1. THE DILBERT PRINCIPLE, by Scott Adams, HarperBusiness, $20
The most ineffective workers are moved to the place where they can do the least damage: management. Adams illustrates this, the Dilbert Principle, with classic Dilbert cartoons (some repeated a few times) and e-mail messages from exasperated employees who will make you grateful you don't work for their company. (Or you can have fun picking out your employer from the parade of corporate nightmares.) A fun read, but Adams's mocking humor still zings best through his cartoons. By Yvonne Zipp.
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. 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.
4. UNLIMITED ACCESS, by Gary Aldrich, Regnery, $24.95
FBI agent Gary Aldrich was appalled by the Clinton staff. Charged with performing security checks on all White House employees, he was privy to much personal information. Some of Aldrich's criticism stems from his generation gap, like his dislike of Clinton staffers' longer hair and shorter skirts. More legitimate is his disgust with widespread drug use and sex between staffers in White House offices. Aldrich's reliance on unproved allegation and rumor casts a pall on his book. By Abraham McLaughlin.
5. 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.
6.BARE KNUCKLES AND BACK ROOMS, by Ed Rollins, Broadway Books, $27.50
A candid description of success and controversy spanning a 30-year career in politics. Rollins's autobiography covers his rise from a welterweight amateur boxer to national notoriety as Republican political consultant. It is a no-holds-barred account told with humorous detail and street-level insights from a Washington insider's perspective. As might well be guessed from the title, this book is well salted with boxing analogies and uncouth language. With Tom DeFrank. By Leigh Montgomery.
7. BAD AS I WANNA BE, by Dennis Rodman, Delacorte, $22.95
The book is Rodman, the Chicago Bulls robo-rebounder, raw. Beyond his crude language and stadium-sized chip on his shoulder, Rodman spouts a few brilliant insights on the NBA, the game, and himself. As his skills attest, he is an expert on what he does. But his argument that teams should focus on fundamental basketball instead of the 1990s-style light-and-sound shows comes across as a bit hypocritical: The painted and pierced warrior himself has become a walking side show. By Faye Bowers.
8. UNDAUNTED COURAGE, by Stephen E. Ambrose, Simon & Schuster, $30
Lewis and Clark. Stephen Ambrose tells the story with a zest for detail, and a feel for the humanity of Meriwether Lewis and his patron, Thomas Jefferson, that make the history sing and sigh, groan and breathe. If you think you already know the tale, think again. If you've heard about it but never read much about it, here's the chance to go along on an epic journey that helped mold not only the new nation, but the American character itself, with its manifest strengths and frailties. By Keith Henderson.
9. OUTRAGE, by Vincent Bugliosi, W.W. Norton, $25
Bugliosi, former L.A. County deputy district attorney, who prosecuted Charles Manson, among others, makes two assertions: O.J. Simpson is beyond-the-shadow-of-a-doubt guilty of killing his ex-wife and her friend; and that everyone involved in the "trial of the century" - from the media to the "Dream team" of defense lawyers, and especially the prosecution - were totally incompetent. The obnoxiousness of Bugliosi's egotistical tone is offset by the strength of his arguments. By Abraham McLaughlin.
10. MIDNIGHT IN THE GARDEN OF GOOD AND EVIL, by John Berendt, Random House, $23
This zany portrait of Savannah, Ga., sings with wonderfully original characters. It tells the universal tale of small-town life in which neighborly rivalries and gossip are residents' pastimes. But Savannah's characters are even more outrageous - sometimes more sensuous - than those of most small towns: from a good natured con-man who invites the town to raucous parties in other peoples' houses to "The Lady Chablis" - a drag queen who crashes debutant balls. By Abraham McLaughlin.
11. THE 5-DAY MIRACLE DIET, by Adele Puhn, Ballantine, $22
This plan relies on a regimented eating plan that eliminates most sugar and carbohydrates in order to accomplish permanent weight loss and end food cravings. The author also examines psychological factors and exercise habits related to weight. Her advice about eating healthy while enjoying a few treats is useful. But the plan's guarantee to kick-start a whole new life in five days requires a degree of regimentation that should be taken with a grain of salt. By Terri Theiss.
12. THE SEVEN SPIRITUAL LAWS OF SUCCESS, by Deepak Chopra, New World Library, $12.95
Chopra draws points from Eastern philosophies and practices such as Taoism, Vedic Science, meditation, and karma and distills them into a new-age seven-step program. The logic is at times circular and simplistic, and Chopra's attempts to incorporate The Bible and Christian tradition into his text are uneven at best. Nonetheless, while not original, many of the espoused ideas - prayer, generosity, and a nonjudgmental and positive outlook - certainly have merit. By Yvonne Zipp.
13. EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE, by Daniel Goleman, Bantam, $23.95
Goleman asserts that IQ is not destiny; emotional intelligence, the ability to be cool in a bind and make clear decisions, is equally important in a good life. The theories about brain architecture are less interesting than examples of emotional control that establishes solid relationships and cooperation among people. He says those lacking self-control are morally deficient and conclusions of scientists do not limit one's prospects for success, no matter how troubled one's childhood. By David Holmstrom.
14.ALL TOO HUMAN, by Edward Klein, Pocket Books, $23
An intimate, titillating glimpse into the complex personal and social lives of President John F. Kennedy and his wife, Jackie. Central to the book are details of Kennedy's compulsive womanizing and Jackie's accommodation to her husband's prolific adulteries as well as her own infidelities. Class issues and politics of the Kennedy clan are conveyed in a conversational, gossipy style. A soap opera about the lives of a rich and famous couple who happened to be Mr. and Mrs. President. By Jim Bencivenga.
15. DRINKING: A LOVE STORY, by Caroline Knapp, Dell, $22.95
This personal narrative presents alcoholism as a false-love relationship, a destructive one. It breaks down the "drunken bum" stereotype because it is the story of a successful professional woman. The material is dark and grim at times, and we learn a bit more than necessary about the author's family life. But there are valuable insights about the portrayal of liquor in our society and its role in troubled families. Readers with acquaintances who drink too much will be educated. By Terri Theiss.
*Bestselling ranking from Publishers Weekly, September 2, 1996
BONDS OF AFFECTION: AMERICANS DEFINE THEIR PATRIOTISM, Edited by John Bodnar, Princeton University Press, 339 pp., $55 ($16.95, paper)
This book examines how Americans have professed and practiced different notions of patriotism. It warrants sustained interest because it offers provocative insights into the vexed nature of affection for the American republic.
The subjects range from the efforts during the Revolutionary era to craft a mythic patriotism for an infant nation to the different ways in which patriotism has manifested itself among women, wage laborers, and African-Americans during the 19th and 20th centuries. The variety of topics reflects the author's recognition that Americans have developed complex and often controversial notions of what patriotism entails.
As editor John Dodnar observes, patriotism in the United States initially found its most inspiring expression in an abstraction: the ideal of a democratic and egalitarian society.
Over time, however, this unifying democratic ideal has lost ground to more particular loyalties based on gender, ethnic, or religious associations. In exploring such diverse perspectives, "Bonds of Affection" helps broaden an understanding of what factors converged to splinter and at times degrade American concepts of patriotism.
Especially interesting is how the bitterness of the Civil War gave way to an elevation of the valor displayed by the combatants of both sides. By the end of the 19th century, Confederate and Union veterans were attending common reunions.