1. 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
2. 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. Mitch Albom, a well-known sportswriter, recorded 14 "classes" 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 Schwartz's generous heart. (192 pp.) By Jim Bencivenga
3. THE TEN COMMANDMENTS, by Laura Schlessinger, HarperCollins, $24
This is the impassioned and persuasive response of radio talk-show host Laura Schlessinger to those who feel the Ten Commandments are obsolete. Exploring in depth the principle behind each and its relation to the intimate choices of daily life, she seeks to show how obeying God's laws lifts lives to new levels of joy and meaning. Converted to Judaism as an adult, she says being "chosen" means not favoritism but having an assignment to live by those laws so others come to know and love God. (320 pp.) By Jane Lampman
4. IF LIFE IS A GAME, THESE ARE THE RULES, by Cheri Carter-Scott, Broadway Books, $15 The self-help cash cow just keeps stampeding along. Cheri Carter-Scott's life rules were first published anonymously in "Chicken Soup for the Soul," but they met with such wide approval that she claimed authorship and elaborates on them here. Her how-to-be advice is gracefully delivered, and it's never bad to be reminded to slow down and act with integrity, humility, and good humor. But the book lacks substance. It's primarily a peaceful float on a cloud of pretty words. (139 pp.) By Kristina Lanier.
5. 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 reading on a low-blab diet and avoid this book. (270 pp.)
By Kendra Nordin
6. THE DEATH OF OUTRAGE, by William J. Bennett, The Free Press, $20
Although written before the president's Aug. 17 grand- jury testimony and his speech to the nation that evening, William Bennett's argument still finds its mark. President Clinton's admission of deceiving the public and those around him regarding Monica Lewinsky corroborates much that Bennett sets forth here. He occasionally scatters his fire at old liberal foes, but his skill at crafting an argument about moral issues that should concern every American makes this a compelling essay. Reviewed 9/3/98. (154 pp.) By Keith Henderson
7. 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
8. JUST JACKIE, by Edward Klein, Ballantine, $25.95
The author of "All Too Human: the Love Story of Jack and Jackie Kennedy" delivers an interesting backdoor perspective on Jackie's struggle after Camelot. Allegedly a longtime friend, Edward Klein has amassed personal and sometimes salacious tidbits of information that chronicle her life after JFK. Presented in quick, easy-to-read chapters, the book describes sexual situations and alcohol abuse. (399 pp.) By Heather Holmes
9. HIS BRIGHT LIGHT, by Danielle Steel, Delacorte Press, $25
There's nothing bright or light in this tragic memoir of Steel's manic-depressive son. She chronicles Nick's life from birth to his suicide at the age of 19. It's packed with emotionally charged drama, and the descriptions of the efforts to help him take on an almost superhuman tone. It's an understandably raw subject for Steel, but the narration crumbles into a long-winded eulogy to her much-loved but deeply troubled son. (320 pp.)
By Kristina Lanier
10. LINDBERGH, by A. Scott Berg, Putnam, $30
Charles Lindbergh's 1927 flight to Paris made him a hero, the kidnapping of his young son generated universal sympathy, and his views on Nazi Germany led to widespread scorn and derision. Biographer Scott Berg was given complete access to the Lindbergh family records and has written a magisterial biography. While admiring and sympathetic, Berg also sees Lindy's shortcomings. An extraordinary book about an American icon. (642 pp.)
By Terry Hartle
11. PURE DRIVEL, by Steve Martin, Little, Brown & Co., $21
In his second collection of short pieces, many from The New Yorker, Steve Martin provides a bevy of outlandish characters coupled with philosophical and often hilarious insights. Who else can write so winningly about the shortage of punctuation or a dog's need to bark at the Federal Express man? As he moves with grace from sketch to sketch, Martin's ability to combine humor, wit, and intellectualism makes "Pure Drivel" time well spent with a great comic writer. (128 pp.) By Stuart Sage Cox Jr.
12. MARS AND VENUS STARTING OVER, by John Gray, HarperCollins, $25
The man from Mars/Venus is at it once more. John Gray reminds us, again, that men and women are different. The sexes approach grief and recover from its effects differently. Gray records various coping methods in dealing with grief, from creating long lists of emotions, to writing letters of forgiveness. More than once he mentions that time heals all. (334 pp.) By Janet Moller
13. THE JOY OF WORK, by Scott Adams, HarperCollins, $22
If you work in a "cubicle farm" and have an incompetent boss, Scott Adams feels your pain. In his latest book of cartoons and sketchy advice, the creator of Dilbert and his sidekick Dogbert shares the secrets of finding happiness at work. Chapters ranging from "Managing Your Boss" to "Office Pranks" may offend folks sensitive to sarcasm. But those suffering from menial tasks at work will find something to laugh about. Includes e-mail from fans. (264 pp.) By Kendra Nordin
14. THE PROFESSOR AND THE MADMAN, by Simon Winchester, HarperCollins, $22
Discover the origins of words such as "serendipity" and "bedlam" as you follow the history of an American lunatic murderer who, from his asylum cell, was a major contributor to the Oxford English Dictionary in the late 19th century. This well-researched retelling drags at some points and includes a scene of shocking self-mutilation, but it thoughtfully explores the self-destructiveness of lust and the redemptive effects of hard work and intellectual pursuits. (242 pp.) By Abraham McLaughlin
15. WORKING WITH EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE, by Daniel Goleman, Bantam Books, $25.95 With this update, Daniel Goleman takes the findings of his 1995 bestseller, "Emotional Intelligence," into the workplace. This is a complex study of the value of self-awareness, self-motivation, drive, and passion. It's all good news to the employee looking for advancement, but it's a wake-up call to organizations and corporations that put too much weight on class rankings and GPAs when hiring new graduates. Unfortunately, the book's simple, clear message is overwhelmed by needless elaboration and complexity. (383 pp.) By Anne Toevs
BECH AT BAY
By John Updike
256 pp., $23
'Tis the season for alter egos. Both Philip Roth and John Updike have published novels this month about their thinly disguised fictional selves. "Bech at Bay," Updike's third Bech book, contains five crisp short stories about the anxieties and desires of Henry Bech, the "moderately well-known Jewish American writer." Updike is as smart and witty here as ever.
In the first story, Bech travels to Communist Czechoslovakia to escape his collapsed personal life and deliver a lecture on "American Optimism." Showered with extravagant praise from Czech writers who have suffered torture and imprisonment, he's overwhelmed by the superficiality of his own work and the tenuousness of his freedom.
The other stories take a decidedly more comic direction. In "Bech Presides," Updike delivers a needling satire of his own generation of elder writers presiding over an overfunded, outdated honorary society that no one else wants to join. In "Bech Noir," Updike plays out the author's dark fantasy of striking back at book reviewers in a series of increasingly outlandish murders. "After 50 years of trying to rise above criticism, he liberated himself to take it personally." (You're just kidding, right, Mr. Updike? By the way, I love all your books.)
Fans will find what they've come to expect from this author, a remarkable ability to satirize and sympathize with ruthless clarity. No other author can have so much fun pampering and skewering himself. It's delightful to see Bech back, again.
- Ron Charles