The Bestsellers


JOHN ADAMS by David McCullough, Simon & Schuster, $35

Former US President John Adams always maintained a diary and wrote letters avidly throughout his life. Most notable, of course, were the letters to and from his wife Abigail. Their voluminous correspondence to each other takes up some five miles of microfilm. The trick for McCullough was to analyze this massive amount of material and blend it into a coherent readable volume. He does this beautifully. Research and analysis are interwoven seamlessly making it an absolute joy to read. (Full review May 31) (751 pp.) By Terry Hartle

AN ALBUM OF MEMORIES, by Tom Brokaw, Random House, $29.95

In this nostalgia-laden book, Tom Brokaw continues his look at the "greatest generation". This time around it's letters that tell the story - mostly ones from fans eager to recount their or their relatives' experiences, but also original wartime letters. Survivors of Pearl Harbor, D-Day, and Iwo Jima; POWs; and women on the homefront all lend their voices. Their eloquence is varied, but there are plenty of fascinating or poignant moments here, and fans of the previous two books will find much to enjoy. (314 pp.) By Amanda Paulson

GHOST SOLDIERS, by Hampton Sides, Double Day, $24.95

Sides has ingeniously weaved together one of the greatest tragedies in US military history with what was surely one of its finest hours. It's a World War II epic which recounts the events leading up to the Bataan Death March, the march itself, life in the infamous prison camps, and the heroic rescue of 511 American prisoners of war by the Sixth Ranger Batallion. Well researched and skillfully crafted, "Ghost Soldiers" is an unforgettable, yet sad, journey documenting the paradoxes of the period. (336 pp.) By Steven Savides

SEABISCUIT, by Laura Hillenbrand, Random House, $24.95

Hillenbrand's biography about the famous racing horse Seabiscuit, and the men who owned, rode, and trained him, capsulizes the time of the Great Depression in America in the 1930s. These were not great men but average, or below average, men struggling to make a living. All three had obstacles to overcome, from a child's death, to drugs, to poverty. But all three men become giants in the their industry because they could see the potential in a small, plain brown horse. (399 pp.) By Jan Moller

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 style, this book makes it easy to remember why character really did matter in the Revolution. (288 pp.) By Kendra Nordin

THE PRAYER OF JABEZ, by Bruce H. Wilkinson, Multnomah, $9.99

Bruce Wilkinson is convinced that the prayer of a man named Jabez could change your life, if you're a Christian, that is. Found in I Chronicles, the prayer of Jabez is brief. Wilkinson believes that when this prayer is used daily, it opens the doors to God's blessings. Although it glimmers with moments of inspiration and even aspiration for a better life, by packaging those ideas as a strictly Christian ministry, Wilkinson will leave many seekers of faith on the sidewalks of the road he claims to have found. (96 pp.) By Christy Ellington

NAPALM & SILLY PUTTY, by George Carlin, Hyperion, $22.95

This book contains "verbal ordeals that are as smart as they are infectiously funny" - at least that's what the book jacket says. In "Napalm & Silly Putty," Carlin's second collection of short comic essays, he pokes fun at just about everything and everybody. Unfortunately, he trades in wit and originality for vulgarity and retreads. There was a time when Carlin's comedy had shock value, but now shock-value comedy is commonplace. The only thing shocking about this book is how few funny moments it has. (256 pp.) By Stuart S. Cox Jr.

FRENCH LESSONS, by Peter Mayle, Knopf, $24

It's wonderful when one's hobby can be one's livelihood. Mayle, whose hobbies include "reading, writing, and lunch," in no particular order, has done just that. With "French Lessons," his eighth book on France, he leaves Provence and pursues his love of lunch - as well as breakfast and supper. Skeptics of such serial writing will unfurrow their brows as they are captivated by vivid descriptions, bursting with the joy of discovery. Only pangs of hunger could compel readers to put down this book. (256 pp.) By Jennifer Wolcott

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

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

Award-winning columnist Anna Quindlen draws on her own experience as well as the writings of others in this tiny volume offering advice on how to live a meaningful life. Stunning black-and-white photographs take up 30 of the 50 pages and accentuate the core message: Simplicity and the pleasure of friendship give value to each 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

WHEN YOU COME TO A FORK IN THE ROAD TAKE IT, by Yogi Berra, Hyperion, $16.95

Having spent more time at the ballet bar than on the baseball field I wondered what Yogi Berra, former New York Yankee, had to tell me about life. As it turns out, quite a bit. Who better to know about topics like performing under pressure, making it through a slump, and working well as a team than the man who played in 14 World Series. Even those who think the Red Sox are those ghastly things at the back of their sock drawer can catch insights from one of the greatest baseball players of all time. (144 pp.) By Christy Ellington

IN HARM'S WAY, by Doug Stanton, Holt, $25

Stanton writes a riveting account of the USS Indianapolis, the cruiser torpedoed by a Japanese sub in 1945, and its surviving crew who endured five days at sea before being rescued. Prior to its sinking, the Indy had successfully delivered a secret cargo including a quantity of uranium-235, later to be used on Hiroshima. The author weaves testimony from survivors with corroborating research, and provides a harrowing story of what the survivors withstood until help arrived. (320 pp.) By Brian Zipp

THE METAPHYSICAL CLUB, by Louis Menand, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $27

The title of this eloquent work comes from a group of men who met in 1872: Charles Peirce, a scientist and logician; Oliver Wendell Holmes, a Civil War hero who would serve on the Supreme Court; and William James, the future founder of American psychology. Along with John Dewey, who revolutionized education, these men proposed a new way of thinking called pragmatism. The triumph of this book is its demonstration of the parallel between developments in science and philosophy. (480 pp.) (Full review June 21) By Ron Charles

THE BOTANY OF DESIRE, by Michael Pollen, Random House, $24.95

Plants have domesticated us to serve their own interests, suggests Michael Pollen. He advances this theory by looking at plants grown because they satisfy human desires: apples (sweetness), marijuana (intoxication), and tulips (beauty). His arguments that plants manipulate man are, by turns, fascinating, imaginative, and illogical. He calls the story of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden "the world's first drug war," and says Johnny Appleseed's true gift was alcohol. A flawed but absorbing book. (256 pp.) By Judy Lowe

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

The Book Sense™ bestseller list is based on sales from independent bookstores across America. 1-888-BOOKSENSE

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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