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Delia Owens, Who Suffused Her African Memoirs With Lush Natural Detail, Turns to Fiction

Where the Crawdads Sing,” by Delia Owens — the September pick of Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine book club — enters the fiction list this week at No. 9.

This is Owens’s first novel; readers may remember the memoirs she wrote with her then-husband, Mark, about their years in Africa studying endangered species: “Cry of the Kalahari,” “The Eye of the Elephant” and “Secrets of the Savanna.” It was in Africa that Owens became “fascinated with the social groups of mammals which are almost always made up of females,” such as brown hyenas.

“The males come and go for mating or meals, but the females stay in their birth groups and maintain strong bonds with their pride or pack mates for life,” she writes on her website. These animals reminded her of her own tight-knit friendships and made her realize “how strong the genetic propensity for female groups must be in our own species.” So perhaps it’s no surprise that “Where the Crawdads Sing” — about a young girl surviving on her own in a North Carolina coastal marsh — asks, as she says, “how isolation influences the behavior of a young woman, who, like all of us, has the genetic propensity to belong to a group.”

Western Legend

“Depth of Winter,” the latest volume in Craig Johnson’s contemporary series starring the Wyoming sheriff Walt Longmire, is at No. 5 on the list this week. Johnson, who lives on a ranch outside tiny Ucross, Wyo. — population 25 — and often sports a cowboy hat, just like his main character, has admitted that fans often confuse him with Longmire. “I always correct them, for fear that they might want me to arrest someone,” he once told Publishers Weekly.

Rotten at the Core

Mesmerizing, insightful, discomfiting, incisive, revelatory: Those are just a few of the adjectives reviewers have used to describe Lisa Brennan-Jobs’s memoir, “Small Fry,” which portrays the Apple cofounder Steve Jobs as a terrible dad.

“When I started writing,” Brennan-Jobs told The Times, “I didn’t think he’d be so interesting on the page, and I was almost frustrated that he pulled so much gravity.”

Though her portrait is a nuanced one, most coverage of the book has focused on the unflattering details about her father, who made her clean and babysit for his second family and once refused to pay her college tuition. “Small Fry” debuts this week at No. 6.

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