A Monitor guide to bestsellers

Hardcover nonfiction

1. A SHORT GUIDE TO A HAPPY LIFE, by Anna Quindlen, Random House, $12.95

day. The book can be read in less than half an hour, but the familiar message might take a lifetime to digest. (64 pp.) By Kim Risedorph

2. WHO MOVED MY CHEESE? by Spencer Johnson, Putnam, $19.95

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" philo-sophy 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

3. AN HOUR BEFORE DAYLIGHT, by Jimmy Carter, Simon & Schuster, $26

Former President Jimmy Carter led a remarkable childhood, characterized by Depression-era simplicity and hard work. Blessed with a keen memory and the humility to recount painful and embarrassing experiences, he reveals a bygone agricultural world and complex relations between whites and blacks. His book quietly illustrates the importance of nurturing children with high expectations, early responsibility, and enduring values. (356 pp.) (Full review Jan. 11.) By Marilyn Gardner

4. THE SIBLEY GUIDE TO BIRDS, by The National Audubon Society, Knopf, $35

This is a birder's bird book. It's beautiful. The author's watercolors - 6,600 of them on 810 North American species - and lucid text elevate this guide to instant classic status. The one possible negative: Beginners may find the book has too much information, as if tripping a feathered law of diminishing returns. For some it may be too heavy to be a field guide, but anyone interested in birds will want it at home as a reference. Hardcore birders already know about it. (544 pp.) By Jim Bencivenga

5 THE O'REILLY FACTOR, by Bill O'Reilly, Broadway, $23

The host of the popular cable news program of the same name takes on politics, celebrity, race, and religion - and that's just in the introduction! His frank social commentary, disdain for hypocrisy, and challenge to today's popular institutions are refreshing. He claims most mainstream media outlets have gone soft, kow-towing to groups they should be investigating. Unfortunately, his style often reads like fortune-cookie punditry. Like him or not, he is definitely a factor. (224 pp.) By David S. Hauck

6. THE DARWIN AWARDS, by Wendy Northcutt, Dutton, $16.95

Travel back in time to the worst mistake you ever made. Now multiply it by 100, add 200 other stories, and you have a glimmer of the contents of "The Darwin Awards." At times amusing, but mostly horrific, this collection of mindless and often suicidal anecdotes is, unfortunately, no joke. From her popular website, Northcutt has assembled reports of "individuals who ensure the long-term survival of our species by removing themselves from the gene pool in a sublimely idiotic fashion." (327 pp.) By Christy Ellington

7. PARIS TO THE MOON, by Adam Gopnik, Random House, $24.95

"The man in the moon is smiling," or so the song says, and if he is, it's due to Gopnik's book. In 1995, this New Yorker uprooted himself and his family to Paris to act as a portal between two cultures. Capturing his daily life in Paris, Gopnik provides insights on the effect of globalization on one of the world's most fantastic cities. Walking through parks and eating at cafes with Gopnik, readers will feel the spark of understanding a world that's beginning to see we all truly do live under one moon. (354 pp.) By Christy Ellington

8. BODY FOR LIFE, by Bill Phillips, HarperCollins Publisher, $25

Phillips, founder and editor in chief of Muscle Media magazine, furthers the spread of his dietary expertise in his new book "Body-for-Life." Phillips's 12-week program treats physical wellness as one of many aspects of our lives. His theory is that the success of our physical goals will help us achieve other life goals, too. Arranged with a variety of success stories, charts, and examples, his plan provides a detailed program, with food recommendations and an exercise program. (203 pp.) By Christy Ellington

9. TUESDAYS WITH MORRIE, by Mitch Albom, Doubleday, $21

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

10. THE CAT WHO COVERED THE WORLD, by Christopher Wren, Simon & Schuster, $21

The gray lady in Wren's life was a world traveler and world-class mouser who accompanied the foreign correspondent and his family to the Soviet Union, South Africa, Egypt, and China. His sweet tale is strictly for feline fanciers, as it sometimes veers from light to lightweight. But the intrepid Henrietta's adventures are definitely amusing, as are the logistics of trotting a cat around the globe. (One anecdote involves trying to import kitty litter into China). Dog lovers, however, will want to look elsewhere. (201 pp.) By Yvonne Zipp

11. MAESTRO, by Bob Woodward, Simon & Schuster, $25

Ever since Watergate, Woodward's books have been sought for the inside political story. So it is with "Maestro." He tells how Alan Greenspan became chairman of the Federal Reserve, of his disputes with the Bush presidency, of his alliance with Clinton, and how he managed dissent among Fed policymakers. There is plenty of juice, complete with quotes that although close in substance couldn't be exact. It shows just how important the central bank is to politicians, the economy, and thence the public. (288 pp.) By David R. Francis

12. FOUNDING BROTHERS, by Joseph Ellis, Knopf, $26

Imagine a dinner party with the Founding Fathers. Amid displays of loyal brotherhood, the conversation would inevitably be barbed with disdainful comments. Ellis deals with the famous characters candidly, causing a legendary generation of political leaders suddenly to seem more human. Hamilton, Jefferson, Washington, and others spring to life without sagging under the weight of historical detail. Written in a fresh, engaging style, this book makes it easy to remember why character really did matter in the Revolution. (288 pp.) By Kendra Nordin

13. NOTHING LIKE IT IN THE WORLD, by Stephen Ambrose, Simon & Schuster, $28

With the completion of the transcontinental railroad, a cross-country transit that had once taken months - with many life-threatening dangers - could now be safely accomplished in a week. Time and space, it seemed, had been conquered. Along with this achievement, Ambrose writes about the diverse group of men who conceived and carried out this project. He points out that although these men were hardly heroes in the moral sense, the work they undertook was indeed heroic. (431 pp.) By Keith Henderson

14. AN INVITATION TO THE WHITE HOUSE, by Hillary Rodham Clinton, Simon & Schuster, $35

When you pick up Hilary's book, what you get is a 300-page, high-gloss brochure. It's self-serving, with Hillary, aka Martha Stewart, as tour guide. That said, it's a fun look at life and entertainment at the executive mansion. The many photos of this coffee-table book are the best part. My favorite: the first couple and late King Hussein and his wife at lunch on the Truman balcony. No fancy fare, just good ol' hamburgers! And speaking of food, the last chapter features White House recipes. (324 pp.) By Francine Kiefer

15. ME TALK PRETTY ONE DAY, by David Sedaris, Little, Brown & Co., $22.95

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

The Book Sense bestseller list is based on sales from independent bookstores across America. 1-888-BOOKSENSE * USA Today, St. Louis Post Despatch, Newsday, Publishers Weekly, Los Angeles Times, Business Week, Chicago Tribune, Washington Post, Chicago Sun Times, Seattle Times

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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