The Monitors Guide to Bestsellers

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.THE MAN WHO LISTENS TO HORSES, by Monty Roberts, Random House, $23

Roberts talks the language of horses and they listen. Equus is the name he gives this silent language, developed over a lifetime of tireless reading of the body movements of "flight" animals such as the horse, mule, and even deer. This very detailed autobiography reveals the love, patience, and endurance of one man who has been able to coax horses to voluntarily step out of their wild natures into a working relationship with people. Roberts lays out how his own life mirrors the cruelty and drama of horse breakers. By Jim Bencivenga

3. THE PERFECT STORM, by Sebastian Junger, W.W. Norton, $22.95

"The Perfect Storm" serves as both title and metaphor recounting the once-in-a-century phenomenon in which major weather systems converge into one awesome storm. A meditation on and an adrenaline-pumping account of weather gone awry, the book integrates meteorological observations into accounts of the lives and deaths of the six-man crew of the Andrea Gail. What ultimately makes this unique and admirable is its overriding humanity. By Judith Bolton-Fasman

4. 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

5. 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

6. 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 one hits an original insight. "The Oprah Winfrey Show" spotlighted this book. By Jim Bencivenga

7. 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

8. 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 conman who invites the town to raucous parties in other people's houses to "The Lady Chablis" - a drag queen who crashes debutante balls. By Abraham T. McLaughlin

9. THE BIBLE CODE, by Michael Drosnin, Simon & Schuster, $25

"The Bible Code" has international intrigue, quasi-supernatural mystery, even a touch of celebrity name-dropping. But none of this eases the strain on the reader's credulity. Michael Drosnin's premise, that scores of prophetic messages are encoded in the Hebrew text of the Old Testament, is supported by flawed assumptions and unexplained methodologies. "The Bible Code" sadly ignores the inspiration of the Scriptures in favor of millennarian gobbledygook. By Judy Huenneke

10. BRAIN DROPPINGS, by George Carlin, Hyperion, $19.95

George Carlin may be Howard Stern's brother, at least for the glee they share over insufferably puerile humor. Carlin, in a low class by himself, is occasionally funny in this joke book. But behind the laughs lurks a scatological pessimist. And for a man who says he "believes in nothing," wait a minute; this "book" costs $19.95. And the title is much too kind. By David Holmstrom

11. BABYHOOD, by Paul Reiser, Morrow, $22

Paul Reiser's second foray into the literary world is not as funny as his first, the hilariously accurate "Couplehood." His latest book - a dad's eye view of having and caring for a baby - is contrived and lacks the laugh-out-loud quality of his previous effort. Some nuggets of humor are here (Reiser is a father both on TV's "Mad About You" and in real life), but they get lost among drawn-out anecdotes and discussions of body parts and bodily functions.

By Kim Campbell

12. MEN ARE FROM MARS, WOMEN ARE FROM VENUS, by John Gray, HarperCollins, $23

Written more for women, 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


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, go to a museum, buy flowers, forgive others. Now what after eight weeks? The critical question is left unanswered in the last chapter 13: "Week Nine and Beyond." A sequel coming? By Suman Bandrapalli

14. THE GIFT OF FEAR, by Gavin de Becker, Little, Brown & Co., $22.95

De Becker sends a powerful message: Violence is usually not unpredictable and people should be better informed about how to keep from becoming its victims. He backs it up by his own expertise in analyzing violence and evaluating threats to both the famous and the ordinary. Detailed anecdotes inform his hearty defense of intuition as an essential tool. The book places value on "real fear" as a survival instinct. It emphasizes freedom from unnecessary anxiety. By Stacy Teicher

15. MIRACLE CURES, by Jean Carper, HarperCollins, $25

Jean Carper's guide to the alternative medicines of today describes the growing search for safer, less medically invasive forms of healing. Most of the book is a description of natural remedies (such as ginger, gingko, and bee pollen) and the ailments they are used for. While never including any form of spiritual healing, Carper's book also looks ahead at medical healing in the future. By Noel Christian Paul

Monitor's Pick


By David Rohde

Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 440 pp., $24

"Endgame," by David Rohde, offers a calm, straightforward report on the conflict in Bosnia. It is small in scale but broad in vision and conclusions. It offers telling details mixed with broad perspectives.

The book recounts the day-by-day experiences of specific individuals who lived through the fateful days of July 1995 when 7,000 Muslim men from the Bosnian town of Srebrenecia - the Srebrenica enclave, with its 60,000 Muslim inhabitants, was thinly defended - were slaughtered by Serb forces.

Rohde juxtaposes what happened to them with the actions and policies of officials - Serb, Muslim, UN, or NATO - who might have prevented the massacres. The book is a sharp, compelling mix of narrative and analysis.

Rohde saw it at close range as a reporter for the Monitor. He faced extreme risks from Serb forces and was jailed for 10 days after becoming the first Western reporter to find evidence of mass graves. He won the 1996 Pulitzer Prize for international reporting.

His eyewitness narrative of events is balanced by a sophisticated assessment of the underlying factors. The result is masterly: a chilling account of how good - but conflicted and weakly held - Western intentions were swept away by the racist imperatives of the Serb leaders.

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