The Monitor's Guide to Bestsellers: Hardcover Nonfiction

Hardcover Nonfiction

1. 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 uplifting book from being maudlin is Albom's crisp writing - and the generous heart of Schwartz. By Jim Bencivenga

2. 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

3. SIMPLE ABUNDANCE, by Sarah Ban Breathnach, Warner, $18.95

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

4. THE 9 STEPS TO FINANCIAL FREEDOM, by Suze Orman, Crown Publishing, $23

This book earns high marks and stands apart from others in the genre, because it pays attention to the way people regard money, not just how they use it. Its goal is to remove both the fear and love of money. And the first three of the nine steps address those attitudes. The goal isn't to get rich; it's to get rational. And once you've stopped letting your money manage you, you can take the rest of the six steps. A basic, easy to understand approach to investing and planning. By Lynde McCormick

5. IN THE MEANTIME, by Iyanla Vanzant, Simon & Schuster, $23

Finding the right kind of romance is a bit like spring cleaning says author Vanzant who describes love as a three-story house. There is progression from the basement where we "store" our parents' values, to the first floor where we confront our fears, all the way to the attic, where we learn how to accept ourselves unconditionally. Insightful at times, she is repetitive but conversational and easy to read. Her advice seems like common sense. If nothing else, the house metaphor may inspire cleaning the closet. Literally. By Kendra Nordin

6. THE GIFT OF THE JEWS, by Thomas Cahill, Doubleday, $23.50

In this second book of his "Hinges of History" series, Thomas Cahill offers the theory that the seeds of almost all the ideas we hold near and dear, and even sometimes fear (freedom, individuality, justice, compassion, capitalism, and communism) can be discovered in the story of the Jews that unfolds in the Old Testament. It is this story, unlike that of any other people on the face of the earth, that set Western civilization on its unique path. Engaging, insightful, and by a bold writer who knows how to keep his audience interested. By Tom Regan

7. ANGELA'S ASHES: A MEMOIR, by Frank McCourt, Scribner, $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

8. TALKING TO HEAVEN: A MEDIUM'S MESSAGE...., by James Van Praagh, Dutton/Signet, $22.95

In "Talking to Heaven: A Medium's Message of Life After Death," James Van Praagh defines many aspects of psychic phenomena and gives examples from his own experience. He rejects organized religion and offers a conveniently eclectic mix of spiritualism, pop psychology, and Christianity, as well as New Age, Eastern, and Gnostic thought. The author discusses at length contacting departed loved ones by developing one's psychic abilities. By Debra Jones

9. CONVERSATIONS WITH GOD, BOOK I, by Neale Donald Walsch, Putnam, $19.95

Written in a 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. 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

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

12. SPIN CYCLE, by Howard Kurtz, Simon & Schuster, $25

Throw cagey White House administrators, keen-nosed reporters, and sensitive news items into the wash and you've got "Spin Cycle." Reporter Howard Kurtz offers a readable look at how the White House packages news and the tactics it uses to manage the media. You'll never watch briefings from the White House press room quite the same way again. Even so, one wonders how Kurtz obtained some of the "quotes" he attributes to top officials. And carefully crafted statements give "Spin Cycle" its own decided "spin." By Kristina Lanier

13. 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 autobiography reveals the love, patience, and endurance of one man able to coax horses to voluntarily step out of their wild natures into a working relationship with people. Roberts's troubled childhood mirrored the cruel techniques of his father's approach to horse-breaking. By Jim Bencivenga

14. APHRODITE, by Isabel Allende, HarperCollins, $26

"Aphrodite" is overtly erotic, albeit mostly in describing marriages and loving, monogamous, but serial, relationships. It is written for those of mature years who think personal fulfillment can be found by revitalizing one's sexual life. It is also a work of publishing art. Heavy, high-quality paper and lush illustrations accompany writing that is engaging and intense. The book is full of culinary insights. Recipes and glossaries present the world of aphrodisiac food and its place in the realm of intimacy. By Terri Theiss

15. AT RIGHT 4 YOUR TYPE, by Peter J. D'Adamo with Catherine Whitney, Putnam, $22.95

In the ever-changing world of designer diets, this book takes the tack that your internal chemistry - based on blood type - determines the way you should eat and exercise. Is stress better relieved through aerobics or meditation? Are some grains more desirable than others? Depends on your blood type. Complete with recipes. The meal plan lists and charts are easy to navigate. But some readers may be uncomfortable with the idea of thinking of certain foods as "medicines" and others as "poisons." By Kirsten Conover

Monitor's Pick


By S. George Philander

Princeton Univ. Press

262 pp., $29.95

They sound like questions from a curious child. Why is the sky blue? What makes the winds blow? Why is summer hotter than winter? Where do clouds come from? Yet understanding the answers to such deceptively simple questions is essential to dealing intelligently with the biggest yet-to-be-answered atmospheric question of all: Is human activity causing undesirable climate change?

George S. Philander guides us through this learning experience with grace, wit, and clarity. Like it or not, humans have become a critical part of the climate machinery.

Humans have taken the climate-weather machine for granted. It's big nature. We've considered ourselves, in comparison, to be bit players whose actions are insignificant on a planetary scale. But by changing the chemical composition of the atmosphere, we're changing the settings of the geophysical machinery.

We have yet to appreciate how significantly human activity is changing atmospheric chemistry in other ways.

Dr. Philander tries to help us gain that appreciation in "Is the Temperature Rising? The Uncertain Science of Global Warming" and he succeeds. He lays out the basic facts, explains the science, and outlines the unknowns and uncertainties. He gives enough detail for readers to grasp the subject but avoids nerdish technicalities.

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