The Monitor's Guide to Bestsellers: Hardcover Nonfiction

1. INTO THIN AIR, by Jon Krakauer, Villard, $24.95

Krakauer writes compellingly that he wanted his personal account of a guided tour up Mt. Everest to have a raw, ruthless sort of honesty, and it does. On May 10, 1996, nine of his fellow climbers, including three guides, were killed in a storm that swept the mountain. Krakauer hoped "...that writing the book might purge Everest from my life. It hasn't, of course." Readers of this book will never think of the world's highest peak in quite the same way again. By Suzanne MacLachlan

2. WITHOUT A DOUBT, by Marcia Clark with Teresa Carpenter, Viking, $25.95

Lead prosecutor Marcia Clark has only searing (and profane) criticism for most involved in the O.J. Simpson criminal trial. She presents Judge Lance Ito as sexist, starstruck, and spineless. She describes detectives as ever-deferential to the football hero. And she has little more than contempt for jurors. Though biting and rarely self-critical, she provides good insight on how the celebrity culture affected the case. By Abraham T. McLaughlin

3. 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


Where do you find the world's biggest spider? In the World Wide Web. What's a cow's favorite TV show? Steer Trek. What do you call 100 rabbits jumping backward? A receding hare line. When talk-show host Rosie O'Donnell dispensed with adult jokes in her opening monologue, she replaced them with these "kid jokes" sent in by the throngs of children who watch her program. Proceeds for this slim collection, which is cute and sometimes witty, go to charity. By Kim Campbell

5. UNDERBOSS, by Peter Maas, HarperCollins, $25

This is Sammy "the Bull" Gravano's story of life in the mafia as told to Peter Maas. Much of the book is Gravano talking (and swearing). It demystifies any "Godfather" aura. Gravano who calls himself, "nuttin butta gangsta," rose to second in command of a New York crime family. He murdered 19 men along the way. Facing prison, he turned state's evidence helping convict dozens of mafiosi. Brooklyn accents should be heard not read - listen to the audio tape. By Jim Bencivenga

6. 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 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

7. JUST AS I AM, by Billy Graham, HarperCollins, $28.50

For almost 80 years Rev. Graham has been converting people and this book is certain to reap more. Graham is as objective as one can be in recording his own life. He admits to his own mistakes and failings with an obvious honesty. And he takes responsibility for his actions. Don't be daunted by the 730-page length. If a man can successfully preach for more than 50 years, he knows how to keep an audience. The book is an engaging account of his life. By Janet Moller

8. THE DILBERT FUTURE, by Scott Adams, HarperBusiness, $25

The future according to Dilbert (underemployed engineer of comic-strip fame) and cartoonist Scott Adams (survivor of corporate incompetence and cubicle politics) applies "The Dilbert Principle" (previous book) to predict the course of humanity in the 21st century. People stay the same but technology will improve. New and exciting computers will enable workers to get paid for goofing off. These developments should improve corporate morale! By Joanna Angelides

9. 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 Oprah Winfrey show spotlighted this book. By Jim Bencivenga

10. INTO THE STORM, by Tom Clancy and Frederick M. Franks, Putnam, $27.50

This book is the first of four in a series by Clancy on the operational art of war as seen through the eyes of actual battle commanders. Written with Franks (now retired), the first active-duty amputee general in the US Army since the Civil War, it presents exhaustive details about tank and infantry fighting in the Gulf war. A central theme is the role played by officers in reviving morale in the US Army since Vietnam - the rebirth of an essential quality - "heart." By Jim Bencivenga

11. CONVERSATIONS WITH GOD, BOOK I, 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

12. . CONVERSATIONS WITH GOD, BOOK II, by Neale Donald Walsch, Hampton Roads, $19.95

In 1993, Oregon pastor Neale Donald Walsch began the second of three "dialogues with God." In this sequel to his previous bestseller, he emphasizes the freedom found in overcoming fear and discusses the nature of mankind (perfect), time (eternal, not linear), and hell (doesn't exist). Some may find the statement that Hitler didn't do anything wrong because there's no such thing as right and wrong tough to take. By Yvonne Zipp

13. LOCKED IN THE CABINET, by Robert B. Reich, Knopf, $25

Reich was the Clinton administration's most eloquent speaker. The former labor secretary's "diary" likely will be the best-written and most-entertaining of many inside-the-Beltway books about Clinton's two turns in office. Reich is a genuine, progressive liberal, an idealist, and rather out of place in the hard-nosed politics of Washington. As Clinton moved right, Reich stayed left. His book deals with real national issues, as well as personal insights and gossip. By David R. Francis

14. 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 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 T. McLaughlin

15. SUCCESS IS A CHOICE, by Rick Pitino and Bill Reynolds, Broadway Books, $25

This self-improvement book by the much-winning basketball coach from the University of Kentucky contains a 10-step plan for personal achievement and leadership learning. Most interesting are its principles for success both individually and as a team builder and leader. The philosophy, however, focuses almost entirely on professional achievement thus leaving little time for anything else. This, along with its 'in praise of Pitino' emphasis might limit it for some. By Terri Theiss

Monitor's Pick


By John Strege Broadway Books 238 pp., $25

This engaging biography, written by a sportswriter who has followed Tiger Woods's progress since he was 14, is a family story of how an unusual talent evident before age 1 was nurtured along with a young man's character.

Tiger's rapid rise in the golf world is due not to parental pressures, but to a youngster's joy in a game, his unwavering enthusiasm for the constant practice needed to make perfect, supportive parents who had at times to rein him in, good coaching, and, of course, a natural gift.

"Tiger" covers the period from his birth to just before his spectacular Masters victory in April. After "flabbergasting" his father by hitting a shot into a makeshift garage net at nine months, he won a 10 & under competition at age 2. At age 10 he set his goals based on a list of Jack Nicklaus's accomplishments.

We learn how Tiger faced the "real world" his first day at kindergarten, when older white boys tied him to a tree, taunted him, and pelted him with rocks; dealt with nasty treatment by "letting his clubs speak for him"; thrived on academics and school life; and learned the discipline to control his game and his life.

Strege points out mistakes Tiger has learned from along the way, how he deals with the sponsorship side of superstardom, and what it means to him to "give back love" in the form of the children's clinics he has been supporting for years and has now built into his Tiger Woods Foundation.

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