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A Monitors Guide to The Bestsellers

1. THE GREATEST GENERATION, by Tom Brokaw, Random House, $24.95 Tom 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

2. TUESDAYS WITH MORRIE, by Mitch Albom, Doubleday, $19.95 A beloved college professor who is dying agrees to meet each Tuesday with a former student and discuss life and death. Mitch 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

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3. PERFECT MURDER, PERFECT TOWN, by Laurence Schiller, HarperCollins, $26 As someone who covered the JonBenet Ramsey murder for 10 months from Boulder, it was with great curiosity that I first cracked this book. I had formed my own opinion of what happened on that Christmas night in 1996, and Schiller's work did nothing to dispel my theory. The bestselling journalist has successfully crafted a detailed, compelling story on the murder investigation and its many flaws. To his credit, he makes no attempt to solve a murder that experts believe will never be solved. (640 pp.) By Vince Winkel

4. HOW TO GET WHAT YOU WANT & WANT WHAT YOU HAVE, by John Gray, HarperCollins, $24.95 John Gray believes he has the formula for personal success: Fill the love tanks, remove the blocks, fuse elements of Western religion and Eastern meditation, and presto! You'll have a complete life makeover. The author of the "Men Are From Mars" series has graduated from relationship adviser to general counselor. He's perceptive about humanity's quirks, and following his advice won't hurt - release negative energy, increase self awareness - but the ideas and metaphors are hardly revolutionary. (320 pp.) By Kristina Lanier

5. BLIND MAN'S BLUFF, by Sherry Sontag and Christopher Drew, Public Affairs, $25 "There are two kinds of ships: submarines and targets." Translate the bravado of that statement into a cold war espionage role for American subs, and you have the gist of this excellent work of history and investigative reporting. It recounts more than four decades of clandestine spy operations. Submariners are at ease living on auditory scraps of information, silence, and stealth. Their high-tech environment is for sonar puzzlers, always mapping targets. As this book shows, they make great spies. (352 pp.) By Jim Bencivenga

6. BEAUTY FADES, DUMB IS FOREVER, by Judge Judy Sheindlin, HarperCollins, $22 With an uncanny sense of the "way things are," Judge Judy, star of the television courtroom show, rules that women can be happy and successful in a man's world. Take responsibility for yourself, she says. Don't make excuses. You're not a victim until you make yourself one. But the book isn't an excuse for male-bashing or memorializing women as martyrs, either. Her 10 lessons have a down-to-earth truth about them and the writing is crisp. It's a welcome addition to an already crowded genre. (190 pp.) By Kristina Lanier

7. REACHING TO HEAVEN, by James Van Praagh, Penguin Putnam, $22.95 This book continues the message of Van Praagh's bestseller "Talking to Heaven," which encourages readers to view death as a transitional event in eternal life. Van Praagh, who is a "professional medium," attempts to reassure those who have experienced a loved one's passing by encouraging a more spiritual view of life before and after death. Some may be skeptical of Van Praagh's claims to have conducted "readings" with the dead and his rejection of organized religion. (189 pp.) By Leigh Montgomery

8. LIFE STRATEGIES, by Phillip C. McGraw, Disney Press, $21.95 "Life rewards action," says McGraw. If you're an idler, wake up and smell the bushes burn. Life is a game of choices, and you choose to win or lose. Outlining 10 laws of life - maxims like "You either get it or you don't" and "You create your own experience" - he argues that learning and applying the strategies are essential to becoming an effective manager of your life. The book's essence is simple: The choice is yours, so make a positive change today. (304 pp.) By Letitia Adu-Danso

9. THE ART OF HAPPINESS, by The Dalai Lama and Howard Cutler, Riverhead Books, $22.95 The purpose of life, says the Dalai Lama, is to seek happiness. This seemingly elementary statement requires strict adherence and mental discipline toward a benevolent, rather than self-centered, happiness. There is great value in reading the basic spiritual values of this unique world figure and Tibetan spiritual leader: human qualities of goodness, compassion, and caring. This book is based on a series of conversations with Howard Cutler, a Phoenix-based psychiatrist. (315 pp.) By Leigh Montgomery

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10. THE CENTURY, by Todd Brewster and Peter Jennings, Doubleday, $60 Jennings and Brewster employ a pastiche of approaches in piecing together the past century - formal historical narrative, unfamiliar photographs, and, most striking, eye-witness accounts of events like Hiroshima, Vietnam, and Auschwitz. Conceived as a companion piece to the 27-hour documentary on PBS, the book rolls along, ticking off all that is newsworthy. But the sometimes cool tone burdens the eye-witness accounts with the task of conveying the human side of history. (608 pp.) By Ron Fletcher

11. TRAVELING MERCIES, by Anne Lamott, Pantheon Books, $23 Without a doubt, this book is a '90s autobiography, branded by self-absorbtion. But Lamott's relentless self-analysis yields an interesting portrait of today's seeker. Lamott loses her father, goes through two married lovers, and is hardly ever sober. She struggles with her faith through it all, but clings to a belief in God. On the road to recovery, she arrives at some pure truths. She becomes someone she can accept, yet one senses change comes more through suffering than grace. (Full review, Feb. 11) (275 pp.) By Trudy Palmer

12. FIRST PERSON PLURAL, by Cameron West, Hyperion, $23.95 West was a father, husband, and successful businessman in his 30s when he started hearing voices. He learns through the help of a psychologist that he has 24 separate personalities, created as a way for him to cope with childhood sexual abuse by his grandmother and mother. The story is a disturbing yet moving account of a family learning to cope with West's mental breakdown. Readers may find the graphic nature and emphasis on treatment a bit heavy. (319 pp.) By Stephanie Cook

13. ONE DAY MY SOUL JUST OPENED UP, by Iyanla Vanzant, Fireside, $13 Vanzant admonishes us in the opening pages to "remain open. There is something bigger than you know going on here." And that's her underlying point throughout - let go and let God work in your life. She's structured her ideas into a 40-day spiritual regeneration plan, with a daily principle to mull over, starting with "truth" and ending with "unconditional love." But many of the principles in between veer away from the spiritual toward simple suggestions on changing your outlook. (316 pp.) By Kristina Lanier

14. SUGAR BUSTERS! by H. Leighton Steward, et al., Ballantine, $22 Three MDs and one CEO cooked up this latest opinion on the best way to trim your waistline. Complete with graphs and low-sugar recipes, this book focuses on insulin levels in the bloodstream. If you aren't afraid of food now, you will be after reading "Sugar Busters!" Keep your reading on a low-blab diet and avoid this book. (270 pp.) By Kendra Nordin

15. PLAYING FOR KEEPS, by David Halberstam, Random House, $22.95 "Jordanologists," your dream has come true. This comprehensive book traces Michael Jordan from his youth through his glorious and tumultuous NBA career. Sprinkled with anecdotes, the story shows how he changed from an ebullient youngster to a freedom-depraved pop-culture icon. For the devoted follower, this is at times a redundant rehash of his career, and Halberstam's relentless cheerleading is sometimes annoying. But overall, it's an intriguing look at the man who revolutionized the NBA. (352 pp.) By Lane Hartill

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