1) ANGELA'S ASHES: A MEMOIR, by Frank McCourt, Scribners, $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
2) 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 rays, go to a museum, buy flowers, forgive others. Now, what after eight weeks? The critical question is left unanswered in chapter 13: "Week Nine And Beyond." By Suman Bandrapalli
3) 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. Oprah Winfrey show spotlighted this book. By Jim Bencivenga
4) MURDER IN BRENTWOOD, by Mark Fuhrman, Regnery, $24.95
The detective whose racial slurs taped for a fictional work overshadowed the Simpson criminal trial tells his story. Fuhrman points to several errors made in the case, including evidence (a bloody fingerprint and Swiss Army knife box) that led detectives failed to collect. He also points out that exhaustive public investigations of his work have not turned up any evidence of wrongdoing or racism on his part. Better editing would have helped this book. By Faye Bowers
5) MAKE THE CONNECTION..., by Bob Greene and Oprah Winfrey, Hyperion, $18.95
Fueled by the success story of talk-show host Oprah Winfrey, Bob Greene presents a 10 step diet that emphasizes a focus on lifetime fitness and mental wellness as opposed to a quick-fix diet. He stresses the connection readers need to make between their personal life and weight. Oprah's successful weight loss, after so many public attempts, gives this books its appeal even though the steps present little new diet information. Also includes a diet journal.By Debbie Hodges
6) MASTERING THE ZONES, by Barry Sears, HarperCollins, $24
A quick sequel to his previous besteller, "The Zone," (see number 7 below) offers nothing new from the original but 150 "scientific" recipies. The dietary observation is obvious: Don't eat too much, don't eat too little, eat the right food. The publishers are cognizant that wrapping menus in a mantle of research and analysis about genetics satisfies a national craving for information about good health through good eating. By Jim Bencivenga
7) THE ARTHRITIS CURE, by Jason Theodosakis, Brenda Adderly, Barry Fox, St. Martin's, $22.95
This short work discusses a non-surgical, no-drugs approach to dealing with arthritis. It relies instead on nutritional supplements, combined with diet and exercise. The book is of necessity detailed in its description of the malady. The authors seem to sincerely care about helping others and encourage proactive steps rather than surgical/drug treatment. They do not accept the inevitability of suffering from the illness. By Terri Theiss
8) THE GIFT OF PEACE..., by Joseph Cardinal Bernardin, Loyola Press, $17.95
After being dianosed with terminal cancer, Cardinal Bernardin of the Chicago Archdiocese wrote this book subtitled, "Personal Reflections." He did so in the last two months of his life finishing it 13 days prior to his passing. It reads like a collection of letters to friends and shares the serene state of his thought. It reveals a profoundly spiritual man completely at peace with God and his own conscience, something he wanted to share with all mankind. By Jim Bencivenga
9) PERSONAL HISTORY, by Katharine Graham, Knopf, $29.95
Katharine Graham writes conversationally and invites close attention for her humor and understatement. Her accounts of the Washington Post's printing of the Pentagon papers and investigations into Watergate, are required reading. Her often fumbling relationships with reporters and editors are instructive too. Aptly called a "personal history," the book tells how Graham saw things - and she saw much of the last half century's political history close up. By Richard J. Cattani
10) 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. The author 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
11) 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
12) THE MILLIONAIRE NEXT DOOR ..., by W. Danko & Thomas Stanley, Longstreet, $22
After two decades of analyzing wealth, professors Stanley and Danko provide extensive demographic profiles of Americans with assets of a million dollars 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
13) CONVERSATIONS WITH GOD, by Neale Donald Walsch, Putnam, $19.95
Written in a very 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
14) DR. SUSAN LOVE'S HORMONE BOOK..., by Susan M. Love, Random House, $25
This is the UCLA physician's latest guide for women to better understand their bodies. This book thoroughly examines the myriad questions surrounding menopause and demystifyies the body's changes in prose that is mostly clear and free of medical jargon. Dr. Love discusses alternatives to traditional medicine as well as lifestyle adjustments that can help, emphasizing that this is not a disease that requires a cure, but a natural phase in women's lives. By Nicole Gaouette
15) THE KISS, by Kathryn Harrison, Random House, $20
This is a questionable publishing venture. The author recounts, intimately, a four-year sexual relationship with her father when she was 20 to 24 years old. This tale of tortured psyches - a confused child, a coldly aloof mother, and a predatory father - attempts to come to terms with incest. But the explicit details and elliptical narrative exploit the reader's emotions and are voyeuristic. The reader becomes privy to what only a priest, rabbi, minister, or therapist should be. By Jim Bencivenga
By Christopher Andreae
William Lund Humphries Pub. 200 pp., $80
Imitation has long been the bugbear of Western painting.
Mary Newcomb, who lives in the Constable country of East Anglia, began drawing for her own pleasure at the age of 8 or 9. She was educated as a natural scientist, not an artist, and taught high school science for several years.
A contemporary English painter, she wrestles with the problems of imitation and tries to do more than merely copy nature. She attempts to merge factual observation with mental perception.
The result is a signature style that addresses seeing as both uncomplicated and perplexing. Newcomb has continually painted the "surprising differences between what her eyes see and what she thought she knew," writes Christopher Andreae, a staff writer and art critic for The Christian Science Monitor, in this impressively crafted catalogue of her work.
As her style matured, she seems to have fused artist, naturalist, and scientist. Although she works primarily in oils, her work bears semblances of both line drawing and watercolor.
She habitually depicts small moments, like a grasshopper alighting on a flower, a swan brooding on a nest, or goldfinches flitting in the sun. In a sense, Newcomb's disregard for accurate scale is not a distortion of truth.
Newcomb makes an appeal to another order of truth in her art. When we recall a particularly fine tangle of wild flowers, other details drop away, leaving us to dwell on color and light.