MIDDLEBROW BESTSELLERS — THIS WEEK

By: Joshua Glenn
September 28, 2009

Same as last week, except Gladwell Moore’s Clunk enters the list at no. 8, knocking out Don Piper’s 90 Minutes in Heaven.

1) THREE CUPS OF TEA, by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin. (Penguin, $15.) A former climber builds schools in villages in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Sentimental, uplifting, a favorite gift from compassionate conservatives to their liberal undergrad children.

freakonomics-bookcover

2) FREAKONOMICS, by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner. (Harper Perennial, $15.99.) A scholar and a journalist apply economic theory to nearly everything. Magical science!

3) JULIE & JULIA, by Julie Powell. (Back Bay/Little, Brown, $14.99;, Little, Brown, $7.99.) A memoir of trying every recipe in Mastering the Art of French Cooking Memoir. Cooking. Ur-middlebrow Nora Ephron directed the movie. Three strikes and you’re out! NB: MY LIFE IN FRANCE, by Julia Child with Alex Prud’homme, currently #2 on the NYT paperback nonfiction bestseller list, is not middlebrow.

4) THE GLASS CASTLE, by Jeannette Walls. (Scribner, $15.) The author recalls a bizarre childhood during which she and her siblings moved constantly. If you’ve read Bill Mauldin’s terrific autobiography, A Sort of a Saga (1949), you can’t possibly have much patience with this sort of thing. Please see my blog post on “premature biographication.”

the-tipping-point

5) THE TIPPING POINT, by Malcolm Gladwell. (Back Bay/Little, Brown, $14.95.) A study of social epidemics, otherwise known as fads. Magical science!

6) WHEN YOU ARE ENGULFED IN FLAMES, by David Sedaris. (Back Bay/Little, Brown, $15.99.) Humor essays on middle age, mortality, and giving up smoking. We have nothing against bullshit… as long as it’s amusing. But we do have something against QUATSCH.

7) BLINK, by Malcolm Gladwell. (Back Bay/Little, Brown, $15.99.) Instinct in the workings of the mind. Magical science!

8 ) CLUNK, by Gladwell Moore (Threshold Editions, $14.99.) The neuroscience of car accidents. Magical science!

9) EAT, PRAY, LOVE, by Elizabeth Gilbert. (Penguin, $15.) A writer’s yearlong journey in search of self takes her to Italy, India, and Indonesia. Memoir. Cooking/Eating. Exotic Tourism. Strike three!

sway

10) SWAY, by Ori Brafman and Rom Brafman (Broadway, $14). The psychological forces that lead us to disregard facts or logic and behave in surprisingly irrational ways. Magical science!

What do you think?

  1. One thing we learn from studying these books — you do *not* need an attractive or intelligent cover design to sell a lot of books. In fact, it might help to have a really amateurish, banal design?

  2. some of the exciting scientific discoveries in gladwell moore’s CLUNK:

    1. watching porn induces “arousal” because it makes you think about sex.

    2. what we call “morality” is merely the vestige of certain tribal taboos and synaptic glitches and can be expunged with chemicals e.g alcohol, which works neuroscientifically on the brain to produce disinhibition or “tipsiness.”

    3. there are no “good memories” or “bad memories” – there are only “good/bad memories”.

    4. when you watch a commercial on tv, your brain is involved in a complicated neuroscientific dialogue with the actual PRODUCT. the product is saying: “buy me. i’m pretty great.” and your brain is saying: “well ok, maybe i’ll give you a try. although i am sort of broke at the moment. how about a raincheck?”

    5. if you cross your eyes, you will see what reality actually looks like.

    6. everything is random, except my wife’s ass.

    etc….

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