The Bestsellers

HARDCOVER FICTION

1. THE FOURTH HAND, by John Irving, Random House, $26.95

Much of Irving's latest reads like a parody of misogynist preoccupations. Devastatingly good-looking Patrick Wallingford lost his hand to a lion during a TV interview in India. Now, he's looking for love in a world of tricky, manipulative women. He eventually meets Doris Clausen, who volunteers to give Patrick her husband's hand. Irving's satire of crass TV journalism is on target but sadly unoriginal. "The Fourth Hand" is sometimes grotesquely funny, but mostly just grotesque. (368 pp.) (Full review June 28) By Ron Charles

The Christian Science Monitor: unfavorable The New York Times: No review noted Kirkus Review of Books: unfavorable Selected reviews: unfavorable Audio available

Recommended: Default

2. A TRAITOR TO MEMORY, by Elizabeth George, Bantam, $26.95

London detectives have their work cut out for them figuring out who's responsible for a spate of hit-and-runs in the latest Elizabeth George suspense novel. But what do the crimes have to do with a violin virtuoso's loss of his ability to play? George unfolds the investigation and the virtuoso's troubles in alternating chapters, which can be confusing at times. Her style is intelligent and engaging, but finding out whodunit takes patience: At 719 pages, the book is the "War & Peace" of murder mysteries. (719 pp.) By Kim Campbell

The Christian Science Monitor: mixed The New York Times: No review noted Kirkus Review of Books: mixed Selected reviews: mixed Audio available

3. BACK WHEN WE WERE GROWNUPS, by Anne Tyler, Knopf, $25

Tyler fans will recognize all her familiar themes and characters. Beck Davitch can't fathom how she ended up the center of this needy family. All she has is a crumbling mansion her husband left and the care of his ancient uncle. Her grown daughters depend on her to keep the family ticking, and they treat her like a trusty old clock. Beck decides to search for her high school sweetheart, but finds she can't "return to that place where her life forked and choose the other branch". Charming. (256 pp.) (Full review May 3) By Ron Charles

The Christian Science Monitor: favorable The New York Times: unfavorable Kirkus Review of Books: No review noted Selected reviews: favorable Audio available

4. P IS FOR PERIL, by Sue Grafton, Putnam, $26.95

Grafton's latest is a disappointment for Kinsey Millhone fans. Her characters, once quirky and lovable, now seem tired and cranky, and Kinsey herself can't seem to shake a literary lethargy that comes from solving too many alphabetical cases too fast. The disconnected subplots revolve around a missing doctor whom no one really seems to grieve and two psycho landlord brothers, one of whom takes a romantic interest in Kinsey. Not too violent for the genre, but the sex is gratuitously detailed. (352 pp.) By Barbara Petzen

The Christian Science Monitor: unfavorable The New York Times: No review noted Kirkus Review of Books: No review noted Selected reviews: favorable Audio available

5. HOW TO BE GOOD, by Nick Hornby, Riverhead, $24.95

A novel that hits the funny bone but bruises the conscience. Katie is a hard-working doctor and a loving mother - "a good person," she keeps reminding us. But she's very unhappily married to a bitter, acerbic man. On a whim, he gets involved with a spiritual healer and decides to be good. In every way. Who could live with that? Hornby allows absurdity to grow exponentially. Despite some great moments of brutal, over-the-top comedy, there's a tenderness that runs through the story. (305 pp.) (Full review July 5) By Ron Charles

The Christian Science Monitor: favorable The New York Times: unfavorable Kirkus Review of Books: No review noted Selected reviews: unfavorable Audio available

6. RISE TO REBELLION, by Jeff Shaara, Ballantine, $26.95

By telling the story of America's birth through a compressed cast of characters, Shaara heightens the role individuals play in great historical events. Here, the eyes used to portray history belong to people like Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, George Washington, and George the III, among many others. No matter how many times you've heard and read the story, it's still possible to be amazed that the colonials pulled it off, finally throwing off England's imperial embrace. (448 pp.) (Full review June 28) By Keith Henderson

The Christian Science Monitor: favorable The New York Times: No review noted Kirkus Review of Books: unfavorable Selected reviews: favorable Audio available

7. THE WIND DONE GONE, by Alice Randall, Houghton Mifflin, $22

In this controversial parody of Margaret Mitchell's classic, the illegitimate daughter of a white plantation owner and a black enslaved housekeeper is never fully embraced by either race. She craves her mother's love, steals the heart of her white half-sister's husband, and falls in love with a black congressman. Because the novel focuses on the vague self-musing journal of one central character, the possibilities of exploring the complexities of an antebellum community are lost. (224pp.) By Kendra Nordin

The Christian Science Monitor: unfavorable The New York Times: unfavorable Kirkus Review of Books: favorable Selected reviews: mixed Audio available

8. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, by Michael Chabon, Random House, $26.95

It's New York City at the dawn of WWII, and young Josef Kavalier has escaped from Prague. Determined to raise money to get his family out, he partners with his cousin, Sam Clay, to create a comic series: "The Escapist." This story of escape, survival, and hope is as action-packed as a comic book itself, yet Chabon's prose is hardly cartoonish. His imagination is boundless, his characters multidimensional. This year's winner of the Pulitzer Prize in fiction. (636 pp.) By Amanda Paulson

The Christian Science Monitor: favorable The New York Times: favorable Kirkus Review of Books: No review noted Selected reviews: mixed Audio available

9. SEVEN UP, by Janet Evanovich, St. Martin's, $24.95

Stephanie Plum, a cross between an Agatha Christie crimesolver and Goldie Hawn, makes her seventh run at cleaning up the underworld of New Jersey. This time she goes after Eddie DeChooch, a sorry excuse of an over-the-hill gangster. The supporting cast of characters, like Grandma Mazur and Lula, really made Evanovich's earlier adventures. This one doesn't have the same edge, and the loves of Plum's life aren't nearly as compelling. Still, her antics provide enough laughs to make it a worthwhile read. (320 pp.) By Faye Bowers

The Christian Science Monitor: mixed The New York Times: No review noted Kirkus Review of Books: No review noted Selected reviews: favorable Audio available

10. CANE RIVER, by Lalita Tademy, Warner, $24.95

Tademy, a former Sun Microsystems VP, left her position to research her genealogy. The result is the story of four generations of women born into slavery in Louisiana. It is not entirely a work of fiction, as these characters are based on the author's own family history. At times, the the book reads like a historical romance, but Tademy was determined to bring the story of these women and their children to light. Correspondence and photographs provide additional touches of realism. (418 pp.) By Leigh Montgomery

The Christian Science Monitor: favorable The New York Times: No review noted Kirkus Review of Books: favorable Selected reviews: favorable Audio available

11. TELL NO ONE, by Harlan Coben, Delacorte, $22.95

This carefully crafted thriller marries larger-than-life characters and fated love. One thought dead may not only be among the living, but may also be trying to help solve her own murder. Widowed eight years ago, Dr. David Beck is suddenly thrust back into the horrific mystery of his wife's death. You'll want to turn the pages and immerse yourself in the delicious, if unchallenging, weave of this suspenseful who-done-it. (352 pp.) By Tonya Miller

The Christian Science Monitor: mixed The New York Times: No review noted Kirkus Review of Books: favorable Selected reviews: mixed Audio available

12. PRODIGAL SUMMER, by Barbara Kingsolver, HarperCollins, $26

The stories of three women in southern Appalachia are wound together in this celebration of the erotic earth. In their separate settings, they struggle against a culture that denigrates them for not being "natural ladies," but through nature, they each find happiness. Unfortunately, among the fascinating ecology lessons and Kingsolver's typically wonderful dialogue is some truly syrupy debris. But the two oldest characters present the most refreshing love affair of the year. (464 pp.) (Reviewed Oct. 19) By Ron Charles

The Christian Science Monitor: mixed The New York Times: mixed Kirkus Review of Books: favorable Selected reviews: favorable Audio available

13. EMPIRE FALLS, by Richard Russo, Knopf, $25.95

The mills that caused Empire Falls, ME, to mushroom have closed, but the Whiting family still owns the industrial husks and the tired souls of its inhabitants. One of these cowed citizens is Miles Roby, who, at 42, is a college dropout whose wife is filing for divorce and whose dream of owning his own restaurant may never be realized. In what may be considered the last great novel of the 20th century, Russo carves the wide world of this little town with remarkable fidelity. (512 pp.) (Full review May 10) By Ron Charles

The Christian Science Monitor: favorable The New York Times: favorable Kirkus Review of Books: favorable Selected reviews: favorable Audio available

14. THE LAST REPORT ON THE MIRACLES OF LITTLE NO HORSE, by Louise Erdrich, HarperCollins, $26

Erdrich takes us back to the Ojibwe natives of North Dakota, where Agnes DeWitt has taken on the identity of a drowned priest and gone to live with the tribe. Over the next 80 years, Agnes struggles with questions of faith, eventually finding a divine trunk beneath the branches of her own theology and the native spirituality of the people she serves. Even the small incidents in this novel are moments of tremendous power, stripped of sentimentality or pretension. (368 pp.) (Full review April 12) By Ron Charles

The Christian Science Monitor: favorable The New York Times: favorable Kirkus Review of Books: No review noted Selected reviews: favorable Audio available

15. A PAINTED HOUSE, by John Grisham, Doubleday, $27.95

Grisham steps away from the Memphis lawyer scene to pull from his childhood memories. "A Painted House" tells the story of Lucas, a small boy in rural Arkansas. As the harvest begins, he sees and hears things no one else suspects, and he keeps his secrets even when they keep piling up. After all, he's the son of a farmer, and he knows he has to do whatever it takes to protect the crop and his family. This is a complete break in Grisham's usual style, one that readers will want more of. (400 pp.) By Anne Toevs

The Christian Science Monitor: favorable The New York Times: No review noted Kirkus Review of Books: No review noted Selected reviews: favorable Audio available

The Book Sense™ bestseller list is based on sales from independent bookstores across America. 1-888-BOOKSENSE

Selected reviews may include: Newsweek; New York Daily News; St. Louis Dispatch; THe Milwaukee Journal Sentinel; Washington Post; Fort Worth Star-Telegram; Toronto Star; USA Today; Chicago Tribune; Times Picayune; Publishers Weekly; Star Tribune; LA Times; Boston Globe.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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