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Monitor's Guide to Bestsellers: Hardcover Non-Fiction

1. ANGELA'S ASHES: A MEMOIR, by Frank McCourt, Scribners, $23

"Angela's Ashes," Frank McCourt's brilliant and tender memoir of his miserable Irish Catholic childhood in Limerick, Ireland, is a deeply moving story and a very funny book. Angela was McCourt's mother. The story begins in Brooklyn during the Depression as she tries to hold the family together; later, because of his father's alcoholism the family is forced to return to Ireland where McCourt discovers Shakespeare and language. It is a book of splendid humanity. By Devon McNamara

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2. UNDERBOSS, by Peter Maas, HarperCollins, $25

This is Sammy "the Bull" Gravano's story of life in the mafia as told to Peter Maas. Much of the book is Gravano talking (and swearing). It demystifies any "Godfather" aura. Gravano who calls himself, "nuttin butta gangsta," rose to second in command of a New York crime family. He murdered 19 men along the way. Facing prison, he turned state's evidence helping convict dozens of mafiosi. Brooklyn accents should be heard not read - listen to the audio tape. By Jim Bencivenga

3. SIMPLE ABUNDANCE, by Sarah Ban Breathnach, Warner, $17.95

A spiritual self-help book for the "modern woman," a how-to book that offers to overcome stress and assist in self-discovery with topical readings on gratitude, simplicity, order, harmony, beauty, and joy. There is a reading for each day of the calendar year. Like modern gold-mining - 30 tons of shoveled dirt to find one ounce of gold - there are pages of platitudes before hitting an original insight. The Oprah Winfrey show spotlighted this book. By Jim Bencivenga

4. 8 WEEKS TO OPTIMUM HEALTH, by Andrew Weil MD, Knopf, $23

Dr. Weil loves ginger. "If I had a daughter, I think I would have named her Ginger," he writes. He speaks highly of cordyceps, known in China as "caterpillar fungus." He writes: "Perfect health is not possible," only "optimum health," for which one must walk, stretch, avoid ultraviolet rays, go to a museum, buy flowers, forgive others. Now, what after eight weeks? The critical question is left unanswered in chapter 13: "Week Nine And Beyond." By Suman Bandrapalli

5. CONVERSATIONS WITH GOD, by Neale Donald Walsch, Putnam, $19.95

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Written in a very simple, accessible style, this book is based on what the author, the founder of an Oregon-based organization called ReCreation, describes as a three-year conversation with God that he transcribed. It contains some substantial insights and flashes of humor. God is described as an all-good, omnipotent Being, who is constantly communicating with all people. Prayer is described as a process, not a petition. First of three books. By Abraham T. McLaughlin


Where do you find the world's biggest spider? In the World Wide Web. What's a cow's favorite TV show? Steer Trek. What do you call 100 rabbits jumping backward? A receding hare line. When talk-show host Rosie O'Donnell dispensed with adult jokes in her opening monologue, she replaced them with these "kid jokes" sent in by the throngs of children who watch the daytime program. Proceeds for this slim collection, which is cute and sometimes witty, go to charity. By Kim Campbell

7. THE GIFT OF PEACE..., by Joseph Cardinal Bernardin, Loyola Press, $17.95

After being dianosed with terminal cancer, Cardinal Bernardin of the Chicago Archdiocese wrote this book subtitled, "Personal Reflections." He did so in the last two months of his life finishing it 13 days prior to his passing. It reads like a collection of letters to friends and shares the serene state of his thought. It reveals a profoundly spiritual man completely at peace with God and his own conscience, something he wanted to share with all mankind. By Jim Bencivenga

8. SUCCESS IS A CHOICE, by Rick Pitino and Bill Reynolds, Broadway Books, $25

This self-improvement book by the much-winning basketball coach from the University of Kentucky contains a 10-step plan for personal achievement and leadership learning. Most interesting are its principles for success both individually and as a team builder and leader. The philosophy, however, focuses almost entirely on professional achievement thus leaving little time for anything else. This, along with its 'in praise of Pitino' emphasis might limit it for some. By Terry Theiss

9. PERSONAL HISTORY, by Katharine Graham, Knopf, $29.95

Katharine Graham writes conversationally and invites close attention for her humor and understatement. Her accounts of the Washington Post's printing of the Pentagon papers and investigations into Watergate, are required reading. Her often fumbling relationships with reporters and editors are instructive too. Aptly called a "personal history," the book tells how Graham saw things - and she saw much of the last half century's political history close up. By Richard J. Cattani

10. THE ZONE, by Barry Sears, HarperCollins, $22

This book purports to counteract the genetic programming of disease, excessive weight, loss of mental proficiency and physical performance through diet. The author develops a theory of "food as drug" that promises optimal health when eating the right foods in the right proportions. Contains minute technical details of disease, case studies, and a road map for achieving life in the "Zone," a state of being suggesting the perfect union of body and mind. By Jim Bencivenga

11. MASTERING THE ZONE, by Barry Sears, HarperCollins, $24

A quick sequel to his previous besteller, "The Zone," (see number 7 below) offers nothing new from the original but 150 "scientific" recipies. The dietary observation is obvious: Don't eat too much, don't eat too little, eat the right food. The publishers are cognizant that wrapping menus in a mantle of research and analysis about genetics satisfies a national craving for information about good health through good eating. By Jim Bencivenga

12. THE MILLIONAIRE NEXT DOOR..., by Thomas Stanley & William Danko, Longstreet, $22

After two decades of analyzing wealth, professors Stanley and Danko provide extensive demographic profiles of Americans with assets of a million dollars or more. They conclude that lavish spending habits are the stuff of Hollywood myth. Most millionaires, they say, have succeeded through business efficiency as well as frugality. Not inheritance. In summary: to amass wealth, one must invest well and spend less. By Leigh Montgomery

13. THE ARTHRITIS CURE, by Jason Theodosakis, Brenda Adderly, Barry Fox, St. Martin's, $22.95

This short work discusses a non-surgical, no-drugs approach to dealing with arthritis. It relies instead on nutritional supplements, combined with diet and exercise. The book is of necessity detailed in its description of the malady. The authors seem to sincerely care about helping others and encourage proactive steps rather than surgical/drug treatment. They do not accept the inevitability of suffering from the illness. By Terri Theiss

14. JOAN LUNDEN'S HEALTHY LIVING, by Joan Lunden and Laura Morton, Crown, $25.95

The popular host of "Good Morning America" and her co-author have managed to put together a reader-friendly health book that offers more than fitness tips. It's about taking charge of your own life, not just waiting for something to happen. It contains striking color photos of Lunden and her family; health recipes and positive thoughts; and quotes from famous people about life's ups and downs. This book is mostly about dealing with change and how to accept it. By Lisa Parney

15. LOCKED IN THE CABINET, by Robert B. Reich, Knopf, $25

Reich was the Clinton administration's most eloquent speaker. The former labor secretary's "diary" likely will be the best-written and most-entertaining of many inside-the-Beltway books about Clinton's two turns in office. Reich is a genuine, progressive liberal, an idealist, and rather out of place in the hard-nosed politics of Washington. As Clinton moved right, Reich stayed left. His book deals with real national issues, as well as personal insights and gossip. By David R. Francis



Edited by Jules Tygiel, Dutton, 278 pp., $23.95

A half century after he helped to change his country by the simple act of playing baseball, Jackie Robinson's niche in history is secure. He stands alongside the titans of the Civil Rights movement - W.E.B. Dubois, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Thurgood Marshall and others - as a man who prompted America to acknowledge and address the stain of its segregation and racism.

"The Jackie Robinson Reader," a biographical collection of essays edited by Jules Tygiel, is an eclectic representation by journalists, historians, colleagues, and friends recounting the familiar story of Robinson's life: the impoverished Pasadena childhood, the storybook four-sport heroics at UCLA, the Army court martial, the integration of baseball and the Hall of Fame career that followed it, and finally the post-baseball forays into business, politics, and civil rights.

The writings include excerpts from books by Roger Kahn and Red Barber. The book reprints news stories from Wendall Smith and Sam Lacy, writers from the great African-American newspapers, whose writing not only chronicled the Robinson story, but helped to bring it about. It includes unpublished documents that give new understanding to the care that Dodgers' president Branch Rickey took in selecting and signing Robinson.

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