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David Mitchell's Edo-era Japan enters the L.A. Times bestseller list

July 15, 2010 |  7:54 am

Dejima
David Mitchell, a prize-winning literary novelist with strong experimental credentials, enters the L.A. Times bestseller list this week at No. 2 with his new novel, "The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet." The De Zoet (pronounced "de-Zoot") of the title is a mid-level clerk in the Dutch East Indies Co., sent in 1799 to its outpost on Dejima, a man-made island just off the coast of Nagasaki. Japan was closed to Westerners -- they could set foot on the island, but not cross the bridges to shore -- so it was a city of trade, graft and much cultural cross-communication. In the mix of sailors, traders, Japanese officials, translators and hangers-on, there is, not surprisingly, a girl.

Our reviewer Eric Banks wasn't impressed by the twisting plot -- but he did like pretty much everything else. He writes, "For all the baroque movement of the story, the language is an exercise in extravagant control. Little flashes of haiku illuminate the text ("a night-soil man's buckets, swinging on his pole, stain the air"), and Mitchell interrupts his characters' thoughts with his own aperçus that have the feel of tiny punches. They have a cumulative effect. Walking through Dejima, De Zoet "smells steamed rice, sewage, incense, lemons, sawdust, yeast and rotting seaweed." In one beautiful passage, Mitchell laconically notes: 'The incandescent sun is caged by a glowing bay tree." Plot twists notwithstanding, the book has gotten raves elsewhere.

What does Mitchell, who is Irish, know about Edo-era Japan? Apart from his research, he lived and taught in the country for eight years -- one day there, he got lost and wound up on Dejima, sparking the curiosity that began this story.

Mitchell will read in Los Angeles next week at Skylight Books on July 23.

-- Carolyn Kellogg
twitter.com/paperhaus

Photo: A restored room, Dejima, Japan. Credit: renfield via Flickr

Read the complete, extended LA Times Bestseller List for July 18, 2010 after the jump

Hardcover Fiction Bestsellers


weeks on list

1.

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson (Knopf: $27.95) The highly anticipated final book of the “Millennium Trilogy.”

7

2.

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell (Random House: $26) A pious Dutch official finds love in this historical romance set in turn-of-the-19th-century Japan.

1

3.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett (Putnam: $24.95) The Southern lives of a maid, cook and college graduate intertwine.

58

4.

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender (Doubleday: $25.95) Rose Edelstein's gift of taste is bittersweet.

4

5.

Innocent by Scott Turow (Grand Central: $27.99) Rusty Sabich and Tommy Molto return to the courtroom after the mysterious death of Rusty's wife.

9

6.

The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan (Disney/ Hyperion: $17.99) Siblings battle Egyptian gods to find their Egyptologist father.

9

7.

Sizzling Sixteen by Janet Evanovich (St. Martin’s: $27.99) Bailbondswoman Stephanie Plum must spring her cousin Vinny from a bunch of thugs.

3

8.

The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner by Stephenie Meyer (Little, Brown: $13.99) The newborn vampire army closes in on Bella Swan and the Cullens.

4

9.

Imperial Bedrooms by Bret Easton Ellis (Knopf: $24.95) An L.A. noir nightmare that returns to “Less Than Zero's” characters as they near middle age.

4

10.

Spies of the Balkans by Alan Furst (Random House: $26) A Greek official becomes immersed with European spies, in the early days of World War II.

3

11.

Private by James Patterson (Little, Brown: $27.99) A Former CIA agent tracks down the killer of a former lover.

3

12.

The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman (Dial: $25) The goings-on at a ragtag English-language newspaper in Rome.

7

13.

The Passage by Justin Cronin (Ballantine: $27) An apocalypse with fangs: a military experiment with vampires goes wrong and imperils humanity.

4

14.

Breaking Dawn by by Stephenie Meyer (Little, Brown: $22.99)  The final book in the “Twilight” saga finds Bella choosing immorality.

57

15.

The Overton Window by Glenn Beck (Threshold: $26) A public relations exec encounters a threatening conspiracy.

4

16.

Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (Scholastic: $17.99) In a post-apocalyptic future, kids are forced to fight in gladiator-like matches to the death

8

17.

The Lion by Nelson DeMille (Grand Central: $27.99) A legendary terrorist returns to the U.S.

5

18.

Point Dume by Kate Arnoldi (Overlook: $24.95) Surf culture and marijuana farming collide in Malibu.

3

19.

The Last Olympian by Rick Riordan (Disney/Hyperion: $17.99) Percy Jackson and his army of demigods battle the Lord of Time.  

29

20.

The Search by Nora Roberts (Putnam:  $26.95)  A newfound romance between dog lovers is disturbed by a copycat serial killer.

1

Hardcover Nonfiction Bestsellers

1.

Sh*t My Dad Says by Justin Halpern (HarperCollins: $15.99) A son's compilation of his elderly father's ramblings and observations

7

2.

Medium Raw by Anthony Bourdain (Ecco: $26.99) A gastronome's journey for foodies everywhere.

4

3.

Women, Food and God by Geneen Roth (Scribner: $24) How the connection between eating and core beliefs brings fulfillment.

13

4.

Hitch-22 by Christopher Hitchens (Twelve: $26.99) The contrarian shares his political and personal life stories.

5

5.

Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M. by Sam Wasson (Harper: $19.99) How “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” and a little black dressed influenced a generation.

1

6.

Orange Sunshine by Nicholas Schou (Thomas Dunne/St. Martin's: $24.99) The history of a band of '60s LSD-dealing hippies, The Brotherhood of Eternal Love.

1

7.

Tattoos on the Heart by Gregory Boyle (Free Press: $25) A Jesuit priest recounts working with L.A. youth through his gang intervention program.

14

8.

Role Models by John Waters (Farrar, Straus & Giroux: $25) A quasi-memoir from the iconoclastic movie director..

5

9.

War by Sebastian Junger (Twelve: $26.99) The author’s account of 14 months with a U.S. Army platoon in Afghanistan.

8

10.

 Just Kids by Patti Smith (Ecco: $27) The singer’s early days and relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe.

22

11.

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell (Little, Brown: $27.99). An exploration of the background of high achievers.

68

12.

The Big Short by Michael Lewis (W.W. Norton: $27.95) How the U.S. economy was driven to collapse by the bond and real estate markets.

16

13.

The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch with Jeffrey Zaslow (Hyperion: 21.95) A professor's terminal cancer inspires a call to seize life's moments.

78

14.

The Promise by Jonathan Alter (Simon & Schuster: $28) An inside look at President Obama's first year.

7

15.

Change Your Brain, Change Your Body by Daniel G. Amen (Harmony: $25.99) Dietary advice to improve brain function and overall health.

5

16.

Furious Love by Sam Kashner & Nancy Schoenberger (Harper: $27.99) The high-octane marriage of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton

2

17.

Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang by Chelsea Handler (Grand Central: $25.99) Essays and amusing tales from the comic's personal life..

10

18.

Churchill by Paul Johnson (Viking: $24.95) A comprehensive biography of the colorful and complex British Prime Minister.

1

19.

Operation Mincemeat by Ben Macintyre (Harmony: $25.99). A true account of a how a fictional story and a dead body fooled the Nazis in World War II.

4

20.

Strengths Finder 2.0 by Tom Rath (Gallup Press: $22.95) An upgraded assessment on how to find your top talents.

5

Paperback Fiction

1.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson ($14.95)


2.

The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson ($15.95)


3.

Little Bee by Chris Cleave ($14)


4.

Tinkers by Paul Harding ($14.95)


5.

Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann ($15)


6.

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese ($15.95)


7.

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho ($13.95)


8.

Swimsuit by James Patterson ($14.99)


9.

Pretty Little Liars by Sara Shepard ($8.99)


10.

The Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan ($7.99)


11.

The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan ($7.99)


12.

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein ($14.99)


13.

Bad Things Happen by Harry Dolan ($15)


14.

Best Friends Forever by Jennifer Weiner ($15)


15.

Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger ($15)


Paperback Non-Fiction

1.

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert ($15)


2.

Zeitoun by Dave Eggers ($15.95)


3.

Food Rules by Michael Pollan ($7.99)


4.

Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin ($15)


5.

Crazy for the Storm by Norman Ollestad ($14.99)


6.

The Official SAT Study Guide,  2nd Edition by the College Board ($21.99)


7.

You’re Not the Boss of Me by Betsy Brown Braun ($15.99)


8.

Lit by Mary Karr ($14.99)


9.

Secret Stairs by Charles Fleming ($16.95)


10.

How We Decide by Jonah Lehrer ($14.95)


11.

L.A. Noir by John Buntin ($16)


12.

Man, Interrupted by James Bailey ($14.95)


13.

What to Expect When You're Expecting by Heidi Murkoff and Sharon Mazel ($24.95)


14.

Official Book Club Selection by Kathy Griffin ($15)


15.

Mennonite in a Little Black Dress by Rhoda Janzen ($14)


Rankings are based on a weekly poll of Southern California bookstores.


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