Paperback Fiction Bestsellers For Oct. 28 Winner of the 2010 Man Booker Prize, Howard Jacobson's The Finkler Question explores Jewish identity through the eyes of a non-Jew's fascination with Jewishness. It debuts at No. 9.
NPR logo Paperback Fiction Bestsellers For Oct. 28

Paperback Fiction Bestsellers For Oct. 28

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

1. Cutting for Stone

By Abraham Verghese

Weeks on list: 39  •  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

2. Little Bee

By Chris Cleave

Weeks on list: 36  •  In Little Bee, Chris Cleave weaves a suspenseful tale that probes British attitudes toward asylum seekers. The story is told partially from the perspective of Little Bee, a teenage Nigerian girl who flees the brutality of the oil conflict taking place in her home region. The rest of the book is told from the point of view of Sarah, a British woman who meets Little Bee while vacationing with her husband on the African coast. Their lives intertwine when they share a harrowing experience on the beach. Little Bee then flees to England, where she is detained in an immigration center, and later escapes to reunite with Sarah and her family. The events that unfold are neither tidy nor as Little Bee had hoped.

Paperback, 304pp, $14.00, Simon & Schuster, Pub Date: Feb. 16, 2010

3. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

By Stieg Larsson

Weeks on list: 70  •  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

4. The Girl Who Played with Fire

By Stieg Larsson

Weeks on list: 31  •  Swedish genre writer Stieg Larsson continues the Stockholm Crime trilogy that began with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and The Girl Who Played with Fire. The story centers on punky, young Lisbeth Salander, a bit Asperger-like in demeanor but a brilliant researcher who teams up with an investigative journalist to solve mysteries and multiple murders. One of the novel's great mysteries is Salander's own past, which comes back in murderous ways to haunt her in this new volume.

Paperback, 656pp, $15.95, Vintage, Pub Date: Mar. 23, 2010

5. Half Broke Horses

A True-Life Novel

By Jeannette Walls

Weeks on list: 7  •  Jeanette Walls' childhood was difficult enough to warrant a best-selling memoir, The Glass Castle, which begins with her homeless mother rummaging through the garbage. What could possibly come next? Half Broke Horses is a novelistic re-creation of the life of Walls' eccentric grandmother Lily Casey Smith. Smith was a mustang breaker, schoolteacher, bootlegger, rancher and bush pilot in Texas and Arizona who lost everything she had in the Great Depression.

Paperback, 288pp, $15.00, Scribner, Pub Date: Sep. 7, 2010

6. The Lacuna

By Barbara Kingsolver

Weeks on list: 14  •   The Lacuna mixes fiction and history to tell the story of Harrison Shepherd. Born of a Mexican mother and American father, Shepherd spends his life straddling the two cultures. After chance meetings with artists Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, he gets a job working for them and lives in their colorful and dramatic household. There, he gets to know Leon Trotsky, then exiled in Mexico. Shepherd's friendships with these larger-than-life characters set him on his own course toward a confrontation with history.

Paperback, 544pp, $16.99, Harper Perennial, Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2010

7. The Art of Racing in the Rain

By Garth Stein

Weeks on list: 70  •   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: Jun. 1, 2009

8. Tinkers

By Paul Harding

Weeks on list: 24  •  Paul Harding tells the story of a dying man, George Washington Crosby, and his relationship with his father, who suffered from epilepsy and eventually abandoned his family because of the affliction. The short novel won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for fiction.

Paperback, 192pp, $14.95, Bellevue Literary Press, Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2009

9. The Finkler Question

By Howard Jacobson

Weeks on list: 1  •  Howard Jacobson's The Finkler Question -- winner of the 2010 Man Booker Prize -- follows Julian Treslove, a melancholy, lackluster London liberal who is mugged one night and believes, with increasing certainty, that his attacker called him a Jew. As a result of the incident, Treslove becomes fascinated by the question of Jewish identity, yearning to understand the mannerisms of Jewish life, the hidden code of Jewish sarcasm and the subtleties of Jewish body language.

Paperback, 320pp, $15.00, Bloomsbury USA, Pub Date: Oct. 12, 2010

10. A Gate at the Stairs

By Lorrie Moore

Weeks on list: 9  •  Lorrie Moore has an adult narrator looking back on her younger self. Tassie Keltjin is a 20-year-old college student in the Midwest. Untethered from her childhood on the family farm, she is eager to be seduced by ideas -- and people.

Paperback, 336pp, $15.00, Vintage, Pub Date: Aug. 24, 2010

11. Let the Great World Spin

By Colum Mccann

Weeks on list: 47  •  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

12. Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

By Jamie Ford

Weeks on list: 47  •  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

13. Sarah's Key

By Tatiana de Rosnay

Weeks on list: 89  •  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

14. Never Let Me Go (Movie Tie-In Edition)

By Kazuo Ishiguro

Weeks on list: 4  •  From the Booker Prize-winning author of The Remains of the Day comes the tale of a chilling, futuristic world. As children, Kathy, Ruth and Tommy were classmates at an exclusive boarding school in the English countryside where they were constantly reminded of how special they were. Years later, Kathy is a young woman, and as Ruth and Tommy re-enter her life, all three begin to understand exactly what made them all so special, and how that gift will forever alter their lives. Never Let Me Go was adapted to film in 2010 by director Mark Romanek.

Paperback, 304pp, $15.00, Vintage, Pub Date: Aug. 31, 2010

15. The Corrections

By Jonathan Franzen

Weeks on list: 30  •  In Jonathan Franzen's hit novel The Corrections, wife and mother Enid Lambert is ready to have some fun. Unfortunately, her husband, Alfred, is losing his sanity to Parkinson's disease, and their children have long since flown the family nest to the catastrophes of their own lives. Desperate for some pleasure to look forward to, Enid has set her heart on an elusive goal: bringing her family together for one last Christmas at home.

Paperback, 576pp, $16.00, Picador, Pub Date: Sep. 1, 2002