The Monitor's Guide to Bestsellers

Hardcover Nonfiction

1. 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

2. 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

3.MASTERING THE ZONE, by Barry Sears, HarperCollins, $24

A quick sequel to his previous besteller, "The Zone," (see number 7 below) offers nothing new from the original but 150 "scientific" recipies. The dietary observation is obvious: Don't eat too much, don't eat too little, eat the right food. The publishers are cognizant that wrapping menus in a mantle of research and analysis about genetics satisfies a national craving for information about good health through good eating. By Jim Bencivenga

4.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

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. 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

7. THE ZONE, by Barry Sears, HarperCollins, $22

This book purports to counteract the genetic programming of disease, excessive weight, loss of mental proficiency and physical performance through diet. The author develops a theory of "food as drug" that promises optimal health when eating the right foods in the right proportions. Contains minute technical details of disease, case studies, and a road map for achieving life in the "Zone," a state of being suggesting the perfect union of body and mind. By Jim Bencivenga

8.THE ARTHRITIS CURE, by Jason Theodosakis, Brenda Adderly, Barry Fox, St. Martin's, $22.95

This short work discusses a non-surgical, no-drugs approach to dealing with arthritis. It relies instead on nutritional supplements, combined with diet and exercise. The book is of necessity detailed in its description of the malady. The authors seem to sincerely care about helping others and encourage proactive steps rather than surgical/drug treatment. They aver that the medical cure can be worse than the original discomfort. They do not accept the inevitability of suffering from the illness. By Terri Theiss

9. MY SERGEI: 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

10.STRONG WOMEN, SAY YOUNG, by Miriam E. Nelson with Sarah Werrick, Bantam, $23.95

If I'm going to stay young and strong, I'll need more motivation and visual stimulation than this book has to offer. The charts and diagrams are gray and dull; the writing is flat; and the pictures don't show anything I can really use (such as three pictures of CAT scans showing cross sections of the thighs). I'd rather spend my time exercising and eating healthy foods, which is basically what this book recommends. By Lisa Leigh Parney

11. THE PATH TO LOVE, by Deepak Chopra, Harmony, $24

This is another East-meets-West spirituality self-help book. Chopra's theory is that spiritual love is all and each individual is a part of this all-encompassing love. The individual's mission is to recognize and attain complete love. The how-to is a bit vague. The author proposes a series of quesiton and answers along with deep meditation to find one's "heart-center" as a starting place. There are case examples that present problems and offer solutions but do not tell us of actual resolutions. By Janet Moller

12. CONVERSATIONS WITH GOD, by Neale Donald Walsch, Putnam, $19.95

This book is written in a very simple, accessible style. It is based on what the author, the founder of an Oregon-based organization called ReCreation, describes as a three-year conversation with God that he transcribed. It contains some substantial insights and flashes of humor. In it, God is described as an all-good, omnipotent Being, who is constantly communicating with all people. Prayer is described as a process, not a petition. First of three books. By Abraham T. McLaughlin

13. 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

14. BEHIND THE OVAL OFFICE...., by Dick Morris, Random House, $25.95

An indulgent, personal pronoun-fest, (400 of them in Chapter 1) revealing Morris is a legend in his own mind. This self-congratulatory recounting of 20 years with Bill Clinton focuses on the '96 campaign, winning it with $85 million dollars worth of TV advertising, and what Morris describes as a heroic rescue of Clinton from liberal democratic handlers. Insider anecdotes are interesting, with analysis and understanding of the American electorate sometimes insightful, occasionally prescient. By Skip Thurman

15. 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

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