Behind the Bestsellers
Daisy Maryles -- 2/26/01

Who's on First Next Week? | Amen to Multnomah | Riddled with Errors

Who's on First Next Week?While John Grisham's A Painted House easily captured the top spot on the national charts in week #2 in the stores--outselling the second-bestselling hardcover novel, Terry McMillan's A Day Late and a Dollar Short, by about five to one--the big question is: Who will be on first next week? The race is between Grisham and Amy Tan. The Bonesetter's Daughter, her first adult
fiction in six years, went on sale February 19 (Tan's 49th birthday); Putnam launched the book with a first printing of about 575,000. The author has begun a tour of more than 30 cities that will keep her on the road through mid-April; over 750 people showed up at her first bookstore event, at the Barnes & Noble Union Square store in Manhattan. Tan enjoyed a 38-week run on PW's hardcover list back in 1989 with TheJoy Luck Club; her highest slot was #4. In 1991, The Kitchen God's Wife had an 18-week run. It landed in the #2 slot, and in its second week unseated the #1 fiction bestseller--John Grisham's initial megasuccess, The Firm--and then went on to a seven-week run in the lead spot. Book #3, The Hundred Secret Senses, published in 1995, landed in the #6 position, went as high as #2 and was on the charts for 13 weeks. The reviews for Tan's latest novel, which,like Joy Luck Club, has many autobiographical elements, have been superlative. PW's starred review noted, "The novel exhibits a poignant clarity as it investigates the dilemma of adult children who must become caretakers of their elderly parents, a situation Tan articulates with integrity and exemplary empathy for both generations." It's a situation that many boomers are grappling with--a demographic that has found much wisdom and entertainment in Tan's books.

Amen to MultnomahMultnomah's The Prayer of Jabez by Bruce Wilkinson has been a fixture on PW's monthly religion lists since publication in November 2000 and is now #12 on our weekly general list; it's Multnomah's first appearance on the latter. Copies in

print for the first two months totaled about 850,000 after 12 trips to press, and about 25% of sales have come from parishioners whose pastor recommended the book. The publisher, an independent religion house nestled in the shadows of Oregon's Cascade Mountains, has just gone back to press for an additional one million copies, bringing the total to 1.9 million. Wilkinson is founder and president of Walk Thru the Bible Ministries, and he challenges readers to say the titular short prayer every day (he has been doing so for about 30 years), noting that "the power of the prayer is in what you believe will happen as a result of the prayer, and the action you take." The prayer's text is simple and can be found in I Chronicles 4:9-10: "And Jabez called on the God of Israel saying, 'Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain.' So God granted him what he requested."

Riddled with ErrorsBut in this case, they're deliberate. Vintage's trade paperback edition of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius features an unusual addendum--printed upside down at the back of the book is "Mistakes We Knew We Were Making," which includes "Notes, Corrections, Clarifications, Apologies, Addenda." In addition, the new edition sports three different back covers: one with type and design, one with author Dave Eggers and his brother, Toph, and one showing Toph as a youngster. The book's hardcover publication (Simon & Schuster, Feb. 2000) was greeted with such critical hosannas as "a virtuosic piece of writing," "utterly unforgettable," "scathingly perceptive and hysterically funny," etc. The unique memoir became one of the year's literary sensations; it spent nine weeks on PW's list and was selected by the New York Times as one of its Editors' Choice Ten Best Books of the Year. (It also appeared on the "Year's Best" lists of many other national publications.) Beginning March 21, Eggers will be touring for a month, with readings and signings set for libraries and colleges, plus numerous bookstore appearances. Vintage's 225,000-copy first printing was supplemented with 25,000 before the February 13 on-sale date and another 50,000 immediately after that. Staggering, indeed.

With reporting by Dick Donahue.