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The Monitor's Guide to Bestsellers: Hardcover Nonfiction

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

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"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 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 McCourt discovers Shakespeare and language. It is a book of splendid humanity. By Devon McNamara

8. TALKING TO HEAVEN: A MEDIUM'S MESSAGE...., by James Van Praagh, Dutton/Signet, $22.95

In "Talking to Heaven: A Medium's Message of Life After Death," James Van Praagh defines many aspects of psychic phenomena and gives examples from his own experience. He rejects organized religion and offers a conveniently eclectic mix of spiritualism, pop psychology, and Christianity, as well as New Age, Eastern, and Gnostic thought. The author discusses at length contacting departed loved ones by developing one's psychic abilities. By Debra Jones

9. CONVERSATIONS WITH GOD, BOOK I, by Neale Donald Walsch, Putnam, $19.95

Written in a simple, accessible style, this book 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. 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

10. 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

11. 8 WEEKS TO OPTIMUM HEALTH, by Andrew Weil, MD Knopf, $23

Dr. Weil loves ginger: "If I had a daughter, I think I would have named her Ginger," he writes. He speaks highly of cordyceps, known in China as "caterpillar fungus." He writes: "Perfect health is not possible," only "optimum health," for which one must walk, stretch, avoid ultraviolet light, go to a museum, buy flowers, forgive others. Now what after eight weeks? The critical question is left unanswered in the last chapter: "Week Nine and Beyond." A sequel coming. By Suman Bandrapalli

12. SPIN CYCLE, by Howard Kurtz, Simon & Schuster, $25

Throw cagey White House administrators, keen-nosed reporters, and sensitive news items into the wash and you've got "Spin Cycle." Reporter Howard Kurtz offers a readable look at how the White House packages news and the tactics it uses to manage the media. You'll never watch briefings from the White House press room quite the same way again. Even so, one wonders how Kurtz obtained some of the "quotes" he attributes to top officials. And carefully crafted statements give "Spin Cycle" its own decided "spin." By Kristina Lanier