Inside The 'Times' Hardcover Bestseller List

What's this? The New York Times bestseller list "is not a completely accurate barometer of what the reading public is buying," public editor Clark Hoyt informed us last week. This, even in spite of recent adjustments to the top-secret formula, devised in order to prevent publishers from "gaming the system" that determines the list's rankings: Appalling! Well, not really. As people who work in publishing like to tell their disappointed authors, the mysteriously-weighted list has always been essentially meaningless. Unless those authors have bestseller bonuses in their contracts, in which case: The list is extremely meaningful! And so while the list does not mean everything, it must mean something. For example, the #1 spot on this week's Hardcover Fiction list is occupied by a John Grisham book called "Playing For Pizza." What's that about?

Well, this is what "Playing For Pizza" is about: "An American third-string quarterback joins the Italian National Football League's Parma Panthers." "To say that Italy—the land of opera, fine wines, extremely small cars, romance, and Football Americano— holds a few surprises for Rick Dockery would be something of an understatement," promises Doubleday's website. We'll bet!

Basically all this means is that if something says "John Grisham" on it, people will buy it absolutely no matter what. Which: Duh.

#2 is Alice Sebold's book club lady book "The Almost Moon," about a lady who kills her burdensomely ill mother. Everyone hates this book, but your mom and mine are still going to read it. Got a problem with that? You know what you can do.

#3 is Ken Follett's enormous historical novel "World Without End," which people are reading because they, like me, like their medieval novels as smutty as possible. You know what word is in this book a lot? "Cunny." Hot, right?

There aren't too many surprises elsewhere on the list. "A Thousand Splendid Suns," the second of Khaled Hosseini's "vitamin books" (books people buy to assuage their guilt for not knowing anything about Afghanistan/some other afflicted region), is down a spot to #4. "Run," Ann Patchett's lauded latest, is down to slot 11, from 8 last week. Otherwise, it's all schlocky thrillers and paranormal mysteries.

Oh! At #13 there's a book called "The Orc King." "The dark elf Drizzt Do'Urden seeks vengeance against the orcs; the first book of a new trilogy, Transitions." YES. YES PLEASE.

And at #17 on the extended list is Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky's new translation of "War and Peace," which has convinced a lot of people that they are finally going to get around to reading "War and Peace." Hey, I am! As soon as I finish finding out what Drizzt Do'Urden is up to.