A Monitor Guide to The Bestsellers

Hardcover nonfiction

The Book Sense (TM) bestseller list is based on sales from independent bookstores across America. 1-888-BOOKSENSE

1. John Adams

by David McCullough, Simon & Schuster, $35

Former US President John Adams always maintained a diary and wrote letters avidly throughout his life. Most notable, of course, were the letters to and from his wife Abigail. Their voluminous correspondence takes up some five miles of microfilm. The trick for McCullough was to analyze this massive amount of material and blend it into a coherent, readable volume. He does this beautifully. Research and analysis are interwoven seamlessly, making it an absolute joy to read. (Full review May 31) (751 pp.) By Terry Hartle

The Christian Science Monitor: favorable

The New York Times: favorable

Kirkus Review of Books: favorable

Selected reviews (Washington Post): favorable

Audio available

2. Theodore Rex

by Edmund Morris, Random House, $35

Theodore Roosevelt is a biographer's dream, an epic character not out of place in an adventure novel. Morris captures perfectly the frenetic atmosphere that surrounded a president of boundless energy, imagination, and ambition. "Theodore Rex" is a massive achievement and hugely entertaining. But while long on detail, it's short on insight. Historians should not just reconstruct the past; they should also reflect upon it. Here, that kind of refection is left entirely to the reader. (Full review Nov. 21) (864 pp.) By Michael O'Hanlon

The Christian Science Monitor: mixed

The New York Times: favorable

Kirkus Review of Books: mixed

Selected reviews (Orlando Sentinel): favorable

Audio available

3. The Universe in a Nutshell

by Stephen Hawking, Bantam, $35

Hawking has striven to write another accessible book about theoretical physics, structuring the chapters as stand-alone units. From Einstein's theory of relativity to Hawking's own interest in time travel, the book tries to remain digestible to the average reader but often fails. The narrative of superstrings and multiple histories bogs down at times with its inherent complexity. The layout, however, is superb. Vivid, sometimes fanciful illustrations make this a gorgeous book to look at in any dimension. (224 pp.) By Tonya Miller

The Christian Science Monitor: mixed

The New York Times: no review noted

Kirkus Review of Books: no review noted

Selected reviews (Los Angeles Times): unfavorable

Audio available

4. Jack: Straight From the Gut

by Jack Welch, Warner Books, $29.95

Jack Welch, former CEO of GE, gives a down-to-earth account of his success in the company he called "home" for more than 40 years. From Welch's modest upbringing to the pinnacle of his ambitious career, he balances the success with a number of challenges faced along the way. His gumption and leadership are illustrated with zest. His passion for unlocking the incredible talent of those around him - and unwavering commitment to the growth of people - is a valuable lesson for all leaders (496 pp.) By Max Martina

The Christian Science Monitor: favorable

The New York Times: unfavorable

Kirkus Review of Books: no review noted

Selected reviews (Miami Herald): unfavorable

Audio available

5. Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort

by Bernard Goldberg, Regnery, $27.95

It's taken as an article of faith among conservatives that mainstream media slant news coverage to the left. Goldberg aims to confirm those suspicions. Anyone expecting a book-length academic study of bias in reporting will be disappointed, as Goldberg instead highlights several high-profile issues like AIDS and homelessness. If the book has a weakness it's the personal way Goldberg went about documenting what happened to him at CBS after he dared to raise the bias issue.(232 pp.) By Steve Martinovich

The Christian Science Monitor: mixed

The New York Times: mixed

Kirkus Review of Books: no review noted

Selected reviews (Wall Street Journal): favorable

Audio available

6. The No Spin Zone

by Bill O'Reilly, Broadway, $24.95

O'Reilly disdains "spin" (the rehearsed talking points spouted by many of today's politicians). Each chapter in his book recaps an appearance (a confrontation, really) by a newsmaker on O'Reilly's top-rated "spin-free" cable news program. The background to the interviews can be interesting, as well as the way he moves guests out of their comfort zones and off their practiced messages. His style is refreshingly unaffected, to the point of feeling lightweight, which underplays his contribution to modern politics. (190 pp.) By David S. Hauck

The Christian Science Monitor: favorable

The New York Times: no review noted

Kirkus Review of Books: no review noted

Selected reviews (Newsday): favorable

Audio available

7. The Final Days

by Barbara Olson, Regnery, $27.95

A boon for long-time Clinton critics, this book shines a spotlight on both Clintons as their White House era ends. From pardons to the hocking of White House furniture, Olson drills us with facts, quotes, and anecdotes. The author's death aboard the plane that hit the Pentagon on Sept. 11 may color readers' reactions, tempering the sarcasm that permeates this book. Well-supported facts and carefully chosen quotes build a case against the Clintons that is difficult to ignore, although clearly polemical. (258 pp.) By Tonya Miller

The Christian Science Monitor: mixed

The New York Times: no review noted

Kirkus Review of Books: no review noted

Selected reviews (Dallas Morning News): favorable

Audio available

8. Seabiscuit

by Laura Hillenbrand, Random House, $24.95

Hillenbrand's biography about the famous racing horse Seabiscuit and the men who owned, rode, and trained him, capsulizes the time of the Great Depression in America. These were not great men, but average, or below average, men struggling to make a living. All three had obstacles to overcome, from a child's death, to drugs, to poverty. But all three become giants in the industry because they could see the potential in a small, plain brown horse. (399 pp.) By Jan Moller

The Christian Science Monitor: favorable

The New York Times: favorable

Kirkus Review of Books: favorable

Selected reviews (Sunday Times-London): favorable

Audio available

9. The Darwin Awards II

by Wendy Northcutt, Dutton, $18.95

The compilation of demise-by-mishap anecdotes continues in this sequel to both "The Darwin Awards" and a related website. To qualify for recognition, the applicant must have flubbed so badly as to be able to flub no more. A chapter of bizarre deaths not qualifying as Darwinian - because they were caused by elements other than the victims' own stupidity - brings out the not-so-funny aspect of these disturbing books, which profit from others' misfortunes. (256 pp.) By Christy Ellington

The Christian Science Monitor: unfavorable

The New York Times: no review noted

Kirkus Review of Books: no review noted

Selected reviews: no review noted

Audio available

10. Christmas in Plains: Memories

by Jimmy Carter, Simon & Schuster, $20

In this small collection of more than 70 years of holiday recollections, plain-spoken Jimmy Carter pays homage to his Georgia roots: a deep attachment to family and friends, black as well as white, and childhood traditions like shooting down mistletoe from the top of a tree and hunting quail for dinner with Daddy. Carter also details the poignant moments, while he was president, when world events and public demands intruded on his private peace. Line drawings by daughter Amy. (192 pp.) By Ruth Johnstone Wales

The Christian Science Monitor: favorable

The New York Times: no review noted

Kirkus Review of Books: no review noted

Selected reviews (St. Petersburg Times): favorable

Audio available

11. Wild Blue

by Stephen Ambrose, Simon & Schuster, $26

Few authors have done more than Ambrose to help us understand the personal sacrifice and courage that won WWII. His latest chronicles the lives of bomber pilots who flew bulky B-24 "Liberators." The storyline comes alive with Ambrose's focus on lanky young George McGovern, later a US senator and presidential candidate. Ambrose makes us ponder how future generations will discover the depths of courage and team effort these young men gained through the agony of war. (Full review Aug. 9) (480 pp.) By Keith Henderson

The Christian Science Monitor: favorable

The New York Times: favorable

Kirkus Review of Books: favorable

Selected reviews (Tampa Tribune): favorable

Audio available

12. How I Play Golf

by Tiger Woods, Warner Books, $34.95

This book reads like a series of Golf Digest articles. It's clearly designed to teach, inspire, and entertain Woods's ever-growing golf audience. Chapters on technique are packed with color photos and illustrations, witty sidebars, and a few Tiger "secrets." He stresses fundamentals (proper grip and stance, for example). Perhaps most useful is his perspective on fitness, mental toughness, fun, and perseverance, reminding us that he didn't become the best golfer in the world purely on natural talent. (320 pp.) By Don Springer

The Christian Science Monitor: favorable

The New York Times: no review noted

Kirkus Review of Books: no review noted

Selected reviews (Canadian Press): favorable

Audio available

Fire

by Sebastian Junger, Norton $24.95

"Life in modern society is designed to eliminate as many unforeseen events as possible," writes Junger in one of the essays in "Fire." "As inviting as that seems, it leaves us hopelessly underutilized." Fascinated by danger, Junger covers firefighters in Idaho, the diamond trade in Sierra Leone, and the horrors of Kosovo. He also profiles Ahmad Shah Massoud, the recently assassinated Afghan rebel leader. The collection is somewhat dated and uneven, but is helped by Junger's eye for detail. (256 pp.) By Amanda Paulson

The Christian Science Monitor: mixed

The New York Times: unfavorable

Kirkus Review of Books: favorable

Selected reviews (Chicago Sun Times): mixed

Audio available

14. The Map That Changed The World

by Simon Winchester, HarperCollins, $26

We take for granted the ability to determine that pre-human fossils in Ethiopia are 5.5 million years old, but that skill was hard won. William Smith's biographer says that creating the science of stratigraphy was "a lonely and potentially soul-destroying process." But the result was the first geological map of an entire nation and a new scientific field. This biography is of a man and a great map, which hit the elite of Smith's day with the mind-altering force of a revelation. (Full review Aug. 8) (352 pp.) By Robert C. Cowen

The Christian Science Monitor: favorable

The New York Times: mixed

Kirkus Review of Books: favorable

Selected reviews (Chicago Sun Times): mixed

Audio available

15. Churchill

by Roy Jenkins, Farrar, Strauss & Giroux, $35

Few 20th-century figures have had as much written about them as Winston Churchill, England's legendary prime minister. Jenkins admits that his efforts add little new to the Churchill knowledge base, a usually fatal admission for a biographer. With that in mind, his decision simply to chronicle Churchill's rise from Boer War celebrity to preeminent WWII leader is a little more understandable, though it still leaves the reader feeling that the job was perfunctory. (736 pp.) By Steven Martinovich

The Christian Science Monitor: mixed

The New York Times: favorable

Kirkus Review of Books: no review noted

Selected reviews (Washington Post): mixed

Audio available

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