Reading Between the Lines
by Jan Baughman

With accusations about Clinton flying through the media with inexplicit precision, and propaganda paving the way for our television viewing of another Gulf War, it's time to take a look at the Best Sellers barometer to see what You the People really care about, or, if nothing else, at least what you read.

The top category is death, and our own experience of it (in this life, as well as the next). The Baby Boomers are starting to get really nervous... A four-way tie for second place includes books on natural disasters (El Nino's subliminal influence), the Titanic (perhaps this should be categorized under "Hollywood" or "Money"), miscellaneous personal misery, and militaries (U.S. and Japanese).

We also have a four-way tie for third place. God makes his usual appearance, currently through his conversations (Part 1) with an author about good and evil, guilt and sin (the book is only available in black and white). Politics just barely makes it with a book about the 1960's and Martin Luther King's influence. Money rears its ugly head in the form of an analysis of the seven common traits of millionaires, one of which probably is not reading books about how to become a millionaire. Last, but not least, is the category of horses and a man who trains them. Entitled "The Man Who Listens to Horses", it could be grouped with the God book and placed in the "Unconventional Communication" category which would then be bumped to second place.

The top fifteen nonfiction books fall into nearly as many categories, none of which include sex, presidents or sex with presidents. The Kennedy antics books are even long gone from the paperback list. Kenneth Starr should take note -- Monica Lewinsky's mother's scandal book isn't even selling.

The current mood seems to be a general fascination with, or fear of catastrophe. Perhaps we can read between the lines and put this together with the 60's politics book and hope that the public is thinking seriously about the possibility of Gulf War II becoming a reality. Yet this is probably reaching a bit. The death category includes nothing about massive casualties of civilians or young soldiers, and Norman Schwarzkopf is not even making a comeback. Oh well, it seems we've never really liked history books much, anyway.

Published February 21, 1998
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