Mastering Modern Warfare

We reserve a special kind of awe for folks who are the best at what they do. Some, like Jiro Ono, make sushi. And by all accounts he’s the best sushi chef in the world: his 10-seat Tokyo restaurant has three Michelin stars. He’s a shokunin—a master in every sense who, in the words of Tasio Odate, also has “a social obligation to work… for the general welfare of the people.” It might seem strange to draw a parallel between a purveyor of fine raw fish and a professional war-maker, but in many ways, Rorke Denver is a shokunin of the Navy SEALs. The lieutenant commander has led over 200 SEAL missions, and for years it’s been his job to train inductees to “the greatest man club in the world” (the SEALs are one of the last remaining enclaves in the U.S. military that prohibit women from joining). In a video trailer for Damn Few: Making the Modern SEAL Warrior, which debuts at #15 on our Hardcover Nonfiction list, Denver said that after reading Winston Churchill’s My Early Life during his senior year in college, he “knew [he] wanted to serve, without question,” and he’s been doing just that ever since. Over the course of his career, he’s developed a unique conception of his profession: “People think war is about hate, but for us it’s about love. It’s about these things that are so special to us, and so personal to us—our families, those that we serve with, and those that we serve for… It’s about much more than an enemy.” In his book, Denver expands on these sentiments in an effort to dispel the “mythology” surrounding the elite cadre of soldiers—“The reality,” he insists, “is better.” But even if Denver sees war as being a thing of love, sentimentality doesn’t drive sales when it comes to military memoirs. There’s plenty of nightmarish action, much of it centered on the infamous period of SEAL training known as Hell Week. In our review, we called Damn Few “an awe-inspiring sketch of soldierly excellence.” The book, and Denver, will be making appearances in the coming weeks at bookstores, museums, and on radio and TV. He’s booked for the Dennis Miller Show and Conan. —By Samuel R. Slaton

The Family Feiler

Bruce Feiler’s The Secrets of Happy Families: Improve Your Mornings, Rethink Family Dinner, Fight Smarter, Go Out and Play, and Much More lands at #18 on our Hardcover Nonfiction list in its first week. We broke the good news to Feiler at the start of an interview on Publishers Weekly Radio (see “Online and On-air,” p. 5) last week and then grilled him about the book, which describes his personal journey to consult experts in every field even tangentially related to family interaction. When Feiler and his wife were arguing frequently, he sought advice from international conflict mediators and asked a consultant to analyze the room where the arguments took place. Business analysts helped him develop the notion of “family culture,” and a computer science expert introduced him to Agile, a software development method that can be adapted to fixing family problems. In the interview, Feiler frequently quoted scientific research—did you know that the average family dinner involves only 10 minutes of actual conversation? —and emphasized the imp-ortance of finding the right solutions for an individual family’s particular problems. “You don’t need a big scheme, you don’t need a grand plan, you don’t need to reorient everything that you do,” he said. “You just take small steps and accumulate small wins. What’s the biggest secret to a happy family? Try.” —Rose Fox

The Family Kellerman

Jonathan Kellerman’s Guilt, his 28th Alex Delaware novel, is at #5 on the Hardcover Fiction list, having debuted the week before at #2. Child psychologist Alex Delaware and LAPD detective Milo Sturgis follow up on a grisly find in the yard of an affluent West L.A. couple’s new house: a metal box containing the skeleton of an infant and a yellowed newspaper dated 1951. Another similarly disturbing discovery in a park across town raises the stakes. Gerald Bartell’s review in the Washington Post called Guilt “a solid, poignant tale of violence and innocence.”

Kellerman, a clinical psychologist, has 75 million copies of his novels in print worldwide. His 30 bestselling crime novels include the Alex Delaware series, The Butcher’s Theater, Billy Straight, The Conspiracy Club, and Twisted. With his wife, the novelist Faye Kellerman, he co-authored the bestsellers Double Homicide and Capital Crimes. He’s the author of numerous essays, short stories, scientific articles, two children’s books, and three volumes of psychology, including Savage Spawn: Reflections on Violent Children, as well as the lavishly illustrated With Strings Attached: The Art and Beauty of Vintage Guitars. He has won the Goldwyn, Edgar, and Anthony awards, and has been nominated for a Shamus Award. Two of his four children are novelists, Jesse Kellerman and Aliza Kellerman—a veritable family industry.
—Peter Cannon

Patterson, Runs (and Runs)

James Patterson’s Alex Cross, Run, debuts at #1 on our Hardcover Fiction list. Ho, hum. His Private Berlin debuted in the top spot only four weeks ago (it’s now at #6). Ho, hum again—for this is standard operating procedure for the prolific village that is “James Patterson.” In 2012, no less than five JP titles (Private: #1 Suspect; Private Games; Guilty Wives; 11th Hour; and Zoo) debuted in the top spot, while three others (I, Michael Bennett; NYPD Red; and Merry Christmas, Alex Cross) debuted in the second spot (thanks to the rough elbowing of, respectively, Deborah Harkness, J.K. Rowling, and Vince Flynn, who stood between JP, his coauthors, and the top spot). If last year is any indication, Patterson has dibs on several #1 slots in 2013.—Michael Coffey

The Oscar Bump

It was the best of awards, it was the worst of awards. As the Tinseltown dust settled following the 85th Annual Academy Awards on Feb. 24, columnists and cineastes had a field day dishing the ceremony. (One columnist headlined, “Seth MacFarlane emcees a conflicted, bloated, song-heavy Oscar-cast.”) The bottom line, of course, remained: who won? In one sense, publishers, as the popular slogan “see the movie, read the book” ran true to form. The two top-placing films, both book adaptations, are represented on this week’s Trade Paperback list: Life of Pi by Yann Martel lands in 12th place, with Argo by Antonio Mendez and Matt Baglio coming in at #20.

Life of Pi, which many mavens termed “unfilmable,” won four awards—with Ang Lee named Best Director—and also nabbed prizes for Cinematography, Score, and Visual Effects. (In a nod to filmdom’s technical advances, it was the first time a director has won for helming a 3-D movie.) And as numerous pundits predicted, Argo took Best Picture, along with Adapted Screenplay and Film Editing. Despite—or perhaps because of—director Ben Affleck not snagging a directing nomination, the film had built a growing fan base, winning at the Golden Globes, the Producers Guild, Directors Guild, and the British Academy Film Awards (BAFTAs). Argo ‘s fillip on the 1980 Iranian hostage crisis bested the night’s other eagerly anticipated prize winners, including the most-nominated film, Lincoln, which took home only two statuettes. (Interestingly, Argo was only the fourth Best Picture to win without a nominated director: Wings [1927/28], Grand Hotel [1931/32], and Driving Miss Daisy [1989]. And in a case of history repeating itself, Ang Lee and Steven Spielberg were facing off for directing awards this year as they did in 2006, when Lee’s work on Brokeback Mountain bested Spielberg’s drama, Munich. This year, Lee beat Spielberg for his work on Lincoln. Perhaps, as one newspaper scribe suggested, “Lincoln just isn’t Oscar’s type.”—Dick Donahue