The Monitor's Pick to Bestsellers

Hardcover Non-fiction

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1. SUGAR BUSTERS!, by Sarah Ban Breathnach, Morrison C. Bethea, Ballantine, $22

Three MDs and one CEO cooked up this latest opinion on the best way to trim your waistline. Complete with graphs and low-sugar recipes, this books focuses on insulin levels in the bloodstream. If you aren't afraid of food now, you will be after reading "Sugar Busters!" Keep your summer reading on a low-blab diet and avoid this book. By Kendra Nordin

2. A PIRATE LOOKS AT FIFTY, by Jimmy Buffett, Random House, $24.95

Recommended: Could you pass a US citizenship test?

Buffett's rambling narrative about his life as he passes the half-century mark doesn't try to be a straight autobiography. It's more a collection of vignettes. Buffett goes fishing. Buffett learns to fly a plane. Middle-aged Buffett reflects on life. The book is filled with his musings on life and lessons learned. Fans will love the glimpse at the rocker's weirdly refreshing world. And even non-Buffett fans might be charmed by his honesty, refusal to be a spoiled celebrity, and appreciation for his family, fans, and good fortune. By Kristina Lanier

3. TUESDAYS WITH MORRIE, by Mitch Albom, Doubleday, $19.95

A beloved college professor who is dying agrees to meet each Tuesday with a former student and discuss life and death. The 14 "classes" are recorded by Mitch Albom, a well-known sportswriter, with his former teacher, Morrie Schwartz. Religion, family, friends, and work are carefully considered. Schwartz (now deceased) was interviewed at home by Ted Koppel and appeared on "Nightline." What keeps this uplifting book from being maudlin is Albom's crisp writing - and the generous heart of Schwartz. By Jim Bencivenga

4. THE 9 STEPS TO FINANCIAL FREEDOM, by Suze Orman, Crown Publishing, $23

This book earns high marks and stands apart from others in the genre, because it pays attention to the way people regard money, not just how they use it. Its goal is to remove both the fear and love of money. And the first three of the nine steps address those attitudes. The goal isn't to get rich; it's to get rational. And once you've stopped letting your money manage you, you can take the rest of the six steps. A basic, easy-to-understand approach to investing and planning. By Lynde McCormick

5. A MONK SWIMMING, by Malachy McCourt, Harcourt Brace, $23.95

If I hadn't loved "Angela's Ashes" by Frank, Malachy's older brother, I wouldn't have read past the first few pages of this version of the McCourt children, abandoned by a drunken father and betrayed by a mother who slept with a hated cousin to make ends meet. This is an angry, bitter book by an author who swears and drinks throughout. "Angela's Ashes" created tremendous interest in this Irish immigrant family from Limerick, but there's no need to read Malachy's vulgar version. By Jim Bencivenga

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

7. A WALK IN THE WOODS, by Bill Bryson, Doubleday, $25

Be prepared for a verbal romp over hill and dale, swamp and forest, on the 2,100 mile Appalachian Trail. Bill Bryson has the wryest sense of humor of any current American writer. His self-mocking rendition of how he spent a small fortune buying the "necessary" high-tech camping gear for his expedition is hilarious. The hype about potential diseases, snakebites, and catastrophes encountered on the multi-month hike makes the point that only the well-conditioned or foolhardy tackle this trail. By Jim Bencivenga

8. the gift of the jews, by Thomas Cahill, Doubleday, $23.50

In this second book of his "Hinges of History" series, Thomas Cahill offers the theory that the seeds of almost all the ideas we hold near and dear, and even sometimes fear (freedom, individuality, justice, compassion, capitalism, and communism) can be discovered in the story of the Jews that unfolds in the Old Testament. It is this story, unlike that of any other people on the face of the earth, that set Western civilization on its unique path. Engaging, insightful, and by a bold writer who knows how to keep his audience interested. By Tom Regan

9. 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

10. MARILU HENNER'S HEALTH MAKEOVER, by Marilu Henner with Laura Morton, Reagan Books, $24 Here comes one more calorie-counting, I-feel-so-energetic-now diet book. What's new and different: an amazing 16-page color-photo time line of Marilu's fluctuating weight since 1971. (The amazing part is that she recorded her weight for every photo.) In between calorie counts, Marilu also offers an insider's look at an actress's climb to Broadway and television success. The lasting impression of this book is self-obsession.

By Kendra Nordin

11. WE ARE OUR MOTHERS' DAUGHTERS, by Cokie Roberts, Morrow, $19.95

In this warm, sometimes witty, and often wise collection of brief essays on "woman's place," TV host and radio reporter Cokie Roberts reflects on relationships, opportunities, challenges, and issues for women in their roles as sisters, mothers, daughters, friends, wives, and workers. Her own career in journalism is a case study of the changing attitudes toward women in the workplace. Upbeat, but always cleareyed, Roberts concludes that woman's place is now everywhere. By Ruth Johnstone Wales

12. TITAN: THE LIFE OF JOHN D. ROCKEFELLER SR., by Ron Chernow, Random House, $30 Everything you ever wanted to know about John D. Rockefeller Sr. and then some. And then some more. In this exhaustive biography, Chernow details the confluence of environment, opportunity, and personality that combined to make an ambitious young man into an icon of capitalism. In doing so he also makes the icon a human being. Recent events vis--vis Bill Gates and the Justice Department's antitrust actions give "Titan" added relevance. Everything old is new again. By Phelippe Salazar

13. IN THE MEANTIME, by Iyanla Vanzant, Simon & Schuster, $23

Finding the right kind of romance is a bit like spring cleaning says author Vanzant who describes love as a three-story house. There is progression from the basement where we "store" our parents' values, to the first floor where we confront our fears, all the way to the attic, where we learn how to accept ourselves unconditionally. Insightful at times, she is repetitive but conversational and easy to read. Her advice seems like common sense. If nothing else, the house metaphor may inspire cleaning the closet. Literally. By Kendra Nordin

14. 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

15. SHIP OF GOLD IN THE DEEP BLUE SEA, by Gary Kinder, Atlantic Monthly Press, $24 In 1857, the 300-foot SS Central America was steaming off the Carolinas, bound for New York with nearly 600 passengers and crew and 21 tons of California gold, when she sailed into the teeth of a hurricane and sank, killing 428 people. Gary Kinder's account of the disaster and of engineer Tommy Thompson's 1989 triumph in finding the wreck and recovering its artifacts and cargo is riveting. Move over, Titanic. By Peter Spotts

Monitor's Pick

THE EVERLASTING STORY OF NORY

By Nicholson Baker

Random House

224 pp., $22

Nicholson Baker's "The Everlasting Story of Nory" perfectly captures the ordinary life of a kind, creative nine-year-old girl. In the cacophony of novels, memoirs, and talk shows about the harrowing hazards many children face, Nory's story is a charming reminder of the life children need and deserve.

The book's sustained comedy stems from Nory's attempts to make sense of her year in England, where her father is taking a sabbatical to "write books that help people get to sleep."

Leaving behind her dear friends in Palo Alto, Calif., and moving to the little town of Threll, Nory must figure out a new school, defend her accent, and negotiate the complexities of playground politics. She manages all these tasks with great concentration and success, but she devotes at least as much effort to her everlasting series of dreams and tales that pit a little girl against extraordinary, sometimes gruesome challenges.

"You need something to fail in a story," Nory observes, "because then when it fails it has to get better."

Indeed, much of this short book concerns Nory's simple but profound discoveries about the nature of language and fiction. While most of us race through words like bored commuters on familiar streets, Nory studies words like a jeweler. She takes no colloquial phrase for granted.

Baker has rendered Nory's life and thoughts with loving precision in what's likely to become a classic book for adults about childhood. If there's any real "failing" in "The Everlasting Story," it's that fourth grade isn't everlasting after all.

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