The Monitor's Guide to Bestsellers

HARDCOVER NONFICTION

1. A REPORTER'S LIFE, by Walter Cronkite, Knopf, $26.95

Walter Cronkite, often called the most trusted man in America, tells his life story with candor and wit. From his journalistic start delivering newspapers in Kansas City to his rise to being the most watched anchorman on TV, his story is an entertaining and interesting read. Though some of his insights come off as a bit simplistic, others are thought provoking. The book has the distinct advantage of being written by someone who was there at many of the major events of this century. By Brian McCauley

2. MY SERGER: A LOVE STORY, by Ekaterina Gordeeva, Warner, $18.95

Figure skater Ekaterina Gordeeva's book - named after her late husband and skating partner, Sergei Grinkov, who died suddenly one year ago - is a touching and personal account of a relationship that started when the two were paired together at ages 11 and 15 by the Soviet regime. Written with Sports Illustrated's Ed Swift, it offers a behind-the-scenes look at the competitive world of figure skating as well as Gordeeva's struggle to heal and to raise her young daughter alone. By Shelley Donald Coolidge

3. DOGBERT'S TOP SECRET MANAGEMENT HANDBOOK, by Scott Adams, HarperBusiness, $16

Adams has taken a page out of Jonathan Swift's book with this satire. He presents several modest proposals of his own to help usher a generation of managers into a bright, shiny era of downsizing and micromanagement. Complete with bullet points and illustrations (for managers who can't read), these guidelines are guaranteed, as Adams puts it, to keep workers "jumpier than a cat on waterskis." By Yvonne Zipp

4. SIMPLE ABUNDANCE, by Sarah Ban Breathnach, Warner, $17.95

A spiritual self-help book for the "modern woman," a how-to book that offers to overcome stress and assist in self-discovery with topical readings on gratitude, simplicity, order, harmony, beauty, and joy. There is a reading for each day of the calendar year. Like modern gold-mining - 30 tons of shoveled dirt to find one ounce of gold - there are pages of platitudes before hitting an original insight. The author's appearance on Oprah Winfrey show catapulted this book onto bestseller lists. By Jim Bencivenga

5. ANGELA'S ASHES: A MEMOIR, by Frank McCourt, Scribners, $23

"Angela's Ashes," Frank McCourt's brilliant and tender memoir of his miserable Irish Catholic childhood in Limerick, Ireland, is a deeply moving story and a very funny book. Angela was McCourt's mother. The story begins on Classon Avenue in Brooklyn during the Depression as she tries to hold the family together; later, because of his father's alcoholism the family is forced to return to Ireland where Frank discovers Shakespeare and language. It is a book of splendid humanity. By Devon McNamara

6. EVERYONE IS ENTITLED TO MY OPINION, by David Brinkley, Knopf, $20

After a lifetime in the news business, David Brinkley has heard just about everything, from the Texas primary featuring a dead candidate to the Pentagon's $200 nails. He shares these stories in pointed, witty essays rarely longer than a page. The award-winning TV journalist has been working since World War II and the breadth of his experience is clear. If brevity is the soul of wit, in his hands, it's also a weapon, as he skewers Washington for its foibles and shows us a good time doing it. By Nicole Gaouette

7. MEN ARE FROM MARS, WOMEN ARE FROM VENUS, by John Gray, HarperCollins, $20

Written more for the female audience, this easy-to-read guide helps men and women better understand how the other sex communicates. Although redundant and sometimes stereotypical, it goes beyond psychobabble. Gray, who has written an assortment of books on this topic, explores such issues as the difference between a man's silence and a woman's, why men and women resist the other sex's solutions, and how a man reacts when a woman needs to talk. By Shelley Donald Coolidge

8. THE DILBERT PRINCIPLE, by Scott Adams, HarperBusiness, $20

The most ineffective workers are moved to the place where they can do the least damage: management. Adams illustrates this, the Dilbert Principle, with classic Dilbert cartoons (some repeated a few times) and e-mail messages from exasperated employees who will make you grateful you don't work for their company. (Or you can have fun picking out your employer from the parade of corporate nightmares.) A fun read, but Adams's mocking humor still zings best through his cartoons. By Yvonne Zipp

9. MAKE THE CONNECTION:..., by Bob Green and Oprah Winfrey, Hyperion, $18.95

Fueled by the success story of talk show host Oprah Winfrey, Bob Greene presents a 10 step diet that emphasizes a focus on lifetime fitness and mental wellness as opposed to a quick-fix diet. He stresses the connection you need to make between your personal life and your weight. Oprah's successful weight loss, after so many public attempts, gives this book its appeal and credibility even though the steps in this book present little new diet information. Also includes a diet journal. By Debbie Hodges

10. LIVING FAITH, by Jimmy Carter, Random House, $23

"'Faith without works is dead.' (James 2:26)" reiterates Jimmy Carter in this moving memoir. The door to opportunity very often opens, he has found, through the basement entrance. He avers that such qualities as compassion, forgiveness, brotherly love, wisdom do dominate the intransigence of inflexible beliefs and their resulting bitterness, that they are key both to family and to nation problem-solving. His account of the negotiations during the Haiti crisis is captivating high drama. By Mari Murray

11. FOREVER ERMA..., by Erma Bombeck, Andrew & McMeet, $21.95

Erma Bombeck turned the grind of being a housewife into grist for a divinely comic mill. The result, as this collection of columns shows, touches both the heart and the funny bone. Her "utility room beat" covered everything from how to turn a haircut into a weight-loss plan to how to make a banana nut loaf (using no bananas and no nuts). The collection, which spans more than 30 years, provides readers with a last, delightful chance to spend time with America's favorite housewife. By Yvonne Zipp

12. DOWN IN THE GARDEN, by Ann Geddes, Cedco Publishing, $49.95

Did you ever want to see a baby in a pea pod or dressed up as a watermelon? Well, here's your chance. Wearing "wigs" made of roses, apples, and mushrooms, among other things, the babies are pictured in various gardening scenes - from inside of tulips to sprouting up as daisies from the ground. The cute photos will make you laugh out loud, but they are more silly and bizarre than engaging and captivating. By Lisa Leigh Parney

13. UNDAUNTED COURAGE, by Stephen E. Ambrose, Simon & Schuster, $30

Lewis and Clark. Stephen Ambrose tells the story with a zest for detail, and a feel for the humanity of Merriwether Lewis and his patron, Thomas Jefferson, that make the history sing and sigh, groan and breathe. If you think you already know the tale, think again. If you've heard about it but never read much about it, here's the chance to go along on an epic journey that helped mold not only the new nation, but the American character itself, with its manifest strengths and frailties. By Keith Henderson

14. I'M NOT REALLY HERE, by Tim Allen, Hyperion, $21.95

This short humor book explores the meaning of life and some of its tougher questions via the "study" of quantum physics. During a weekend alone, normal guy-alone activities take second place to consideration of some intense personal experiences and related concepts. While the book has an interesting premise, it does not quite succeed in either of its two approaches: humor or examination of life's complex human relationships. Though sincere, a few humorous moments are not enough. By Terri Theiss

15. SLOUCHING TOWARDS GOMORRAH: MODERN LIBERALISM..., by Robert Bork, HarperCollins, $25

Conservative scholar Robert Bork presents a scathing treatise about American intellect in decline. America possesses a "hedonistic," "enfeebled" culture, he says. Modern liberalism, from the 1960s, is the root of the problem. His jeremiad covers varied subjects such as crime, radical feminism, rap music and the Supreme Court. The court, he claims, is "responsible in no small measure for all that has gone wrong in our culture." He would let Congress overrule the Supreme Court. By Leigh Montgomery

The Monitor's Pick

VIOLENT LAND: SINGLE MEN AND SOCIAL DISORDER FROM THE FRONTIER TO THE INNER CITY,

by David Courtwright,

Harvard University Press,

346 pp., $29.95

This book boldly crosses academic boundaries probing for the truth about violence in America from a number of angles. In the end, David Courtwright, finds biological, demographic, cultural, and social explanations for why America has been and continues to be, a violent land.

His main argument is a deceptively simple syllogism: Young men are prone to violence. Throughout history, more than to any other nation, young men on their own have been attracted to America, and then pushed westward. Violence was a particularly remarkable feature of America's frontier in the 19th century, he argues, though its presence was uneven.

For Courtwright, "the key to controlling young men's violence and disorder lies not in the legislative process or in simply adding police and prisons but in society's basic familial arrangements, which means all of us."

To the extent that government promotes the formation and unity of families, or at least does not inhibit it, it plays a useful role.

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