The Monitor Guide to The Bestsellers

The Monitor's Guide to Bestsellers


1. FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS by James Bradley with Ron Powers, Bantam Books, $24.95 (Last week 1, Weeks on list 9)

No battle of World War II was more brutally intense than the capture of Iwo Jima, and this book brilliantly capsulizes the inch-by-inch combat. At its heart is the iconic photo of the flag-raising on that island. It traces the lives of the six men in the picture (one of whom was Bradley's father), their courage, their failings, and, in a way, their commonness. They weren't conscious heroes, just men doing an often ghastly, but necessary, job. It gives us sober second thoughts about war and its supposed glory. (384 pp.) By Keith Henderson

2. ME TALK PRETTY ONE DAY by David Sedaris, Little, Brown & Co., $22.95 (Last week 3, Weeks on list 6)

From temping as a Macy's Christmas elf to enduring the humiliation of French class in Paris, Mr. Sedaris's peculiar genius lies in his ability to transform the mortification of everyday life into wildly entertaining art. His third book is another compilation of hysterical essays, many originally broadcast on National Public Radio or published in Esquire. The first half of his new book is devoted to stories about childhood, and the second half to tales of his new life in France. (272 pp.) (See interview June 8) By Daphne Eviatar

3. IN A SUNBURNED COUNTRY by Bill Bryson, Broadway, $25 (Last week 4, Weeks on list 3)

Only in Australia would you find a numb ray that can light you up with 220 volts of electricity or a jellyfish called a snottie. And only Bryson could make them sound so fun. Bryson's most recent travel yarn took him to the baking corners of Australia. Local oddities fill these pages - a museum with 12-foot-long earth worms and lethal seashells. His observations of the mundane and bizarre are so hilarious that it would be difficult to put the book down, even if you were being attacked by a wombat. (304 pp.) By Lane Hartill

4. TUESDAYS WITH MORRIE by Mitch Albom, Doubleday, $19.95 (Last week 6, Weeks on list 31)

A beloved college professor who is dying agrees to meet each Tuesday with a former student and discuss life and death. 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

5. WHO MOVED MY CHEESE? by Spencer Johnson, Putnam, $19.95 (Last week 10, Weeks on list 25)

Using a children's book style, Johnson tells the story of two mice, two mini-men, and their never-ending search for cheese. The cheese represents the things people want out of life, and the characters portray all the patterns we fall into as we search for our cheese. The format makes the book's keep-life-moving-by-overcoming-fear philosophy easy to remember. This quick read of simple ideas will provide at least one character to relate to and some advice to hold on to during a busy day. (94 pp.) By Christy Ellington

6. TEN THINGS I WISH I'D KNOWN by Maria Shriver, Warner, $19.95 (Last week 7, Weeks on list 11)

Shriver has squeezed the wisdom out of life and typed it up in a book small enough to fit in your purse. Expanding on a graduation speech she delivered, Shriver shares lessons learned from the hard knocks of climbing the broadcasting ladder, balancing a celebrity marriage, and raising a family. Her chatty book offers some practical advice. It's a curious walk through the life of someone who found her calling by watching reporters in action on daddy's campaign plane. (125 pp.) By Kendra Nordin

7. FROM DAWN TO DECADENCE by Jacques Barzun, HarperCollins, $26 (Last week 8, Weeks on list 6)

What do Martin Luther, William Shakespeare, Johannes Kepler, Pablo Picasso, and a host of curiously forgotten others have in common? Drawing on almost three-quarters of a century of historical scholarship, teaching, and writing, Barzun tells us. They have shaped what's commonly called (and echoed by Barzun as) the Modern Era. Written with compassion, respect, dignity, and wit, Barzun's latest is probably the best single-volume account of the evolution of modern Western culture to date. (877 pp.) By Alan Messmer

8. IN THE HEART OF THE SEA by Nathaniel Philbrick, Viking, $24.95 (Last week 5, Weeks on list 7)

Philbrick recounts the tragedy of the whaleship Essex, which sunk after being rammed by a sperm whale west of South America. Melville modeled the end of "Moby Dick" on the 1820 incident. Philbrick uses the recently discovered journal of the ship's cabin boy to create a vivid narrative of the entire voyage, including the survivors' concessions to cannibalism. He skillfully includes fascinating historical information without slowing the narrative's pace or neglecting the personal stories of the ship's crew. (238 pp.) By Noel Paul

9. THE GREATEST GENERATION by Tom Brokaw, Random House, $24.95 (Last week 2, Weeks on list 25)

Brokaw has effectively captured a cross section of World War II veterans and their contemporaries. They revisit their pasts to tell stories of struggle, perseverance, and heroism. He was inspired by veterans he met while preparing an NBC documentary on the 40th anniversary of D-Day in 1984. Fifteen years and hundreds of interviews later, Brokaw chronicles the era through the eyes of everyday men and women, as well as distinguished individuals such as George Bush, Julia Child, and Bob Dole. (352 pp.) By Stephanie Cook

10. PAPAL SIN by Gary Wills, Doubleday, $25 (Last week 11, Weeks on list 2)

In the past, popes were routinely outed for their sins by Last Judgment painters depicting them in hellfire. This, argues Wills, was healthy. In contrast, the modern church's insistence on its own infallibility has forced it to defend bad positions on issues ranging from contraception to the celibacy of the priesthood. Although Wills can come down a bit hard at times, his argument overall is intriguing, and the book's many tidbits of history make for a fascinating read. (304 pp.) By Liz Marlantes

11. KITCHEN CONFIDENTIAL by Anthony Bourdain, Bloomsbury, $24.95 (Last week -, Weeks on list 1)

What "The Perfect Storm" does for fishing, "Kitchen Confidential" does for restaurant work. Forget the fancy cooking-school degree, says the 25-year veteran chef in his frank memoir. What counts most is that you are on time, rarely absent, and can endure 12-hour days, tedious work, and harsh criticism. Such advice for aspiring chefs is worthwhile, but Bourdain's sardonic, off-color ramblings about his own fast-lane career may strike readers as self-indulgent. (320 pp.) By Jennifer Wolcott

12. BODY FOR LIFE by Bill Phillips, HarperCollins, $25 (Last week -, Weeks on list 13)

Phillips, founder and editor in chief of Muscle Media magazine, furthers the spread of his dietary expertise in this new book. Phillips's 12-week program treats physical wellness as one of many aspects of life. His theory is that the attainment of physical goals will help one achieve other life goals. Arranged with a variety of success stories, charts, and examples, this plan provides an easy-to-follow program, with tasty recipes and a simple exercise program. (203 pp.) By Christy Ellington

13. IT'S NOT ABOUT THE BIKE - MY JOURNEY BACK TO LIFE by Lance Armstrong, Putnam, $24.95 (Last week 12, Weeks on list 4)

Armstrong takes us through two contests of physical endurance: his win in last year's Tour de France bicycle race and his successful recovery from cancer. The story is told in a gutsy narrative that's hope-filled and never maudlin, as he's raised by a loving single mother, becomes a champion bike racer, is devastatingly sidelined by his illness (described in graphic detail), and discovers the Tour as a metaphor for all life's challenges and questions. (288 pp.) By Greg Palmer

14. THE GREATEST GENERATION SPEAKS by Tom Brokaw, Random House, $24.95 (Last week 9, Weeks on list 15)

News anchor Tom Brokaw crafts a follow-up to his bestselling "The Greatest Generation," which pays tribute to the people who survived the Depression and fought in World War II. His latest chronicle is filled with letters from that generation - poignant reflections of war and its life lessons. Their voices vividly reflect on everything from close encounters at the front lines and tragic loss to marriage proposals made from overseas. (412 pp.) By Stephanie Cook

15. PAYNE STEWART by Tracey Stewart and Ken Abraham, Broadman & Holman, $24.99 (Last week -, Weeks on list 1)

Golfer Payne Stewart was at the height of his career and the current US Open champion when he died in a plane crash in October 1999. This biography, written by his wife, highlights Stewart's faith and some of the Biblical passages Stewart turned to in life and sport, after a family decision to attend church regularly. This tender memoir will give readers a deeply personal view of the champion, as Tracey Stewart describes her late husband as a man of complexity and quality. (318 pp.) By Leigh Montgomery


*Washington Post; Seattle Times; Chicago Tribune; Los Angeles Times; USA Today; Boston Globe

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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