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The Monitor's Guide to Bestsellers: Hardcover Nonfiction

By Staff / February 5, 1998


Monitor's Pick

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By H.W. Brands

Basic Books

897pp., $35

This year marks a century since Theodore Roosevelt charged up San Juan Hill and into the hearts of Americans. By the time he left the White House a decade later, he was arguably the most famous American on earth.

In his new biography, "T.R.: The Last Romantic," H.W. Brands reveals no hidden dark side of the Rough Rider. But he does suggest that T.R.'s "romantic" views let him see his life as a clear-cut battle between good and evil, a struggle of light and order against darkness and chaos.

Author, adventurer, explorer, hunter (the "teddy bear" was named for him when he spared a cub), conservationist, Nobel Peace Prize-winner, political reformer, and youngest president of the United States, T.R. burst on the scene like a force of nature, with enough energy and interests for several men or lifetimes.

Although beset by many tragedies, Roosevelt often remarked that he'd had the happiest of lives. This optimistic outlook won him respect and even love, perhaps because people saw in him their own best selves - the best of what it meant to be an American.

Today the face of the man who offered all Americans a "Square Deal," who made sure America's two coasts were linked by the Panama Canal, and who prodded America onto the world stage as a great power, is carved on Mt. Rushmore.

He still belongs in that august company, as Brand's engaging book amply shows.

Hardcover Nonfiction

1. SIMPLE ABUNDANCE, by Sarah Ban Breathnach, Warner, $18.95

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 one hits an original insight. "The Oprah Winfrey Show" spotlighted this book. By Jim Bencivenga

2. THE MILLIONAIRE NEXT DOOR, by Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko, Longstreet, $22

After two decades of analyzing wealth, Professors Stanley and Danko provide extensive demographic profiles of Americans with assets of $1 million or more. They conclude that lavish spending habits are the stuff of Hollywood myth. Most millionaires, they say, have succeeded through business efficiency as well as frugality, not inheritance. In summary: To amass wealth, one must invest well and spend less. By Leigh Montgomery

3. MIDNIGHT IN THE GARDEN OF GOOD AND EVIL, by John Berendt, Random House, $23

This zany portrait of Savannah, Ga., sings with original characters. It tells the universal tale of small-town life in which neighborly rivalries and gossip are pastimes. But Savannah's characters are even more outrageous - sometimes more sensuous - than those of most small towns: from a good-natured conman who invites the town to raucous parties in other people's houses to "The Lady Chablis" - a drag queen who crashes debutante balls. By Abraham T. McLaughlin

4. ANGELA'S ASHES: A MEMOIR, by Frank McCourt, Scribner, $23