Our bestseller list reflects nationwide sales of books during the week ended last Saturday. Since we knocked off early last Friday, our figures probably got a bit sketchy as we eased on into the weekend. We gather information from thousands of traditional retail venues such as independent bookstores, national and regional chains, online retailers, mass merchandisers, department stores, gift shops and newsstands. We also hear from nontraditional outlets such as bodegas, taxidermists, erotic bakeries, big-and-tall shops, live bait stands, turnpike tollbooths, scrimshaw dealers, balloon vendors and some places that are frankly a little strange. You’d be surprised how many books are sold through Amish tattoo parlors.

Sales information in some categories is statistically weighted, and sales information about books about statistics is weighted with particular care. Most types of fiction are weighted, except for serious literary fiction, which is ponderous enough, let’s face it. We do not weight diet books, as this would be an oxymoron; instead, we reverse the process and watch the weight simply melt away. Hypothetical confessions by celebrity murder defendants are weighted and dropped off a pier.

An asterisk (*) means that a book is merely a footnote to the book above it. A book marked with a dagger (†) means that the book below it better back off if it knows what’s good for it. ( ) means Tom Clancy’s name appears somewhere on the cover, while (ZZZ) indicates a book with an unreasonably long page count. A book marked with a smiley face ( ) means that our copy arrived accompanied by an elaborate gift basket or tickets to a Broadway show. Note that these books tend to be grouped at the very top of the list. Other symbols, such as (§) or ( ) or even ( ) are a mystery to us and probably mean our designer was screwing around again.

Our Religion Bestseller List is compiled using an entirely faith-based method. Rankings are determined by means of a secret code embedded in the Old Testament—specifically, the Book of Numbers. Publishers who believe that a deserving book is not represented on the list should know that the code also reveals a catastrophic meteor impact before the year is out. They may want to rethink their priorities. Books defending atheism are indicated by (~); these authors can expect to be struck by lightning and burn for all eternity in the cleansing agony of perdition’s flames. Bibles are not included in the rankings, to avoid the perception that God is inspiring the faithful to buy His book in an attempt to game the list.

Our Business Bestseller list is released quarterly. Results are reviewed in a conference call with investors and analysts, as well as authors and publishers who can explain the difference between “fiscal” and “fiduciary” and are prepared to back it up. Position on the list corresponds to the number in the book’s title that tells how many “Secrets,” “Laws,” “Steps” or “Habits” it will take to become a millionaire, entrepreneur, leader or highly effective person. The symbol (Assh*le) indicates books with the word “Asshole” in the title.

The Children’s Bestseller list is compiled by actual children. Listings may not be in strict numerical order, and some numbers may be reversed or poorly formed. In calculating the rankings, 2 + 2 frequently equals 5, or 8, or sometimes 3—potentially any number. As a result, rankings are largely arbitrary, with a decided advantage going to books about cute little bunnies and farting. This list is limited to 10 slots—hey, we’re counting on our fingers here. In the event that two books are tied for a position on the list, a determination will be made using indoor voices only. Because I said so, that’s why.

Advice, How to and Miscellaneous: This is a new category for us. Advice on how to rank miscellaneous books would be welcomed.

Author Information
Laurence Hughes works for a big publishing company. His writing is featured in Mountain Man Dance Moves: The McSweeney’s Book of Lists (Vintage).