Best Books of July
Welcome to our Best of the Month page, where, in addition to our regular Significant Seven picks (our favorite books of the month, which we offer all month long at 40% off), you can find seven more picks on the side (since we always have more books we want to share), our favorite new paperbacks, and up-to-date lists of the topselling and most discussed books of the month.

Traffic | Alive in Necropolis | Rome 1960 | Books: A Memoir | Lost on Planet China | America Eats! | How Fiction Works


Spotlight Title: Traffic by Tom Vanderbilt
Traffic How could no one have written this book before? These days we spend almost as much time driving as we do eating (in fact, we do a lot of our eating while driving), but I can't remember the last time I saw a book on all the time we spend stuck in our cars. It's a topic of nearly universal interest, though: everybody has a strategy for beating the traffic. Tom Vanderbilt's Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us) has plenty of advice for those shortcut schemers (Vanderbilt may well convince you to become, as he has, a dreaded "Late Merger"), but more than that it's the sort of wide-ranging contrarian compendium that makes a familiar subject new. I'm not the first or last to call Traffic the Freakonomics of cars, but it's true that it fits right in with the school of smart and popular recent books by Leavitt, Gladwell, Surowiecki, Ariely, and others that use the latest in economic, sociological, psychological, and in this case civil engineering research to make us rethink a topic we live with every day. Want to know how much city traffic is just people looking for parking? (It's a lot.) Or why street signs don't work (but congestion pricing does), why new cars crash more than old cars, and why Saturdays now have the worst traffic of the week? Read Traffic, or better yet, listen to the audio book on your endless commute. --Tom
Read more about Traffic
Listen to our interview with Tom Vanderbilt
See some things about traffic that may surprise you



Alive in Necropolis by Doug DorstRome 1960 by David Maraniss
Alive in Necropolis Mix one part gritty police procedural with one part ghost story, add a splash of teen angst and a hefty dose of black humor, and you have Doug Dorst's brilliant debut novel--a delicious blend of Paul Auster, Kevin Brockmeier, and Joss Whedon. In Colma, California, where the dead outnumber the living, a rookie cop who saves the life of a troubled teenager is either the savior of the city, or a man on the brink of losing his mind. Alive in Necropolis is brimming with fascinating characters (both the living and the dead), none more so than the young cop trying to get a handle on his place in the world. Dorst defies conventional storytelling--at once grim and playful (his two epigraphs quote Joseph Conrad's Lord Jim and Hanson's "MmmBop"), he weaves the supernatural seamlessly into this "straight" story and the result is effortlessly imaginative, funny, and poignant. Fans of Auster, Jonathan Carroll, and Haruki Murakami will want to make room on their nightstand for their next new favorite. --DaphneRome 1960 Armed with the same engaging narrative found in Clemente and When Pride Still Mattered, Pulitzer Prize-winning author David Maraniss chronicles the triumphs, tragedies, and treacheries of "the Olympics that changed the world" with Rome 1960. The same Games that announced the greatness of icons like Cassius Clay, Wilma Rudolph, and Rafer Johnson, also exposed a growing unrest between East and West, black and white, and male and female. Even the host city of Rome, Maraniss recounts, was "infused with a golden hue...an illuminating that comes with a moment of historical transition, when one era is dying and another is being born." With moving portraits of the Games's remarkable personalities woven among tales of espionage and propaganda, Rome 1960 explores an Olympics unable to fight off the troubles of the modern world. Cold War sniping and issues of social inequalities were spilling into fields and stadiums, and the face of sport was rapidly changing. History buffs and sports fans alike will appreciate Maraniss’s quiet reporting, as he deftly removes himself from a storyline that is still relevant today. --Dave
Read more about Alive in Necropolis
Read the prologue from Alive in Necropolis
Read chapter one
Read more about Rome 1960
Read the prologue and chapter one from Rome 1960




Books: A Memoir by Larry McMurtryLost on Planet China by J. Maarten Troost
Books It wasn't enough for Larry McMurtry to become one of the most prolific, bestselling, and beloved of American writers. Besides writing nearly 40 books, including the Pultizer Prize-winning novel Lonesome Dove, he has emerged as one this nation's greatest bookmen. In Books: A Memoir, McMurtry shares his lifelong passion and dogged pursuit of books. In short, gem-like chapters, he paints a fascinating picture of the landscape of American book culture and bookselling over a 50-year period. The story is as dusty, musty, and crusty as any of McMurtry's fictionalized Westerns, and filled with characters who seem like they stepped out of central casting. Whether you love McMurtry, books, bookstores, or a combination thereof, you'll find something to love in Books: A Memoir. Settle in with a cuppa coffee and let McMurtry kindle your passion for physical books. --LaurenLost on Planet China Maarten Troost is a laowai (foreigner) in the Middle Kingdom, ill-equipped with a sliver of Mandarin, questing to discover the "essential Chineseness" of an ancient and often mystifying land. What he finds is a country with its feet suctioned in the clay of traditional culture and a head straining into the polluted stratosphere of unencumbered capitalism, where cyclopean portraits of Chairman Mao (largely perceived as mostly good, except for that nasty bit toward the end) spoon comfortably with Hong Kong's embrace of rat-race modernity. From Beijing and its blitzes of flying phlegm--and girls who lend new meaning to "Chinese take-out"--to the legendary valley of Shangri-La (as officially designated by the Party), Troost learns that his very survival may hinge on his underdeveloped haggling skills and a willingness to deploy Rollerball-grade elbows over a seat on a train. Featuring visits to Mao's George Hamiltonian corpse and a rural market offering Siberian Tiger paw, cobra hearts, and scorpion kebabs (in the food section), Lost on Planet China is a funny and engrossing trip across a nation that increasingly demands the world's attention. --Jon
Read more about Books: A Memoir
Read more about Lost on Planet China
Read chapter one from Lost on Planet China
Read five travel tips for China by J. Maarten Troost




America Eats! by Pat WillardHow Fiction Works by James Wood
America Eats!America Eats! originated as a 1935 WPA project that sent out-of-work writers (mostly unknowns, but also some soon-to-be famous names like Eudora Welty and Ralph Ellison) to chronicle America's regional cuisine, focusing on the group-dining dynamic of church suppers, harvest festivals, state fairs, political rallies, lodge suppers, and any gathering where food took center stage--"In a nation inhabited by strangers, sharing a meal lessened the loneliness of wandering across unfamiliar landscapes." While bits and pieces of their work saw the light of day over the years, the project was never completed or published and was filed away in the Library of Congress like a culinary Ark of the Covenant until Brooklyn-based food writer Pat Willard used this national artifact as a roadmap for her own coast-to-coast tour to see if these traditions still exist (many, sadly, are long gone) and offer a contemporary update on the WPA's original observations. Sprinkled throughout with heirloom recipes (Root Beer, Pickled Watermelon Rinds, Chess Pie, Son-of-Gun Stew) and never-before-published vintage photos, America Eats! is a celebration of our nation's table and a welcome addition to the popular food lit genre. "It's nice to report that, when a community need arises, we're still inspired as a nation to pull out a big pot and start throwing into it a lot of ingredients, with the understanding that sharing a large batch of something delicious with neighbors and strangers alike is a fine and proper way to accomplish some good." --BradHow Fiction Works The first thing you'll notice about How Fiction Works is its size. At 252 pages, it's a marvel of economy for a book that asks such a huge question and right away you'll want to know (as you might at the start of a new novel) what the author has in store. James Wood takes only his own bookshelves as his literary terrain for this study, and that in itself is the most delightful gift: he joins his audience as a reader, citing his chosen texts judiciously--ranging from Henry James (from whom he takes the best epigraph to a book I've ever read) to Nabokov, Joyce, Updike, and more--to explore not just how fiction works, mechanically speaking, but to reflect on how a novelist's choices make us feel that a novel ultimately works ... or doesn't. Wood remarks that you have to "read enough literature to be taught by it how to read it." His terrific bibliography will surely be a boon to anyone's education, but it's his masterful writing that you'll want to keep reading over the course of your life. --Anne
Read more about America Eats!
Read the first chapter of America Eats!
Read more about How Fiction Works
Read the first chapter of How Fiction Works


Most of the Month: Topsellers During July
Rankings based on orders during the month.
All BooksOverallWestMidwestSouthEast
Breaking DawnBreaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer1 1 1 1 1
The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch 2 2 2 2 2
The Shack by William P. Young 3 3 3 3 9
Twilight by Stephenie Meyer 4 5 4 6 6
Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons 5 4 5 4 4
Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer 6 6 6 7 7
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski 7 10 7 5 3
The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling 8 7 8 9 5
sTORI Telling by Tori Spelling 9 - 10 8 -
The Tales of Beedle the Bard (Deluxe Edition) by J.K. Rowling 10 8 - 10 10
Deceptively Delicious by Jessica Seinfeld - - 9 - -
New Moon by Stephenie Meyer - 9 - - -
The Beach House by Jane Green - - - - 8
Books Published in JulyOverallWestMidwestSouthEast
The Dark SideThe Dark Side by Jane Mayer 1 2 3 4 1
The Last Patriot by Brad Thor 2 3 1 1 3
Soul Wisdom by Zhi Gang Sha 3 1 - - 8
Moscow Rules by Daniel Silva 4 6 5 3 2
Fleeced by Dick Morris and Eileen McGann 5 4 4 2 7
The Time Paradox by Eoin Colfer 6 5 2 6 4
Rules of Deception by Christopher Reich 7 7 7 5 5
Six Disciplines Execution Revolution by Gary Harpst 8 - - - -
Life with My Sister Madonna by Christopher Ciccone 9 9 9 - 6
Swan Peak by James Lee Burke 10 10 - 7 -
Turbulent Sea by Christine Feehan - - 10 8 10
Chasing Darkness by Robert Crais - 8 - 10 -
Tribute by Nora Roberts - - 8 9 9
The Winners Manual by Jim Tressel - - 6 - -

Most of the Month: Most Discussed Books and Topics
Updated Tuesdays. Based on posts to Amazon discussion boards in the past week.
BooksBook Topics
Breaking Dawn 1. Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer (8139 messages)
2. Outcast (Warriors: Power of Three, Book 3) by Erin Hunter (351 messages)
3. The Obama Nation by Jerome R. Corsi (349 messages)
4. Blood Noir by Laurell K. Hamilton (245 messages)
5. The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins (209 messages)
6. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling (182 messages)
7. Into the Fire by Suzanne Brockmann (109 messages)
8. Acheron by Sherrilyn Kenyon (78 messages)
9. The Tales of Beedle the Bard (Deluxe Edition) by J.K. Rowling (69 messages)
10. Dawn (Warriors: The New Prophecy, Book 3) by Erin Hunter (54 messages)
1. Christianity (5333 messages)
2. Politics (4637 messages)
3. Religion (4201 messages)
4. Science (1735 messages)
5. Nonfiction (1623 messages)
6. History (1040 messages)
7. Romance (976 messages)
8. Paranormal Romance(392 messages)
9. Fantasy (355 messages)
10. Thriller (352 messages)

Best of the Month Archives
Best of the Month
2009:
March
February

2008:
December
November
October
September
August
July

2007:
December
November
October
September
August

January



June
May
April
March
February
January


July
June
May
April
March
We're Blogging Books
Omnivoracious
Bookmark Omnivoracious, the Amazon.com books blog, for daily book-loving posts and author appearances, including these guests:

Charlie Huston
Lemony Snicket
Erin Hunter
Tom Friedman and Fareed Zakaria
Rick Perlstein and John Dean
Tim Harford and Dan Ariely
More Media Picks
The Significant Seven
See the monthly favorites of our other editorial teams:

Music
Movies & TV
Best Books of 2008
Best of 2008
Visit our Best of 2008 Store to find our picks for the best books of the year, including The Northern Clemency, which leads our editors' top 100.


More to Watch For:
July Category Picks


Biographies & Memoirs

The Tremendous World I Have Inside My Head: Franz Kafka by Louis Begley
A Few Seconds of Panic: A 5-Foot-8, 170-Pound, 43-Year-Old Sportswriter Plays in the NFL by Stefan Fatsis
Outlaw Journalist: The Life and Times of Hunter S. Thompson by William McKeen


Cooking, Food & Wine

M.F.K. Fisher Among the Pots and Pans by Joan Reardon
Ham Biscuits, Hostess Gowns, and Other Southern Specialties by Julia Reed
Heirloom: Notes from an Accidental Tomato Farmer by Tim Stark


History

The Road to Monticello: The Life and Mind of Thomas Jefferson by Kevin J. Hayes
Paradise Lost: Smyrna, 1922 by Giles Milton
Barbarians to Angels: The Dark Ages Speak by Peter S. Wells


Literature & Fiction

When We Were Romans by Matthew Kneale
Telex from Cuba by Rachel Kushner
My Sister, My Love by Joyce Carol Oates


Mystery & Thrillers

Collision by Jeff Abbott
Empire of Lies by Andrew Klavan
Rules of Deception by Christopher Reich


Nonfiction

Collections of Nothing by William Davies King
The Last Days of Old Beijing by Michael Meyer
The Black Hole War by Leonard Suskind



Best Paperbacks of July

I Am a Strange LoopMany of the books we loved in hardcover are new in paperback this month, including Douglas Hofstadter's weighty and wonderful look at what it means to be an "I," I Am a Strange Loop:

Fire in the Blood by Irene Nemirovsky
Shadow of the Silk Road by Colin Thubron
Alone in the Kitchen with an Egglplant, edited by Jenni Ferrari-Adler
Leviathan: The History of Whaling in America by Eric Jay Dolin
The Face of Death by Cody McFadyen
Once Upon a Quinceanera by Julia Alvarez
Tested: One American School Struggles to Make the Grade by Linda Perlstein



Seven on the Side


Best Blueprints for Pioneer Living

Shelters, Shacks, and Shanties With practical tips for everything from bog kens to boys' hogans, Shelters, Shacks, and Shanties (originally published in 1914) is more than a historical curiosity (though it is quite curious). --Jon

Shelters, Shacks, and Shanties: And How to Build Them by D.C. Beard


Best Art Book That Can Also Double as a Coffee Table

Le Corbusier Le Grand An extravagant yet essential tome for anyone interested in modernism and city planning, especially those with a really big coffee table. --Lauren

Le Corbusier Le Grand


Best Sequel to the Best of the Month

The LikenessTana French proves there's no such thing as a sophomore slump with a stunning sequel that (gasp) might be even better than her debut. --Daphne

The Likeness by Tana French


Best Short Book About the Long Haul

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running As playful and philosophical as ever, the Japanese novelist considers how the lonely discipline of running has kept him at the lonely discipline of writing. --Tom

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami


Best Aspiring-Detective Novel

What Was Lost O’Flynn shadows clever little Kate Meaney on her first stakeouts, then jumps 20 years ahead to reveal the mystery of how Kate herself disappeared. --Mari

What Was Lost by Catherine O'Flynn


Best Rivalry to Enjoy with Dinner

Bordeaux/Burgundy A delicious exploration of the cultures, origins, and competitive fire between two of the world's finest wine regions. Ripe tannins and hints of blackberries not included. --Dave

Bordeaux/Burgundy: A Vintage Rivalry by John-Robert Pitte


Best Book to Inspire You to Leave a 20% Tip

Waiter Rant An anonymous waiter turned blogger writes a Kitchen Confidential for the front of the house with battle-scarred stories, pet peeves, and tips on making the most of your dining experience. --Brad

Waiter Rant by Waiter