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1. THE ROAD AHEAD, by Bill Gates, Viking, $29.95

The mogul of Microsoft Corp. gives his view of a technology-rich future, hoping to stimulate "understanding, debate, and creative ideas...." The book is smoothly written, albeit open to a charge of serving Microsoft's interests, sprinkled with interesting anecdotes from his own experience and from the history of technology - from Gutenberg to room-size computers. Although many of Gates's predictions are not that new, readers will find the book thought-provoking. By Mark Trumbull

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2. MISS AMERICA, by Howard Stern, Regan Books/Harper Collins, $27.50

Bear-baiting is not protected by the first amendment. Unfortunately, this book by Howard Stern is. One hesitates to even comment on this similarly obscene and vulgar sequel to Stern's previous bestseller, "Private Parts." The one thing the author wants is publicity. It's good for his business. In word and photos Stern taunts the reader with celebrity insults, obsession with bodily functions, female bondage, and lesbianism. Stern may be one-of-a-kind, but that is one too many. By Jim Bencivenga

3. MY AMERICAN JOURNEY, by Colin Powell with Joseph E. Persico, Random House, $25.95

Powell's memoirs, like the retired Joint Chiefs chairman himself, are smooth, entertaining, and full of telling detail. And we do mean full. At 2-1/2 pounds and 612 pages, "My American Journey" is a book for readers willing to wade through a long account of Powell's rise from modest Bronx beginnings before they reach anecdotes about his life at the pinnacle of American power. On the tenor of day-to-day life in the White House and the Pentagon's E-ring, this book has compelling stuff. By Peter Grier

4. CHARLES KURALT'S AMERICA, by Charles Kuralt, Putnam, $24.95

Retiring from CBS after 37 years, Kuralt decided to take a year off to travel. He revisited 12 of his favorite areas of the country during their peaks: Charleston when the azaleas are in bloom, Montana during fly fishing season. Despite the occasional bout with ego (he devotes an entire chapter to a daffodil: the narcissus Charles Kuralt), the result is an engaging travelogue of his experiences and the widely varied people he met - from a Haida totem-carver to a famous saddlemaker. By Yvonne Zipp

5. MEN ARE FROM MARS, WOMEN ARE FROM VENUS, by John Gray, HarperCollins, $23

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Written more for the female audience, this easy-to-read guide helps men and women better understand how the other sex communicates. Although redundant and sometimes stereotypical, 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. By Shelley Donald Coolidge

6. THE SEVEN SPIRITUAL LAWS OF SUCCESS, by Deepak Chopra, New World Library, $12.95

Chopra draws points from Eastern philosophies and practices such as Taoism, Vedic Science, meditation, and karma and distills them into a new-age seven-step program. The logic is at times circular and simplistic, and Chopra's attempts to incorporate The Bible and Christian tradition into his text are uneven at best. Nonetheless, while not original, many of the espoused ideas - prayer, generosity, and a nonjudgmental and positive outlook - certainly have merit. By Yvonne Zipp

7. DAVID BRINKLEY, by David Brinkley, Knopf, $25

Before MacNeil/Lehrer, there was Huntley/Brinkley. The surviving member of the famous NBC News duo, now at ABC, spins interesting anecdotes about the beginnings of TV and the cluelessness of the radio journalists who had to make the new medium work. Somehow they did: Chet and David outdid CBS's Walter Cronkite throughout the 1960s. Brinkley has no idea why, or why the ratings eventually dropped. But his tales of Washington make a good, if light, read. By Lawrence J. Goodrich

8. THE WAY OF THE WIZARD, by Deepak Chopra, Harmony, $15.95

A follow-up to the best-selling "The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success," Deepak Chopra's newest book is aimed at people wishing to transform their lives. Based on the teachings of the legendary wizard Merlin, the 20 lessons are intended to be stepping stones to personal and spiritual fulfillment - a tall order likely to leave most readers disappointed. But the underlying theme is helpful to remember: If you want to change the world, change your attitude toward it. By Suzanne MacLachlan

9. EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE, by Daniel Goleman, Bantam, $23.95

Goleman asserts that IQ is not destiny; emotional intelligence, the ability to be cool in a bind and make clear decisions, is equally important in a good life. The theories about brain architecture are less interesting than examples of emotional control that establishes solid relationships and cooperation among people. He says those lacking self-control are morally deficient and the conclusions of scientists do not limit one's prospects for success, no matter how troubled one's childhood. By David Holmstrom

10. LINCOLN, by David Herbert Donald, Simon & Schuster, $35

No major biography of our 16th president is quite like this: It is chiefly written from Lincoln's perspective. Information and ideas available to him, rather than to later historians, form its principal sources - together with Lincoln's own words and those of his contemporaries. Donald is fully familiar with the works of other historians, but he is good at trimming their special pleadings, and their works rarely find their way into the endnotes that are crowded with original sources. By Gabor Boritt

11. SISTERS, essays by Carol Saline, photographs by Sharon J. Wohlmuth, Running Press, $27.50

It's like zooming in on the "sisters" portion of 36 family photo albums. This beautifully designed collection of essays and black-and-white photographs proves there's no limit to the variety of sister-relationships. Many of these women have been best friends for decades and can testify to the importance of a sister's support during major life changes. In celebrating the richness of sisterhood, the book doesn't shy away from presenting bonds tested by anger or separation. By Stacy A. Teicher

12. A SIMPLE PATH, by Mother Theresa, Ballantine, $20

This short work on Mother Theresa's worldwide missionary practice delineates the premise and promise of the life philosophy she calls "a simple path." The book begins slowly, but becomes engrossing when it speaks in the voices of those serving in the mission's homes, especially the lay volunteers. While explicitly Roman Catholic, it encourages those of all faiths to open a prayerful dialogue with God and offers practical ways "to love one another as God loves each of us." By Terri Theiss

13. THE MARTHA STEWART COOKBOOK, by Martha Stewart, Potter, $27.50

Between these covers is a banquet of recipes, a cornucopia collected from Stewart's books, including a chapter on sumptuous wedding cakes. The book is subtitled "Collected Recipes for Every Day," which makes one wonder what Stewart fixes for special occasions. There are recipes for those without world enough and time to make their own lady fingers. But, for the most part, the book is more an epicurean wish list rather than a menu to whip up after a hard day's work. By Yvonne Zipp

14. MY POINT ... AND I DO HAVE ONE, by Ellen DeGeneres, Bantam, $19.95

Musings on God, airplane food, and the Iditarod dog race await readers of this offbeat, meandering work by comedienne and TV sitcom star Ellen DeGeneres. The Louisiana native, once dubbed the Funniest Person in America by the Showtime network, offers material that ranges from pithy lists to long, digressing stories. Fans will find plenty of Ellenisms in this quick read, although some of the author's bits are racy, and some of the humor falls flat. By Kim Campbell

15. DAVID LETTERMAN'S BOOK OF TOP TEN LISTS, by David Letterman, Bantam, $16

Letterman brings his late-night antics to the printed page with this first collection of Top 10 lists from his popular talk show. Included are jabs at his favorite targets: Madonna, CBS, and New York. The selections are crude and acerbic at times, clean and clever at others. But without the quirky host or his guests reading them aloud, these lists prove to be far less entertaining than they are on TV. Even die-hard followers may find the $16 price a bit steep for what's inside. By Kim Campbell


In the history of ideas, few have written a bigger book than Charles Darwin's "On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life," published in 1859. It forever changed the way many read the Bible, and thus, shook the foundations of Christendom.

First published in 1994 by Alfred A. Knopf and now released in paperback by Vintage Books, Jonathan Weiner's work, "The Beak of the Finch: A Story of Evolution in Our Time" (winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize), places readers squarely on the scientific shoulders of Darwin. It brings into crisp relief the theories of evolution and natural selection that Darwin faintly glimpsed (and many today faintly understand) on his historic voyage to the Galapagos Islands in 1835.

Weiner minutely but engagingly details the modern evolutionary study of Princeton University biologists Peter and Rosemary Grant. The British couple has been documenting the process of natural selection on the Galapagos finches that first caught the eye of Darwin. Along with their two daughters and numerous research assistants, the Grants have spent a goodly portion of the last 20 years contentedly sweltering on a desert island off the coast of Ecuador studying birds.

"The Beak of the Finch" is great science history, insightful scientific theory, and engaging personal narrative rolled into one. It simplifies, without distorting, profoundly complex theories of evolution while showing modern field research at the cusp of original discovery.

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