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Bestsellers: Vietnam, a hot topic after all these years

April 18, 2010 |  9:47 am

Marines_vietnam_1967

It's been 35 years since the evacuation of the American embassy in Vietnam, but readers are still intrigued by the conflict. Denis Johnson's 600-plus page "Tree of Smoke" won the 2007 National Book Award. And now first-time novelist Karl Marlantes, a former Marine, has made a full-scale advance on the fiction bestseller list with "Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War," entering at No. 14. The 622-page book, which took three decades to write, revise and get published, is the story of Waino Mellas, a wide-eyed, idealistic Ivy Leaguer who volunteers for the Marines. Mellas find himself immersed in combat in humid, insect-infested jungles, going days without sleep or food and wondering if he’ll ever make it home in one piece. Even in 1969, in a "bad" war, soldiers fighting in Vietnam could seek glory and valor, and could be heroic.

After narrowly missing the nonfiction list the last few weeks, actor Jeff Garlin's "My Footprint" finally made the cut, entering at No. 14. The comedian shares his attempt at a lifestyle makeover in which he devoted the filming of an entire season of "Curb Your Enthusiasm" to losing weight and going green (past the point of mere recycling).

Maybe Garlin can pick up a few pointers on aging gracefully from the stunning Raquel Welch. The sex symbol, who turns 70 this year, reveals her beauty secrets in the part memoir, part beauty guide, "Raquel: Beyond the Cleavage," which lands at No. 9. The actress expresses her views on love, sex, style, health, career and family with little bio bits scattered throughout, including her memorable turn as a cavewoman clad in a fur bikini in "One Million Years, B.C."

Things that make you go hmm: It seems New Yorkers are more interested in who will be the next governor of California than local voters. "Mount Pleasant," aspiring gubernatorial candidate Steve Poizner’s memoir of his yearlong stint teaching 12th-graders at a San Jose high school, reached No. 5 on the New York Times bestseller list -- yet barely made a dent with Southern California readers.

 -- Liesl Bradner

Photo: Marines carry a wounded soldier to a helicopter during a firefight with North Vietnamese troops July 29, 1967. Credit: National Archives / Agence France-Presse

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