 1836, a 9-year-old pioneer girl named Cynthia Ann Parker was kidnapped during a Comanche raid in North Texas. She was strapped onto the back of a horse and taken north, back into the Plains where the powerful American Indian tribe lived. Parker became a ward of the chief and later, a full member of the Comanches. She eventually married a highly respected Comanche chief and gave birth to three children, including Quanah -- who would grow up to become the last and greatest Comanche leader. The story of Cynthia Ann and her son, Chief Quanah Parker, is told in S.C. Gwynne's book, Empire of the Summer Moon.

Hardcover, 384pp, $27.50, Scribner, Pub Date: May. 3, 2010

6. Packing for Mars

The Curious Science of Life in the Void

By Mary Roach

In some ways, space exploration is an exploration of what it means to be human. How much can a person give up? How much weirdness can they take? What happens to you when you can't walk for a year? Have sex? Smell flowers? What happens if you vomit in your helmet during a spacewalk? Is it possible for the human body to survive a bailout at 17,000 miles per hour? To answer these questions, space agencies set up all manner of quizzical and startlingly bizarre space simulations. From the space shuttle training toilet to a crash test of NASA's new space capsule (cadaver filling in for astronaut), author Mary Roach discovers that it's possible to preview space without ever leaving Earth.

Hardcover, 334pp, $25.95, W. W. Norton & Company, Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2010

7. WAR

By Sebastian Junger

Five times in 2007 and 2008, writer Sebastian Junger traveled to a remote Army outpost in the Korengal Valley in Afghanistan. He accompanied soldiers from the Army's 173rd Airborne Brigade as they fought to keep the Taliban from controlling a small, treacherous plot of land. In his book, he traces their experiences, and explores the allure that drew them to combat in the first place.

Hardcover, 304pp, $26.99, Twelve, Pub Date: May. 11, 2010

8. Born to Run

A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen

By Christopher Mcdougall

Christopher McDougall travels to the unforgiving terrain of Mexico's Copper Canyons, in a quest to understand the area's indigenous population of ultra-runners, the Tarahumara Indians. Surviving on a diet of ground corn, mouse meat and homemade alcohol, are men and woman who nevertheless have the endurance to run cliff-side races topping 100 miles and sometimes lasting two days.

Hardcover, 304pp, $24.95, Knopf, Pub Date: May. 5, 2009

9. Four Fish

By Paul Greenberg

Three decades ago, nearly everything we ate from the sea was wild, but rampant overfishing combined with an unprecedented biotech revolution has brought us to a point where wild and farmed fish occupy equal parts of a complex and confusing marketplace. In Four Fish, writer and lifelong fisherman Paul Greenberg takes us on a culinary journey, exploring the history of the fish that dominate our menus and examining where each stands at this critical moment in time.

Hardcover, 304pp, $25.95, Penguin Press HC, The, Pub Date: Jul. 15, 2010

10. Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M.

Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tiffany's, and the Dawn of the Modern Woman

By Sam Wasson

Sam Wasson delivers the first complete account of the making of Breakfast at Tiffany's. With a colorful cast of characters including Truman Capote, Edith Head, Givenchy, "Moon River" composer Henry Mancini and, of course, Audrey Hepburn herself, Wasson shows us how a not-so-virginal girl by the name of Holly Golightly raised eyebrows across the country, and changed fashion, film and sex for good.

Hardcover, 256pp, $19.99, Harper, Pub Date: Jul. 1, 2010

11. Outliers

The Story of Success

By Malcolm Gladwell

Why do Asian kids outperform American kids in math? How did Bill Gates become a billionaire computer entrepreneur? Was there something simply different about Mozart? New Yorker staff writer Malcolm Gladwell looks at "outliers" -- those who have "been given opportunities, and who have had the strength and presence of mind to seize them."

Hardcover, 320pp, $27.99, Little, Brown and Company, Pub Date: Nov. 18, 2008

12. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

By Rebecca Skloot

Henrietta Lacks is known to scientists simply as "HeLa." She was a poor Southern tobacco farmer who worked the same land as her slave ancestors, yet her cells -- taken without her knowledge -- became one of the most important tools in medicine. The first "immortal" human cells grown in culture, they are still alive today, though she has been dead for more than 60 years. If you could pile all HeLa cells ever grown onto a scale, they would weigh more than 50 million metric tons -- as much as a hundred Empire State Buildings. HeLa cells were vital for developing the polio vaccine; uncovered secrets of cancer, viruses and the atom bomb's effects; helped lead to important advances like in vitro fertilization, cloning and gene mapping; and have been bought and sold by the billions. Author Rebecca Skloot explores the life of Henrietta, the woman behind the science.

Hardcover, 384pp, $26.00, Crown, Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2010

13. Washington Rules

America's Path to Permanent War

By Andrew Bacevich

For the past half century, administrations have come and gone but the fundamental assumptions about America's military policy have remained the same: American security requires the United States alone to maintain a permanent armed presence around the globe, prepare for military operations in far-flung regions and be ready to intervene anywhere at any time. Andrew J. Bacevich presents the origins of this consensus -- forged at a moment when American power was at its height -- through the preconceptions, biases and habits that underlie our pervasive faith in military might.

Hardcover, 304pp, $25.00, Metropolitan Books, Pub Date: Aug. 3, 2010

14. Committed

By Elizabeth Gilbert

Having both survived painful divorces, Elizabeth Gilbert and Felipe -- the man she fell in love with at the end of her best-selling memoir, Eat, Pray, Love -- promised to love but never marry. However, the couple finds that Felipe, a Brazilian national, will not be able to live in the U.S. unless the two formalize their union. Gilbert relents on her marriage ban, but is prompted to explore the meaning of marriage, in the U.S. and abroad, and its various manifestations through history, in order to come to peace with the institution.

Hardcover, 304pp, $26.95, Viking Adult, Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2010

15. The Last Stand

By Nathaniel Philbrick

Little Bighorn and Custer are names synonymous in the American imagination with bravery and spectacular defeat. Nathaniel Philbrick sketches the two larger-than-life antagonists: Sitting Bull, whose charisma and political savvy earned him the position of leader of the Plains Indians, and George Armstrong Custer, one of the Union's greatest cavalry officers and a man with a reputation for fearless and often reckless courage.

Hardcover, 496pp, $30.00, Viking Adult, Pub Date: May. 4, 2010