Burning Up the List: Mississippi a Recuperative Setting for Lles

Greg Iles’s Natchez Burning debuts at #2 on our Hardcover Fiction list. The first in a trilogy, it is Iles’s fourth novel to feature former prosecutor and writer Penn Cage, who has become the mayor of Natchez, Miss., where he grew up.

Penn’s father, Dr. Tom Cage, whom Penn has always thought of a sort of Atticus Finch, finds himself on the verge of being charged with the murder of an African-American woman, his long-time nurse assistant and friend, Viola Turner. The catch: Tom believes client privilege forbids him from talking about the night in question, and so refuses to say anything to help himself or his son. Penn soon learns that Viola’s death is only the tip of the iceberg—for it brings into question several horrific, unsolved murders in the 1960s, one of which was her brother’s. And it points to a group of secretive KKK members who call themselves the “Double Eagles,” a crew that has cut a swath across the area for decades and includes some of the wealthiest and most ruthless businessmen in the state.

Iles was born in Germany in 1960, where his father ran the U.S. Embassy Medical Clinic during the height of the Cold War. He spent his youth in Natchez, Miss., and graduated from the University of Mississippi in 1983. After several years playing in the band “Frankly Scarlet,” Iles wrote his first novel in 1993, Spandau Phoenix, which became the first of 12 New York Times bestsellers. With his third novel, Mortal Fear, Iles began setting his novels in Mississippi, and in The Quiet Game, his fourth, he created Penn Cage and placed him in Natchez, the oldest city on the Mississippi River.

In 2011, Iles sustained life-threatening injuries in an automobile accident on Highway 61 near Natchez. He remained in a medically induced coma for eight days and ultimately lost part of his right leg. Doctors declared his survival miraculous and predicted a long recovery, yet early in his rehabilitation, Iles found comfort and motivation by re-entering the world of the character, the town, and the secrets that his fans loved most.

The multicity tour began April 29 in Jackson, Miss., at Lemuria Bookstore, where Iles signed copies of Natchez Burning for Dr. Fred Rushton, the vascular surgeon who repaired his torn aorta after his accident, and Dr. Peter Arnold, the plastic surgeon who treated his injured leg.—Peter Cannon

Is Loyola’s ‘The Church of Mercy’ a Bestseller? Is the Pope Catholic? Yes and Yes

The Church of Mercy by Pope Francis debuts at #13 on our trade paper list. By publisher Loyola Press’s count, it has sold 50,000 copies since its release on Easter, more than 10,000 in hardcover. Many of the early sales were online through the major outlets; the book was available for pre-order. The Pope doesn’t really need that much publicity. He keeps showing up on the covers of magazines and was selected Person of the Year for both Time magazine and the Advocate, the LGBT-interest publication. But a book excerpt appearing in Parade magazine on Easter Sunday helped, says Stephen J. Connor, director of trade at Loyola; the news magazine is included in most American newspapers. Church of Mercy is the Pope’s first book since he was elected pontiff last year. Earlier books drew on writings from his tenure as Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires. The new book collects his speeches and other public remarks in his first year in the papacy. Little Loyola won the auction to publish. It doesn’t hurt that Loyola is a ministry of the Jesuit order—Francis himself a Jesuit. The new Pope fascinates for his message, Connor says. “People are talking about the Francis factor. People are looking for authentic spiritual leaders that show by words and actions what they believe and he shows that so beautifully.”—Marcia Z. Nelson

Manga Messiah

In the manga Attack on Titan, the latest volume of which appears at #23 on our Trade Paperback list, humanity is on its last legs, living in walled-off cities that are under constant siege by humanoid giants known as titans. The massive attackers threaten to doom mankind, unless a small band of fighters can finally turn the tide and save the world.

While it’s not quite as desperate a situation, the current state of manga in North American does somewhat mirror the plot of Hajime Isayama’s international bestseller, with the industry weathering foes like shrunken sales and online piracy. But with Attack on Titan, it’s found a champion: a relatively new title putting up big numbers and drawing in new readers (a rare and coveted demographic in comics). Publisher Kodansha has been heavily pushing Titan, maintaining a monthly release schedule, as well as licensing a multitude of spin-offs. A TV adaptation of the series is also premiering this month, likely to bring in even more new readers.—Matt White

When Pomp and Circumstance Go Viral: George Saunders’s Commencement Address Turns Into a Bestseller

When short story writer George Saunders spoke at Syracuse University’s commencement last May, he never expected what came next: his speech, about the importance of being kind, went viral, after the New York Times posted it on its website in July. Now, Random House has printed the speech in book form, titled Congratulations, By the Way: Some Thoughts on Kindness, and it jumps from #46 to #12 on our Hardcover Nonfiction list. Here, an excerpt:

“Be a good and proactive and even somewhat desperate patient on your own behalf—seek out the most efficacious anti-selfishness medicines, energetically, for the rest of your life. Do all the other things, the ambitious things—travel, get rich, get famous, innovate, lead, fall in love, make and lose fortunes, swim naked in wild jungle rivers… but as you do, to the extent that you can, err in the direction of kindness. Do those things that incline you toward the big questions, and avoid the things that would reduce you and make you trivial. That luminous part of you that exists beyond personality—your soul, if you will—is as bright and shining as any that has ever been. Bright as Shakespeare’s, bright as Gandhi’s, bright as Mother Teresa’s. Clear away everything that keeps you separate from this secret luminous place. Believe it exists, come to know it better, nurture it, share its fruits tirelessly.

“And someday, in 80 years, when you’re 100, and I’m 134, and we’re both so kind and loving we’re nearly unbearable, drop me a line, let me know how your life has been. I hope you will say: It has been so wonderful.”

Saunders’s lauded collection of stories, The Tenth of December (Random House), has sold nearly 150,000 copies at Nielsen outlets, in hardcover and paperback, since its publication in January 2013.—Diane Roback

Top 10 Overall

Rank Title Author Imprint This Week Units
1 The Fault in Our Stars John Green Penguin/Speak 49,017
2 Divergent Veronica Roth HarperCollins/Tegen 36,991
3 Insurgent Veronica Roth HarperCollins/Tegen 36,150
4 Gone Girl Gillian Flynn Broadway 35,163
5 The Target David Baldacci Grand Central 34,795
6 Allegiant Veronica Roth HarperCollins/Tegen 33,453
7 First Sight Danielle Steel Dell 27,903
8 Heaven Is for Real (movie tie-in) Todd Burpo Thomas Nelson 27,798
9 Heaven Is for Real Todd Burpo Thomas Nelson 27,013
10 Minecraft: Redstone Handbook Scholastic Inc. Scholastic 25,021