The Monitor's Guide to Bestsellers - Hardcover Nonfiction

1. DIANA: HER TRUE STORY (COMMEMORATIVE EDITION), by A. Morton, Simon & Schuster, $22.95

Andrew Morton's update of his 1992 biography will keep readers up all night taking in its details. The revised edition includes new chapters and transcripts from clandestine interviews with the princess, who went public with her collaboration in 1995. Di's rise from awkward teen to the people's princess is well presented. But Morton should have shown more restraint with some material added since her death. Lines like, "Then the heavens cracked open - and claimed her," will leave even the loyal rolling their eyes. By Kim Campbell

2. THE ROYALS, by Kitty Kelley, Warner, $27

"The Royals," Kitty Kelley's latest expedition into the private lives of public figures, picks up the history of Britain's royal family around WW I. Kelley tells a tabloid-tale of the House of Windsor's excesses, dysfunctions, vices, and idiosyncrasies, from the queen mother's suspected illegitimacy to Prince Philip's playboy antics. Kelley claims the biography of the royals' life is based on extensive research, but her definition of research incorporates countless unidentified sources and unsubstantiated quotations. By Kristi Lanier

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

4.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

5. 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

6. 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 people's houses to "The Lady Chablis" - a drag queen who crashes debutante balls. By Abraham T. McLaughlin

7. DON'T WORRY, MAKE MONEY, by Richard Carlson, Hyperion, $15.95

Carlson, a stress consultant, has written a dozen books, most of which focus on self-realization and personality. In his latest, he offers 100 short essays on how to create wealth and abundance in daily life. But don't expect any hot financial tips. His advice is purely psychological and filled with platitudes. His oversimplified theme: By changing your approach to life you can choose a happier and richer one. By Shelley Donald Coolidge

8. 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

9. 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

10. 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

11. 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

12. 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

13. CELESTINE VISION, by James Redfield, Warner Books, $20

Redfield distills mysticism, theosophy, and the medical works of Larry Dossey, Carl Jung, and others into the spiritual equivalent of mashed potatoes: easy to swallow, comforting, but lacking real meat. While his work may help beginning searchers for religion, those with deep convictions won't find much sustenance here. Also, some may find the absence of the Bible troubling in a book that purports to be a history of spirituality. By Yvonne Zipp

14. TUESDAYS WITH MORRIE, by Mitch Albom, Doubleday, $19.95

A beloved college professor who is dying agrees to meet each Tuesday with a former student and discuss life and death. The 14 "classes" are recorded by Mitch Albom, a well-known sportswriter, with his former teacher, Morrie Schwartz. Religion, family, friends, and work are carefully considered. Schwartz (now deceased) was interviewed at home by Ted Koppel and appeared on "Nightline." What keeps this simple but uplifting book from being maudlin is Albom's crisp writing - and the generous heart of Schwartz. By Jim Bencivenga

15. DIRTY JOKES AND BEER, by Drew Carey, Hyperion, $22.95

"Dirty Jokes and Beer" is harder on the eyes than Drew Carey's crew cut. With few exceptions, Carey starts each chapter with a crass joke and moves on to discuss everything from his troubled childhood and being booted out of college twice, to his checkered private life and his love for greasy food. It's heavy with profanity and sexual innuendo, and readers walk away (gladly) wondering how the comedian cleans up his act for his prime-time sitcom, "The Drew Carey Show." By John Christian Hoyle

Monitor's Pick


By J. Anthony Lukas

Simon & Schuster

832 pp., $32.50

Pay attention to the subtitle of "Big Trouble: A Murder in a Small Western Town Sets Off a Struggle for the Soul of America." It hints at the scope undertaken by J. Anthony Lukas.

The biggest theme in "Big Trouble" is the turn-of-century collision between capitalist power - represented by almost everyone on the prosecutorial side, including the mine owners who paid many of the lawyers' and detectives' bills - and the egalitarian, often socialist, forces that challenged that power. Questions of income disparity and class, too, still reverberate in American national life. Back then, they positively thundered.

This is a volume that moves from a specific locale and event to the contemplation of larger issues. It starts one snowy December evening in 1905. Frank Steunenberg, former governor of the state, banker, timber speculator, and the very image of Western respectability, self-assurance, and success, returns home. A bomb hidden under the garden gate is triggered, and Lukas's vast cyclorama of people, plots, subplots, and sub-subplots is set in motion. Suspicion immediately falls on the labor-union leaders that Steunenberg had antagonized when, as governor, he used troops and martial law to put down a miners' strike in the Coeur dAlene region of Idaho.

Through meticulous research and stylistic grace Lukas made it all work. Whenever he touches on a character, say Theodore Roosevelt, readers get much more than his connection to Idaho's tale of crime and punishment. A fleshed-out portrait emerges.

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