The Monitor's Guide To Bestsellers
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. (192 pp.) By Jim Bencivenga
2. THE DAY DIANA DIED, by Christopher Anderson, William Morrow, $27
Ever since the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, filled the airwaves, sensationalized media coverage and books recounting her life have flourished. Although this book is yet another among the many, Anderson has managed to play down the story's melodrama to some extent and provide a seemingly reputable and accurate account of one of the century's most famous women. For those still interested in the princess and her story, Anderson's rendition is a balanced choice. (320 pp.) By Kerry A. Flatley
3. SUGAR BUSTERS!, by Sarah Ban Breathnach, Morrison C. Bethea, Ballantine, $22
Three MDs and one CEO cooked up this latest opinion on the best way to trim your waistline. Complete with graphs and low-sugar recipes, this book focuses on insulin levels in the bloodstream. If you aren't afraid of food now, you will be after reading "Sugar Busters!" Keep your summer reading on a low-blab diet and avoid this book. (270 pp.)
By Kendra Nordin
4. THE 9 STEPS TO FINANCIAL FREEDOM, by Suze Orman, Crown, $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 the 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. (278 pp.) By Lynde McCormick
5. A PIRATE LOOKS AT FIFTY, by Jimmy Buffett, Random House, $24.95
Buffett's narrative about his life as he passes the half-century mark doesn't try to be a straight autobiography. It's a collection of vignettes. Buffett goes fishing. Buffett flies a plane. Middle-aged Buffett reflects on life. The book is filled with his musings on life and lessons learned. Fans will love the glimpse at the rocker's weirdly refreshing world. And even non-Buffett fans might be charmed by his honesty, refusal to be a spoiled celebrity, and appreciation for his family, fans, and good fortune. (224 pp.) By Kristina Lanier
6. 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. (258 pp.) By Leigh Montgomery
7. ANGELA'S ASHES, by Frank McCourt, Scribner, $23
This is a deeply moving story of the author's miserable Irish-Catholic childhood in Limerick, Ireland. Angela was McCourt's mother, who endures horrendous conditions - including illness and prostitution - to hold her family together. The story begins in Brooklyn during the Depression, but because of his father's alcoholism, the family is forced to return to Ireland. There, despite death all around him, McCourt discovers Shakespeare and sex. It's a book of splendid humanity. (364 pp.) By Devon McNamara
8. IN THE MEANTIME, by Iyanla Vanzant, Simon & Schuster, $23
Finding the right kind of romance is a bit like spring cleaning, says the author, who describes love as a three-story house. There's a 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 easy to read. Her advice seems like common sense. If nothing else, the house metaphor may inspire cleaning the closet. Literally. (288 pp.) By Kendra Nordin
9. MEN ARE FROM MARS, WOMEN ARE FROM VENUS, by John Gray, HarperCollins, $20 Written more for women, this easy-to-read guide helps men and women better understand how the other sex communicates. Although redundant and sometimes sterotypical, 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. (304 pp.) By Shelley Donald Coolidge
10. A WALK IN THE WOODS, by Bill Bryson, Doubleday, $25
Be prepared for a verbal romp over hill and dale, swamp and forest, on the 2,100-mile Appalachian Trail. Bill Bryson has the wryest sense of humor of any current American writer. His self-mocking rendition of how he spent a small fortune buying the "necessary" high-tech camping gear for his expedition is hilarious. The hype about potential diseases, snakebites, and catastrophes encountered on the multi-month hike makes the point that only the well-conditioned or foolhardy tackle this trail. (276 pp.) By Jim Bencivenga
11. A MONK SWIMMING, by Malachy McCourt, Harcourt Brace, $23.95
If I hadn't loved "Angela's Ashes" by Frank, Malachy's older brother, I wouldn't have read past the first few pages of this version of the McCourt children, abandoned by a drunken father and betrayed by a mother who slept with a hated cousin to make ends meet. This is an angry, bitter book by an author who swears and drinks throughout. "Angela's Ashes" created tremendous interest in this Irish immigrant family from Limerick, but there's no need to read Malachy's vulgar version. (290 pp.) By Jim Bencivenga
12. CITIZEN SOLDIERS, by Stephen E. Ambrose, Simon & Schuster, $27.50
Following up on his triumph with Lewis and Clark ("Undaunted Courage"), Stephen Ambrose has written another superb book that weaves history into compelling human drama. The front-line soldier, often still in his teens, tells the story. His heroism and the brutality of his fox-hole-bound existence are unstintingly portrayed. So are the failings - sometimes shocking - of his superior officers. This book is an eye-opener, showing both the heights of character forged by war and war's depths. (512 pp.) By Keith Henderson
13. 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. (240 pp.) By Abraham McLaughlin
14. THE GIFT OF THE JEWS, by Thomas Cahill, Doubleday, $23.50
In this second book of his "Hinges of History" series, Thomas Cahill theorizes 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 found in the Old Testament story of the Jews. 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. (291 pp.) By Tom Regan
15. EAT 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." (392 pp.) By Kirsten Conover
AN AFFAIR WITH AFRICA: EXPEDITIONS AND ADVENTURES ACROSS A CONTINENT
By Alzada Carlisle Kistner
244 pp., $24.95
In Alzada Carlisle Kistner's engaging story of African safaris, the wild game is astonishingly Lilliputian. For over a decade, from 1960 to 1973, this intrepid woman joined her husband in relentlessly seeking out ants and termites. No initial interest in bugs is requisite to be captivated by this memoir of a remarkable wife who survived myriad adventures. Although more than 30 years have passed since her initial excursion, volatile Africa emerging from colonialism comes vividly to life for today's readers.
Kistner was seven months pregnant on the first of these five bug-collecting forays, following her coleopterist spouse into the heart of political eruptions in the Belgian Congo in 1960.
Totally focused on collecting bugs, when confronted by soldiers the author scarcely reacts to her husband's casual statement, "Honey, I think they are going to shoot you."
Their two young daughters add a new dimension to the daily dangers, enthusiastically joining the beetle search, exuberantly sliding down mud banks into crocodile and hippo pools, or tackling sand dunes on makeshift sleds.
Close encounters with snakes, rhinos, elephants, and buffalo are interspersed with formal teas and dinner parties in colonial research stations established for English gentry.
What remains vivid after reading this startling memoir is the picture of the family, remarkably oblivious to the hazards around them, crouching together over endlessly marching ants and termites.