Man, Not Myth

Jon Meacham’s biography of Thomas Jefferson strikes a chord post-election.

Pulitzer Prize–winner Jon Meacham (American Lion) returns to the bestseller lists with the already much-lauded biography Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power, which debuts at #4 on our Hardcover Nonfiction list. Meacham, who has written about the 2012 election and Thomas Jefferson for Time, Esquire, and the Wall Street Journal, utilizes original research (including newly public documents) in his study of Jefferson the man and politician. Understanding Jefferson’s contradictions, Meacham suggests, offers insight into “the American experiment.” The author of several New York Times bestsellers, including Franklin and Winston and American Gospel, Meacham is the executive editor and executive vice-president of Random House and a contributing editor to Time. He has appeared on the Daily Show in support of the book, which launched at a ticketed event at Monticello on Nov. 11. Appearances in December and January include stops at Left Bank Books in St. Louis, Mo.; the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation Luncheon in Grand Rapids, Mich.; Square Books in Oxford, Miss.; and the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston. —Jessamine Chan

Growing Your Readership Begins at Home

Native of Hope, Ark., two-time governor of his home state, musician, author, grandfather—no, Chelsea hasn’t had a kid—we’re talking about Mike Huckabee; his new book, Dear Chandler, Dear Scarlett, a compendium of anecdotes, advice, and age-old adages written for his grandchildren, debuts at #18 this week on our Hardcover Nonfiction list.

Plenty of high-profile folks have taken it upon themselves to put their hard-earned wisdom to paper for their descendants’ sake (and that of the general public)—in No One Ever Told Us That, financial adviser John D. Spooner told his grandkids to forget buying stocks (“The conventional boring way” to get rich) and just “buy the companies themselves”; F. Scott Fitzgerald, in a heartwarming letter to his then 11-year-old daughter, Frances, offered more charming advice: “[w]orry about courage” and horsemanship, but not “popular opinion” or dolls. Huckabee might not know much about owning a company or steeple chasing, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t had an eventful life—he was a pastor for over a decade, served two terms as governor, lost over 100 pounds and became a vocal advocate for healthy lifestyles, ran several marathons, put in a not-too-shabby showing in the 2008 presidential race (during which he performed on the road with his classic rock cover band, Capitol Offense—he plays bass), and now he’s got his own eponymous talk show on Fox News. But Huckabee says this book isn’t about politics (for that, see last year’s A Simple Government: Twelve Things We Really Need from Washington (and a Trillion That We Don’t!))—it’s about life. One tale has a young Huckabee picking pecans from the yard in order to earn the right to sleep indoors that night, an experience that drove home the value of hard work. Who knows what Chandler and Scarlett will have to do to earn a copy of the book. —Samuel R. Slaton

Omnipresent, Grateful, and Funny, Too

Who knew prayer could be funny? Anne Lamott, naturally. Help Thanks Wow (Riverhead), her new manual for the prayer-impaired, has settled in for a second week at #8. Almost as omnipresent as the Creator, Lamott has been everywhere lately, on tour and on pages, including New York [Nov. 29, Symphony Space], on NPR’s Morning Edition, and in O, More, People, the New York Times Book Review, and, before all that, in PW. We said the little book “is what you would get if you crossed Brother Lawrence’s religious classic The Practice of the Presence of God with a Tina Fey routine.” Lamott has almost 90,000 Facebook buddies and 34,000 Twitter followers. Plus, a video interview with this year’s author-girl, Cheryl Strayed. Full-court press accomplished, with hands folded. Wow.—Marcia Z. Nelson

Baldacci Delves into Human Trafficking

David Baldacci’s thriller The Forgotten, the sequel to 2011’s Zero Day, debuts at #3 on the Hardcover Fiction list. When the aunt of series hero Army Special Agent John Puller is found dead in Paradise, Fla., the local police rule her death an accident. But a letter she sent to Puller’s father just before she died suggests something sinister is going on in the picturesque coastal town. Convinced his aunt’s death was no accident, Puller gets on the case—which he will discover involves human trafficking across the Gulf of Mexico.

Baldacci’s extraordinarily successful first novel, Absolute Power (1996), about a homicidal U.S. president, was adapted into a major motion picture starring Clint Eastwood and Gene Hackman. In October, shooting began for Wish You Well (2000), directed by Darnell Martin and starring Ellen Burstyn, Josh Lucas, and Mackenzie Foy, on location in southwest Virginia. Baldacci’s two dozen novels (110+ million in print) have been translated into more than 45 languages and sold in more than 80 countries. Fans include George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton.

In 2000, Baldacci and his wife founded Wish You Well Foundation ( to support adult and family literacy in the U.S. by fostering and promoting the development of literacy and educational programs. In 2008, Baldacci established the Feeding Body & Minds program in partnership with Feeding America, the largest domestic hunger-relief organization in the U.S., to donate books to needy families.—Peter Cannon

The Baby Jesus

Every time the pope speaks, a bestseller gets its wings. Pope Benedict XVI’s Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives (Image) might be sitting under a lot of Christmas trees this year. The book completes a three-part exploration of the infancy and early life of Jesus from the man who brought to the papacy a rich background as a theologian and university professor. A little more than a week out of the gate, the small book is already in its fourth printing, with 100,000 copies in print, publisher Image reports. The book’s editor, Gary Jansen, says, “This isn’t just a book for Catholics or Christians. Its message of hope is a universal one.” —Marcia Z. Nelson