Tag Archives: Bestsellers

Book One-Liners

Note: Although this jovial picture may lead you to believe otherwise, in general we do NOT like it when you sit on the library shelves!

Note: Although this jovial picture may lead you to believe otherwise, in general we do NOT like it when you sit on the library shelves!

In some way, shape or form, all of us here at the library recommend books to people. Most of the time we are telling our customers about a great read, through venues such as displays, booklists, staff picks and this blog. But we also inform each other about what’s new, popular or currently on our bedside tables.

John, one of my co-workers in the First Floor – New & Featured Department, processes our Bestseller collection. This means that he, solely, is responsible for unpacking those boxes of books as they come in, checking them into the system to make them “available” in the online catalog, pulling the titles when they have that not-so-fresh feeling and then boxing them back up to ship out. As you can see from that list of duties, this task is no small feat. But out of the kindness of his own heart, he adds one more step to his bestseller process – he writes brief descriptions of each book that comes in for that collection and periodically sends out the list to the rest of us, so we know what’s on those bestseller tables.

John has become quite well-known throughout the Main Library set for these book descriptions. Whenever possible, he tries to keep them to one sentence each. This brevity is not only to minimize his workload, but is also a challenge he sets for himself, a brainteaser if you will. Can you describe a book in one sentence? It’s not as easy as it may sound.

To help spread the gospel of John and bring him some of the attention he so rightly deserves, I share with you the most recent list of Bestseller titles and descriptions (circa mid-February 2013):


  • Binchy, Maeve A Week in Winter – Chicky Starr turns an old dilapidated mansion into a cozy seaside vacation spot.
  • Collins, Jackie The Power Trip – One Russian billionaire, the latest Latin singing sensation, a supermodel, a famous soccer player, a U.S. Senator and his unfortunate wife, a movie star, the professor and Mary Ann–embark on a pleasure cruise across the Sea of Cortez.
  • Gardner, Lisa Touch & Go – An entire family is kidnapped.
  • Jance, J.A. Deadly Stakes – A fortune in poker chips is found buried in the desert, with an ex-con keeping them company.
  • Kellerman, Jonathan Guilt: An Alex Delaware Novel – An affluent L.A. neighborhood experiences a bizarre crime wave.
  • Patterson, James Private Berlin – Chris Schneider, the most capable member of the world’s most capable investigative force, has disappeared!
  • Steel, Danielle Until the End of Time – In this double narrative: Lillibet, a young Amish woman, writes a bestseller by candlelight then falls in love with her publisher AND a successful New York attorney (now a minister) moves to Wyoming with his socialite wife in tow.
  • Weber, Carl The Man in 3B – Everyone loved the murdered man in 3B, now everyone’s a suspect.


  • Houston, Cissy Remembering Whitney – From the one who knew and loved her best.
  • Sotomayor, Sonia My Beloved World – It’s a long, hard road from a housing project in the Bronx to the United States Supreme Court.

Makes you want to read at least 4 of these titles, right? John’s the best.

For more of John’s work, visit our Fiction and Nonfiction Bestsellers web pages.

Happy Reading!

-Melissa M.

P.S. In this latest email to colleagues, John also included this multiple-choice question. See if you get it right…

Identify the Kafka

Four of the following quotes were taken from the wrapper of a Halls Cough Drop*, the other from the pen of author Franz Kafka. See if you can identify the Kafka!

A) Buckle down and push forth.

B) Turn “can do” into “can did”.

C) You can do it and you know it.

D) Believing in progress does not mean believing that any progress has yet to be made.

E) Nothing you can’t handle.

If you selected the letter D (as I am certain you did) you are correct. Of course there are no winners in Identify the Kafka. Only players.

* John’s favorite medicinal treat

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Don’t Call It A Staycation

I really need a vacation. Preferably one where you sit in a beach chair all day reading and drinking margaritas.

Alas, because of a series of unfortunate events (no time, no money) and fortunate events (dream job) I am not taking an official vacation this year. While this makes me incredibly sad, I will at least take a few days off and enjoy some serious, quality reading time.

Books I tried to save for vacation

Flight Behavior, Barbara Kingsolver

Kingsolver is not afraid to tackle big subjects like immigration, the Congo’s struggles for independence and social equity and it’s no different here. In Prodigal Summer she touched upon environmental issues, but focusing more on ecology as science as opposed to political movement. In Flight Behavior Kingsolver confronts climate change as a political issue, but is not afraid to include issues of faith, miracles and what nature means to people.

Unearthly beauty had appeared to her, a vision of glory to stop her in the road. For her alone these orange boughs lifted, these long shadows became a brightness rising. It looked like the inside of joy, if a person could see that. A valley of lights, an ethereal wind. It had to mean something. She could save herself.

A Working Theory of Love, Scott Hutchins

I was fortunate enough to meet Scott Hutchins and hear him read at the American Library Association’s Annual Conference.  Nice guy. A Working Theory of Love opens with a perfect description of living alone and is a thoroughly modern love story. This story has something for everyone: artificial intelligence, a mid-life crisis and the perils of love, grief and surviving adulthood.

It’s like, there’s me and then there’s this animal that’s like in me. And I’m just living my life, walking around, going to work, but I know this animal can take over. Just for a second. But I get that feeling a lot- that I might say or do anything.

Sniper, Nicolai Lilin

Lilin combines several of my favorite subjects in both of his books: Russian history, tattoos, gratuitous violence and memoir. His first book, Siberian Education: Growing Up in a Criminal Underworld covers his early life as a gangster in post-Soviet Transnistria. Sniper picks up where Siberian Education left off, with Lilin being drafted into the Russian Army to fight in Chechnya. Although there are questions about the factuality of both books, there is no question that Lilin is a powerful writer with an eye for detail (and hyperbole.)

Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn

Gone Girl is the book on all the lists right now. As it should be. On the night before her five year wedding anniversary, Amy Dunne disappears. What follows is a harrowing, psychological tale of betrayal, punishment, and plot twists. After this book, you’ll be thrilled (or horrified) to know she has two more, just as twisted and dark; Sharp Objects and Dark Places.

Books I plan to read

World War Z, Max Brooks

This was the most recent book chosen for the new Book Buzz program at Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. I started it, but put it aside for later. It’s definitely not lunch reading: unless extremely graphic images of bones poking through bloodless skin are your thing.

Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell

I feel like the last person on Earth to read this book (soon to be a major motion picture.) I rarely like Man Booker Prize nominated books, but I’m feeling hopeful about this one. Described by some reviewers as six perfect novellas, Cloud Atlas follows six vastly different characters loosely connected through history.

In One Person, John Irving

John Irving is the other author I heard speak at the ALA convention. He was worth getting up at 6 am for. For an hour he answered librarian’s questions (almost all about sex!) and then read a passage from In One Person. Of course he chose to read the passage that is homage to librarians. Swooning abounded. Some are calling In One Person Irving’s most politically important novel since Cider House Rules. Instead of abortion, Irving addresses sexual identity, particularly in the context of the AIDS epidemic. You know, a little light summer reading.

Book I wish were out

Phantom, Jo Nesbø- October 2

First of all, Jo Nesbø not only an author; he is a musician, songwriter and economist. Phantom is book nine in the Harry Hole series. This time Detective Hole is in Hong Kong, far away from police work and plans to stay there. Then the boy he helped raise is arrested for murder and Harry is barred from officially working the case. Yet he can’t help but investigate. Nesbo combines great characters with unlikely, yet believable plots for great results.

The Twelve, Justin Cronin- October 16

If you didn’t read The Passage (opening line: “It happened fast. Thirty-two minutes for one world to die, another to be born.”) get it immediately. The Twelve follows the survivors of the viral plague and the Second Viral War.

The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton- October 16

If Kate Morton hasn’t been compared to du Maurier, she should be. Her first three books, The House at Riverton, The Distant Hours and The Forgotten Garden are all gothic anti-fairy tales. Atmospheric and moody, Morton writes about babies switched at birth, past lives and the dark secrets families keep. The Secret Keeper promises murder and thievery. I’m sold!

Any books you think I should be reading? I’m game for anything!



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1,001 Dalmatians-err, holds on Dan Brown’s new novel

At the time of this writing, there are 1,001 holds on Dan Brown’s new book, the Lost Symbol.  The second book with the most holds (592) is Swimsuit, by James Patterson.  Patterson’s book Alex Cross’s Trial comes in third, with 581 holds.

Call me wildly judgemental, but could someone please tell me why people love these books?  Many of our fiction bestsellers, “written” by blockbuster authors who are able to churn out five or more books a year get checked out like crazy, while genuinely great literature sits on the shelves for weeks, months and even years at a time.  So I am giving this blog post a new title:

Books that you should be reading but aren’t because you’re too busy reading Danielle Steel

God’s Middle Finger: Into the Lawless Heart of the Sierra Madre by Richard Grant

God’s Middle Finger is one of the finest travelogues I have come across, and I tell you over and over again to read it.  I’m feeling like a nag.  But don’t take my word for it-here is an excerpt from Publishers Weekly:  “He narrates these adventures with unflappable charm and humor, risking his life to the reader’s benefit, shared fear and delight of discovery. Though eventually worn out by his physically and emotionally challenging journey, Grant still manages to produce a clear-eyed, empathetic account of this complex, fascinating place.”

A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore

The ever hilarious Christopher Moore, author of Bloodsucking Fiends: a Love Story, and You Suck: A Love Story, has done it again, except this time he deals tenderly with the sensitive topic of death.  The main character, beta male Charlie Asher, discovers that he might be Death, and has to collect the souls of people who are dying around him.  Poignant moments and hilarity ensue.  If you haven’t discovered Christopher Moore yet, hold on to your hat.  He is a cult hero.

The Year of Living Biblically: One Man’s Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible by A.J. Jacobs

Jacobs, who is making a name for himself by subjecting himself to weird life experiments like reading the Encyclopedia Britannica cover to cover, decides to try to live a full year in accordance with all of the laws in the Bible.  He grows his beard, wears only white,  and in one memorable scene stones someone.  Jacobs is openly agnostic, but open-mindedly interacts with his spiritual advisors and various people he meets along the way, including snake handlers, atheists, Samaritans, Jerry Falwell, and Amish folks.

Gloria by Keith Maillard

This epic literary novel set in the 1950s follows the life of a smart and glamorous young woman from a West Virginia steel town who struggles with the desire to go to graduate school, when her parents desire for her to marry.  The story explores such issues as class, sexuality, social convention, and acceptance.  Also, Maillard is an incredible writer.

I talked to someone last week who was coming to check out the book that her husband reads.  He only reads one book, because he knows that he likes it and he doesn’t want to waste his time reading things that he might not like.  DON’T MAKE THIS MISTAKE.  There are people who can help you.  We’re called librarians and we love to help people find books that they would like to read–that suit their specific tastes.  You don’t have to read only Michael Connelly books or only the Da Vinci Code over and over again.  And despite the judgemental nature of this post, we will never judge you.




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