The Dangerous Reality of Processed Foods

Think about each thing you've eaten today, and how many milligrams of sodium, tablespoons of sugar, and grams of fat were contained therein. Now think about what your kids are eating and drinking. As Pulitzer Prize–winning New York Times reporter Michael Moss shows in his exposé Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us, debuting at #5 on the Hardcover Nonfiction list, American processed foods are not just unhealthy, but addictive. Through case studies on companies and brands (including Kraft, Coca-Cola, Kellogg's, Nestle, Lunchables, and Jello-O Pudding), copious research, and interviews, Moss investigates how for 50 years, food giants have used these three ingredients to lure consumers and keep them eating and drinking more. The result? An obesity epidemic, staggering rates of cardiovascular disease and type-2 diabetes, marketing that targets poor communities and children, all while the processed food industry yields yearly sales of $1 trillion. According to the PW review, "Moss's vivid reportage remains alive to the pleasures of junk—‘the heated fat swims over the tongue to send signals of joy to the brain'—while shrewdly analyzing the manipulative profiteering behind them." Following a first serial cover story in the New York Times Magazine, Moss's media appearances will include The Dr. Oz Show, NPR's Fresh Air and Diane Rehm, American Public Media's Marketplace, MSNBC's Morning Joe, and Comedy Central's The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. On April 12, Moss will appear at Barnes & Noble's Union Square (Manhattan) store for a conversation with Bon Appetit's editor-in-chief, Adam Rapoport. Perhaps you should pack your own fruit, nuts, and carrot sticks for that one. —By Jessamine Chen

Of Biblical Proportions

The Bible miniseries now showing on A&E's History Channel provides a case study in multiplatform buzz. The Mar. 3 premiere of the series, produced by television actress Roma Downey and her husband, reality TV producer Mark Burnett, attracted a whopping 27 million viewers; that audience size made it the #1 cable entertainment telecast for the year. The novelization, A Story of God and All of Us (FaithWords), written by the two, debuts at #6 on our Hardcover Fiction list. Before the show, the series trended as #1 on Twitter, as celebrities and other influencers tweeted about it. FaithWords put out notice early about the project, bringing Downey, who plays Jesus' mother Mary in the production, and Burnett last July to the annual Christian retailer show. It also developed a young readers' edition and a devotional that includes dozens of stills from the production. And yes, there is a Spanish-language edition, and a CD from Word Entertainment. The TV series concludes, naturally, on Easter Sunday. "We are ecstatic that Roma's and Mark's track record of producing hits has followed them from television to publishing," said Rolf Zettersten, senior v-p and publisher, Hachette Nashville. FaithWords's valuable list also includes Cross Roads by William Paul Young (at #21 this week) and I Declare: 31 Promises to Speak Over Your Life by Joel Osteen (#6 on the Hardcover Nonfiction list)— success of biblical proportions, you could say. —Marcia Z. Nelson

The Success of ‘Timmy Failure'

Candlewick is betting big that Timmy Failure will not live down to his name. The publisher has high hopes for the eponymous hero of Stephan Pastis's Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made, the first children's book from the creator of the Pearls Before Swine comic strip. The book centers on clueless, self-confident Timmy Failure and his 1,500-pound business partner, a polar bear named Total, who together run the Total Failure detective agency. Candlewick announced a 200,000-copy first printing for the illustrated middle-grade novel and a $250,000 marketing campaign, which it calls its most robust ever for a debut book. Pre-pub buzz began at BEA last June, when a nine-month teaser campaign launched that included distribution of ARCs and an array of branded promotional items (iPhone cases, postcards, sticky pads, "Failure Is an Option" buttons, a watch reminding accounts that "it's almost time for Timmy!"). "What makes me laugh is a character with a huge blind spot," Pastis says. "I like characters like Ignatius Reilly in A Confederacy of Dunces and Ricky Gervais's character in The Office. They think one thing about themselves, but the truth is as far from that as it can be. So I began to think about how to put that kind of character in a book for kids."—Sally Lodge

A Little League Nazi, from Picoult

The #3 slot in Hardcover Fiction goes to Jodi Picoult, the bestselling author whose latest (and 21st) novel, The Storyteller, sold over 30,000 copies its first week out. One of Atria's stars, Picoult consistently delivers stories of families, relationships, and the thorny issues that make for delectable page turners (and movies). She's a master of the courtroom scene and has been called "better than Grisham" when it comes to legal drama. My Sister's Keeper, about a 13-year-old girl who was conceived as a medical donor for her older sister and seeking medical emancipation, sold over two million copies in 2005 and another 600,000 in 2009 when the movie, staring Cameron Diaz and Alex Baldwin, debuted. The book is is indicative of what Picoult can deliver. She seldom disappoints and The Storyteller has all the elements of a blockbuster: a respected community character, ex-teacher, and Little League coach who's actually a guilty SS Nazi guard, and a protagonist with a Holocaust survivor grandmother who the old man presents with a bizarre request. Shades of the Stephen King (writing as Richard Bachman) 1982 novella, Apt Pupil, although with Picoult, you can be sure the heart is tugged rather than terrified.—Louisa Ermelino

Tales Overheard from Haruf

It should come as no surprise that Kent Haruf's first novel in eight years, Benediction, would make its way to the #12 spot on our Hardcover Fiction list (his Plainsong has, has sold more than a half-million in copies in trade paper for Vintage). While Benediction (Knopf), is set in the fictional town of Holt, Colo., explores the lives of smalltown folk, the underlying themes of the stories Haruf tells are universal. "In some ways, what happens in Holt happens in Denver, in Minneapolis, everywhere," Haruf told me this fall during the Mountains & Plains Booksellers Association trade show in Denver when we sat down for a hastily arranged interview. I'd received the ARC a few hours earlier, and meant to skim it as fast as I could. But the spare, even elegiac prose drew me in: I was still savoring every word up until a few minutes before our meeting. "I don't think about themes at all," Haruf adds, confessing that his "relentless" eavesdropping upon the conversations of friends as well as strangers inspires his writing, with first drafts of his work typed "blindly" on a typewriter. Haruf approached making writing his career in much the same way: when he was 28, he applied to the Iowa Writers' Workshop. "All I knew was that Iowa was famous as a place where people went and learned how to write. I didn't know enough to be intimidated." —Claire Kirch