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Category: LA Times bestsellers

Todd Burpo on his son’s vision in the book ‘Heaven Is for Real’

What began as a fun family road trip to the Butterfly Pavilion in Denver ended in a nightmare for Todd Burpo and his wife, Sonja, in 2003.

Their son Colton, just two months shy of his 4th birthday, suffered a misdiagnosed ruptured appendix and was rushed into emergency surgery. The situation was grim. They weren't sure if he'd survive. Two weeks later, after another operation, Colton was stable and recovering. Time passed before he nonchalantly mentioned that he had visited heaven during the first emergency operation and met angels, Jesus , a great-grandfather and sister of his that he never knew existed.

Heavenisforreal Todd Burpo recounts his family's journey and Colton's revelations in "Heaven Is for Real: A Little Boy's Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back." The paperback, written by the Burpos with Lynn Vincent, who  co-authored "Going Rogue: An American Life," and "Unsinkable: A Young Woman's Courageous Battle on the High Seas" (about Abby Sunderland's ordeal), has remained on the Los Angeles Times bestseller list for eight weeks and the New York Times bestseller list for 20 weeks. With 3 million copies in print, "Heaven Is for Real" has become a bit of a publishing sensation as the family has made the rounds of media appearances including "The Today Show," "Fox and Friends" and "CNN."

Liesl Bradner had a chance to speak with Todd Burpo from his home in Nebraska during a break in his hectic schedule about his family's harrowing, ultimately miraculous experience that included small bits of good news such as, according to Colton: "No one is old in heaven and no one wears glasses."

Jacket Copy: When Colton began talking about his visit to heaven, you initially wrote it off as his having really good Sunday school teachers. What was it that made you finally believe it was more than just his imagination?

Todd Burpo: He first talked about having seen singing angels to me in the hospital after his surgery.  But it was when he said he was sitting on Jesus' lap and could see me in a room praying and his mom on the phone in another room-- which was where we were and what we were doing during his surgery -- that really grabbed my attention.  

JC: How do you address detractors who say that because you're a pastor, Colton was exposed to these religious images and that they were there all along as part of his subconscious?

TB:  At first I thought the same things. Colton would say, "Jesus told me I had to be nice." So I figured he got that from Sunday school. But how he knew my location in the hospital and what I was doing while he was in surgery, no Sunday school teacher could have known that. I don't hold [criticism and doubts]  against people because that's where I started too. One of the biggest complaints we've heard from people who have seen him speak on TV is that "no 4-year-old talks like that." They don't realize that he's 11 now and that he has a whole different vocabulary.

JC: At first, Colton's stories were all positive -- about rainbows, angels and love -- but at one point he brings up a war and dragons.

TB: All the things he shared with us were spontaneous discussions. He'd just start volunteering information. The conversation about Satan came up because his mom was talking about swords. She said, "I bet there aren't any swords in heaven," and he stopped what he was doing and said, "There are too swords in heaven. The angels have them to keep the devil out of heaven." Events would happen that would jog his memory. He shared what he wanted to share.

JC: What do you hope readers will take away from this book?

TB: When Colton shared his experiences with us, it was unexpected and over several months. He would reveal things on his time table. When he talked about his other sister, he just came up to my wife one day and said "I have two sisters - you had a baby die in your tummy." This was an incredible moment of healing. We had never told him about the miscarriage. It was a very personal and private hurt. We never knew it was a girl and when he told us that she was waiting for us in heaven -- what a moment that was. For people to read this story, to capture that same peace, that's a wonderful thing. For me, I can see heaven more clearly because of his stories and hopefully other people can too.

-- Liesl Bradner

Images:  At top, Colton and his dad, Todd, taken one week after his release from the hospital. Credit: The Imperial Republican/Jan Schultz. At right: cover art. Courtesy Thomas Nelson

Climbing the bestseller list: Kate Atkinson's 'Started Early, Took My Dog'

StartedearlytookmydogThe other day when I called my sister, I interrupted her reading, and like inquisitive reporters and nosy sisters are wont to do, I asked what she was reading. A book by Kate Atkinson, she told me, so I asked if it was the new book by Kate Atkinson. "There's a new book by Kate Atkinson?" she asked.

Yes, there is. It's called "Started Early, Took My Dog" and it's on the L.A. Times bestseller list this week, where it debuted at No. 14 in hardcover fiction.

"Started Early, Took My Dog" is the fourth of Atkinson's novels to feature private investigator Jackson Brodie. But as if to signal that it's going to be a mystery of a different sort, it takes its slightly odd title from a poem by Emily Dickinson.

When the book came out in England last year, the Guardian gave it a strong review, seeing a shift in Atkinson's tone:

The wonder of Atkinson's novels has been their joie de vivre, extraordinary given the high incidence of violent death. An irrepressible exuberance shines throughout, as well as a reliance on coincidence and resistance to neat resolution, both of which run counter to the standard pleasures of the crime genre. However, parts of Started Early, Took My Dog are bitterly bleak, world-weary and almost elegiac in tone, conscious of approaching ends as well as mysterious beginnings.

"I've always loved mysteries," Atkinson told the Telegraph in 2004, when she published her first Jackson Brodie book, "Case Histories." Stephen King said that book was "not just the best novel I've read this year, but the best mystery of the decade."

Now, years later, Atkinson is considering letting Jackson Brodie go. "The fact is, I feel completely written out about Jackson," she told the Scotsman in August. "But I felt I had to bring him to the point where I could leave him for a while. I need some new structural device -- I know readers say you should marry him off or something, but I need more than that: something you can hang a plot on."

"I might not be writing about Jackson any more," she continued. "Well, not for a while anyway." But then she dropped a tantalizing idea -- she's considering writing a noir-y book of Jackson Brodie in America.

Don't remember Emily Dickinson's poem "I Started Early - Took my Dog"? It's after the jump.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

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L.A. Times Bestsellers: We want brains!


It's not just classic zombie movie monsters who want brains. Los Angeles readers do, too.

Entering the hardcover nonfiction bestseller list this week at No. 1 is "The Social Animal" by David Brooks. It's a look at how a (composite) couple make choices, good and bad -- all informed by what we've learned about how the brain works. Publisher Random House writes:

Distilling a vast array of information into these two vividly realized characters, Brooks illustrates a fundamental new understanding of human nature. A scientific revolution has occurred—we have learned more about the human brain in the last thirty years than we had in the previous three thousand. The unconscious mind, it turns out, is most of the mind—not a dark, vestigial place but a creative and enchanted one, where most of the brain’s work gets done. This is the realm of emotions, intuitions, biases, longings, genetic predispositions, personality traits, and social norms: the realm where character is formed and where our most important life decisions are made. The natural habitat of The Social Animal.

At No. 3 is Joshua Foer's "Moonwalking with Einstein," now in its second week on the list. Foer -- brother of the novelist Jonathan Safran, if you were wondering -- went from chronically forgetful science journalist to U.S. Memory Champion. In the book, publisher Penguin writes:

Moonwalking with Einstein draws on cutting-edge research, a surprising cultural history of memory, and venerable tricks of the mentalist's trade to transform our understanding of human remembering....Foer takes his inquiry well beyond the arena of mental athletes-across the country and deep into his own mind. In San Diego, he meets an affable old man with one of the most severe case of amnesia on record, where he learns that memory is at once more elusive and more reliable than we might think. In Salt Lake City, he swaps secrets with a savant who claims to have memorized more than nine thousand books. At a high school in the South Bronx, he finds a history teacher using twenty- five-hundred-year-old memory techniques to give his students an edge in the state Regents exam. 

Brainiacs who want more can see a video of David Brooks' TED Talk after the jump.

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Robert Crais: the man who kicked the tattooed girl

Robertcrais_sentryRobert Crais' "The Sentry" tops our hardcover fiction bestseller list this week, for the third week in a row. Crais' Los Angeles-centric story interrupts the chokehold Lisbeth Salander has had on the bestseller list; Salander is, of course, the fictional star of the trilogy "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo," "The Girl Who Played with Fire" and "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest."

Crais' novel is the third in his Joe Pike series. Reviewer Paula Woods writes:

Being a Joe Pike novel, the action in "The Sentry" is intense and the body count high, but what is more memorable is the manner in which Crais cracks open the door into the enigmatic Pike's emotions and, in the process, explores Pike's experience of love and also the bonds of male friendship. Crais had planned his new book to feature Elvis Cole, but all of that changed, he explained in a recent interview, when he imagined Pike meeting a woman in Venice after he'd saved her uncle from a robbery.

"The way Pike looked at her," Crais told the interviewer, "I knew I had to follow their story."

On the nonfiction list, Amy Chua's "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother" holds its position at No. 4, for the second week running. To move up the charts, it will have to beat Keith Richards' memoir "Life," the historical biography "Cleopatra" by Stacy Schiff and "Unbroken" by Laura Hillenbrand. That might be tough: "Unbroken" was just chosen by NPR for its February book club.

What's more, "Unbroken" is the story of Louis Zamperini, a Southern California teen troublemaker turned Olympic runner turned World War II flyer and prisoner of war. Can a Tiger Mother be equally tough?

Preview the L.A. Times bestseller list every week here.

-- Carolyn Kellogg


Introducing the L.A. Times bestseller database [Updated]


Michael Connelly is No.1. Jonathan Franzen is No. 2. And David Sedaris is No. 3 -- for now. Those are the standings on the L.A. Times hardcover fiction bestseller list for the week ending Oct. 24 -- you can see them in the paper on Friday, or online now.

In addition to appearing in print, the L.A. Times bestseller list is now online as a searchable database. See each week's list or use the search box at right to search by author or by title.

Want to know if musician Pat Benetar ever made our bestseller list? In the "Explore bestseller lists" box on the right, search by her name, or click on "author" and see the names of every author who's appeared on the bestseller list so far.

For now, the database includes details going back only to April 2010, which will probably remain our starting point; each week, the new titles, authors and rankings are added.

The L.A. Times bestseller list is based on reporting from more than 170 southland bookstores. Each week, we print our top standings in the Sunday books pages; online, you'll find our extended lists, in fiction and nonfiction, paperback and hardcover.

Online, there is a record of those books that have reached the top spot. Once a book makes it to the  top of the bestseller list, it gets an icon saying so at the top of its page. After a stunning 72 weeks on the bestseller list, Kathryn Stockett's "The Help" has slipped to No. 11 -- but the record of the book having been at No. 1 remains.

In some ways, this is finished, ready for you to take a look and explore. In others, it's a work in progress. If you have suggestions, we'd be delighted to hear them -- please leave them in the comments.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

[Updated at 6:10 p.m.: An earlier version of this post said the database goes back to April 2009; it goes back to April 2010.]

Jon Stewart tops the Oct. 10 L.A. Times bestseller list

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Daniel Okrent

Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor Rally to Restore Sanity

This week, talk show host Jon Stewart and "The Daily Show" enter the nonfiction bestseller list with "Earth: A Visitors Guide to the Human Race" at No. 1. Stewart's show, of course, is an intelligent, satiric take on the daily news. Like his colleague Steven Colbert, he often brings authors on his show; above, in an episode from July, journalist Daniel Okrent talks about his book "Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition." This is the second book from Stewart and his team; like 2006's "America: The Book," this one promises that it includes "lots of color photos, graphs and charts." In other words, lots of satire, not too much reading strain. Stewart has eight Emmys; so far, the Pulitzer has eluded him. But give him time.

The extended hardcover and paperback bestseller lists for Oct. 10 are after the jump. Rankings are based on a weekly poll of 130 Southern California bookstores and chain results.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

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L.A. Times bestsellers: Surf's up!


If there was any doubt that Southern California is surf country (was there?), the fact that "The Wave: In Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks and Giants of the Ocean" debuts at No. 2 on our hardcover nonfiction bestseller list this week. Written by Susan Casey, the book is part firsthand account, part surfing tale and part science. It skims the shores of Hawaii, Africa, Alaska and any other land mass that features waves of significance. 

The extended hardcover and paperback bestseller lists for Oct. 2 are after the jump. Rankings are based on a weekly poll of 130 Southern California bookstores and chain results.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: High surf at Seal Beach in February 2010. Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times

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Bestsellers, Sept 26: The girl with the Franzen tattoo?


Jonathan Franzen and his new novel, "Freedom," top our fiction bestseller list for the third week running, keeping perennial bestseller Stieg Larsson at bay. Larsson's Millennium Trilogy is doing fine -- "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest" is at No. 2 on the hardcover list, and "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" and "The Girl Who Played With Fire" are at Nos. 1 and No. 2, respectively, on the paperback list -- but it's notable that a 576-page literary family epic has found its footing at the top.

"There were a number of points where I was coming to terms with not having kids of my own," Franzen said of his process in writing the book when he appeared in Los Angeles last Thursday. The next day, Oprah announced that she had selected "Freedom" as her book club's next pick -- which often helps books' sales figures.

Rankings are based on a weekly poll of 130 Southern California bookstores and chain results. Our extended bestseller list, in hardcover and paperback, fiction and nonfiction, is after the jump.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Jonathan Franzen in Los Angeles on Sept. 16, 2010. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times

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L.A. Times bestsellers for Sept. 19: Tony Blair's 'A Journey'


Tony Blair has been chalking up the frequent flier miles. On Monday, he was in Philadelphia, accepting the 2010 Liberty Medal. Tuesday saw him being interviewed in New York by Katie Couric, and on Wednesday, he was in Massachusetts, talking to Tina Brown. By Friday, he was back in London, joining other dignitaries meeting with Pope Benedict.

Oh wait, maybe dignitaries don't fly commercial.

Anyway, all the traveling is because a former British prime minister, apparently, can stay just about as busy as a current prime minister, especially if that former prime minister has a new memoir out. Blair's is "A Journey: My Political Life," and despite protests, attempted citizens' arrests and event cancellations, the book has been finding a wide readership; it was released almost simultaneously in the U.S. and Britain This week, Tony Blair's "A Journey" debuts on our hardcover nonfiction bestseller list at No. 3.

In our review, Tim Rutten writes that the book has "a disarming frankness."

"A Journey" is first and foremost a political biography, and long stretches of it are likely to be terra incognita to most American readers. Still, Blair — like Clinton — is one of the great politicians of this generation and that makes his candid moments particularly interesting. It's hard to imagine any U.S. officeholder, for example, saying this about older voters: "One of the greatest myths of human existence is that as people get older, they get more benign, more long-suffering, more relaxed and more phlegmatic in how the world treats them. Not in my experience. The average Rottweiler on speed can be a lot more amiable than a pensioner wronged, or, to put it more accurately, believing they are wronged."

More big political memoirs are coming this fall. In the coming months, we'll find out whether Tony Blair can make room on the bestseller list for George W. Bush, Nelson Mandela and more. Our complete bestseller list for September 19 is after the jump.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Tony Blair, center, talks to Gordon Brown, left, as the former prime ministers await Pope Benedict on September 17, 2010 in London. Credit: Paul Rogers - WPA Pool/Getty Images

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What's the secret of 'The Power'? Bestsellers for Sept. 12, 2010

Thepower_rhondabyrne I don't know what the secret of "The Secret" is, but I know that the book's popularity has driven author Rhonda Byrne's new book, "The Power," to the top of our nonfiction bestseller list.

"Rhonda Byrne reveals the single greatest force in our Universe," the book's promotion proclaims. "Rhonda Byrne reveals the greatest power in the universe -- The Power to have anything you want."

That's quite a promise, one that is catching the eye  of Southland book buyers.

These days, the nonfiction bestseller list is particularly full of stories of seeking. In addition to "The Power," there is Byrne's earlier book, "The Secret"; "Women, Food and God" by Geneen Roth; and "You Are Here"  by Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh.

Father Gregory Boyle's "Tattoos on the Heart," the Jesuit priest's memoir of his work to get East L.A. youths out of gangs, is another way of looking at what matters, of finding a spiritual center. It's been on our bestseller list for 22 weeks.

The extended bestseller list -- fiction and nonfiction, hardcover and paperback -- is after the jump. Rankings are based on a weekly poll of Southland bookstores, which includes national chains.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

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