From "instant" books, whisked into print within weeks, to re-releases that are products of years of research, any book with a link to the Persian Gulf war is selling itself, booksellers say.
Barbee Barber, a district manager for the B. Dalton chain, has seen a demand for "anything that deals specifically with the Arab mind."Examples include "The Arabs" by David Lamb (Vintage, $11), "Arab and Jew" by David Shipler (Penguin, $9) and "The Arab Mind" (revised) by Rahael Patai (Scribners, $16).
"Understanding Islam" by Thomas W. Lippman (Penguin, $5) also is popular, Barber said.
Janee Kavanagh, of the Waldenbooks chain, mentioned growth in sales of Thomas L. Friedman's "From Beirut to Jerusalem" (Doubleday, $13). The war has put Friedman's book, which won the National Book Award and sold well in 1989, back on the New York Times bestseller list.
The Persian Gulf war has already produced "The Desert Shield Fact Book," by the staff of Game Designers' Workshop in Bloomington, Ill. The $10 paperback is mainly a compilation of the weaponry graphics printed in many newspapers, along with some detailed information on which units both sides have deployed and an explanation of their organization.
Tucked inside the book is one of its most valuable assets - a map of the region, taking in southern Iraq, northern Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Actually, the map is an aerial chart; its scale is too big for any likely scenario of ground combat, but the map is useful in following most of the air war.
The word "Shield" in its title dates the book as pre-war, before "Shield" became "Storm." Any account with "Storm" in the title will have to wait for history to unfold.
The increase in sales on Middle East-related topics does not necessarily mean an increase in sales overall.
"The people who are reading are reading this instead of other titles," Kavanagh said. As an example, she cited disappointing sales of Larry McMurtry's "Lonesome Dove" and Evan S. Connell's "Son of the Morning Star," books that were the basis of recent television miniseries.
"We should have done really well on those two books," she said.
Jim Matthews of Booksource, a distributor, can recite a long list of titles for which people have been clamoring since the beginning of the Persian Gulf war. They range from the lean and gimmicky to the fat and philosophical.
To him, the clamor is a predictable and natural reaction.
"People want real information - ideas about the Arab world, Arab culture, and why things are happening," he said. "In the face of all the military and governmental censorship," he said, "people are thrown on their own resources to inform themselves."
The wartime spending has spread to most sections of the bookstore. For example:
- Religion. Consumers are buying "anything with Armageddon in the title," one bookseller said. They have a number of selections from which to choose.
- Prophecy. "You can't keep (books on) Nostradamus," said Kavanagh. Nostradamus was a 16th-century astrologer and physician who gained a reputation as a seer. Though he probably has as many detractors as followers, the war has renewed longstanding interest in his writings.
- Children. Bookstore owner Suzanne Schoomer said her store had put up a children's display with the theme of peace and conflict resolution.
Also, the National Childhood Grief Institute has come out with a workbook to help children cope with their feelings on the war. Copies of "My Desert Storm Workbook" (Workman Publishing, $6) should begin to reach bookstores this week. Demand already has exceeded the 90,000 copies in Workman's first printing, a spokeswoman said.
- Desert warfare. Those interested in learning about desert warfare in general have a vast library open to them. Knowing about ground combat starts with knowing the ground. For a quick, simple introduction to the desert, many readers are turning to "The Desert," by A. Starker Leopold, part of the profusely illustrated Life Nature Library series.
The Department of the Army serves all government agencies by writing a series of handbooks (actually, full-size hard-cover volumes) on countries of the world. These volumes go beyond terrain to look at history, economics and politics.
The three volumes with special meaning today are "Saudi Arabia: A Country Study," "Iraq: A Country Study" and the volume that includes Kuwait, "Area Handbook for the Persian Gulf States."
- Military history. Again, shelfloads of books are available. Invaluable for the history of warfare in general is "The Encyclopedia of Military History," by R.E. Dupuy and T.N. Dupuy. More closely focused is Bryan Perrett's "Desert Warfare," which looks at fighting in the desert from ancient times through the Arab-Israeli wars.
The World War II desert experience is detailed in many books. Among those often recommended is W.G.F. Jackson's "The Battle for North Africa, 1940-43." The Arab-Israeli wars are covered in great detail in T.N. Dupuy's "Elusive Victory."
- Modern warfare. The ways of high-intensity warfare are outlined in James F. Dunnigan's gruesomely entertaining "How to Make War." More authoritative is the Army's "Field Manual 90-3: Desert Operations. "
The American bent for the sort of high-firepower ground warfare that's likely to take place in the gulf becomes clear in "Brute Force," by John Ellis, and "The American Way of War," by Russell F. Weigley.
The weaponry found on both sides in the Persian Gulf war is described and analyzed in minute detail in a series of books by Jane's, the British defense publisher. Jane's works are accepted as authoritative by most people involved with military affairs.