HOT TOPICS ”Germs” isn’t the only topical book climbing the best-seller lists. Ahmed Rashid’s Taliban, published by Yale University Press, is riding high on the New York Times paperback nonfiction chart and can be bought at, of all places, Costco. ”I don’t remember any title that’s ever been in Costco from our list,” says Yale Press publishing director Tina C. Weiner. ”It’s a more serious book than they usually stock, but these are more serious times.” Rutgers University Press’ Twin Towers, by Angus Kress Gillespie, will soon have 80,000 hardcover copies in print (up from 3,000). Simon Reeve’s The New Jackals, a Northeastern University Press book covering the 1993 WTC bombing, is also selling fast. And scholar Larry P. Goodson, whose Afghanistan’s Endless War is just out from the University of Washington Press, is being flown around the country like a celebrity author. ”We’re looking at having 36,000 copies in print,” says Mary Anderson, marketing manager for the press. ”It’s unprecedented for us.”
The big trade houses, too, continue to focus on current events: New York Times reporter Jere Longman has just reached a deal with HarperCollins to write the story of United Airlines Flight 93 and its passengers’ struggle with the hijackers. ”We may never know the absolute truth, but he can certainly give us the definitive account…of the last doomed heroic moments,” says Harper executive editor David Hirshey, who plans to publish next June. Pocket Books will accelerate publication of The Secret Life of Germs, by Philip M. Tierno Jr., a microbiologist recently named to New York City’s task force on bioterrorism; the book was originally scheduled for January. ”When he was writing this, everything was theoretical….Now he’s in the thick of a very different situation,” says Tracy Bernstein, senior editor at Pocket. Even the Koran, Islam’s holy book, is enjoying better sales. Penguin Classics, which had shipped 6,000 copies in August when the Arab-Israeli conflict heated up, is now rushing to press with an additional 20,000-copy order.