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Bestsellers

Culture | The five best-selling nonfiction, hardcover books as measured by placement on four leading lists as of Dec. 14.

Issue: "On Earth Peace?," Dec. 25, 1999
Scoring system: 10 points for first place, 9 for second, down to 1 for 10th on The New York Times list (4,000 bookstores, plus wholesalers), Amazon.com (Web purchases), American Booksellers Association (independent, sometimes highbrow stores), and USA Today (3,000 large inventory bookstores).
Tuesdays with Morrie
by Mitch Albom
40 points (NYT: 1st; Amazon: 1st; Booksellers: 1st; USA Today: 1st)
Content Conversations of a middle-aged sportswriter searching for purpose and the articulate, witty, caring professor who taught him 20 years before
Gist Morrie Schwartz, dying of Lou Gehrig's disease, probes Mitch Albom's relationships and motivations: "Have you found someone to share your heart with? Are you giving to the community? Are you at peace with yourself?" We should invest in others and value each day as a gift
Worldview Chasing after material things is shallow, and the answer is to be found in a smorgasbord of Buddhism, Christianity, and Judaism on an agnostic base
'Tis
by Frank McCourt
30 points (NYT: 2nd; Amazon: 5th; Booksellers: 2nd; USA Today: 5th)
Content In this continuation of the story begun in his Pulitzer Prize-winning Angela's Ashes, Mr. McCourt describes his new life in America
Gist Life is hard, especially for McCourt, an Irishman with bad eyes, bad teeth, and a fondness for alcohol learned from his father
Worldview Life is full of disappointment and misery, which the simple-minded relieve with religion and the poet relieves with drink
Language Obscenities, profanities, and crude descriptions
The Greatest Generationby Tom Brokaw 29 points (NYT: 4th; Amazon: 4th; Booksellers: 4th; USA Today: 3rd)
Content A retelling of the stories of ordinary men and women who met the extraordinary challenges of World War II and its aftermath
Gist The generation that grew up during the Depression and then fought in World War II was the greatest ever because its members defeated two powerful and ruthless military machines and then won the peace by helping former enemies and standing fast against the Soviet Union
Worldview People, when challenged, have it within themselves to be heroic
Have a Nice Day
by Mick Foley
24 points (NYT: 3rd; Amazon: 2nd; Booksellers: not in top 10; USA Today: 4th)
Content A bruises-and-all look at the pro wrestling carnival by a brute who loves his family
Gist The fakery of pro wrestling also requires physical toughness, as exhibited by Foley's broken arm, dislocated jar, torn-off ear, four documented concussions, 300 stitches, and participation in Japanese "Death Matches" that feature barbed-wire ropes, red-hot branding irons, etc. ad nauseam
Worldview We're all animals with sadistic streaks; wrestlers and promoters manufacture nihilistic visions, fans seek sensation
Language Obscenities, profanities, and very crude descriptions
Galileo's Daughter
by Dava Sobel
15 points (NYT: 9th; Amazon: 6th; Booksellers: 3rd; USA Today: not in top 10)
Content Galileo's battle against the Roman Catholic Church, based on 124 letters to the famous scientist (1564-1642) from his daughter, a cloistered nun
Gist His daughter encourages Galileo as he treads a dangerous path and has to sign a statement affirming that Earth, as the center of the universe, remains immovable
Worldview Science and religion can be reconciled, as long as both sides are willing to examine evidence, but political and ideological pressures may get in the way
In the Spotlight
Angela's Ashes, the poignant tale of a boy growing up in poverty in Limerick, Ireland, was a huge hit. After a long run on the hardcover bestseller lists, last week it remained the No. 1 paperback nonfiction bestseller, according to The New York Times. But 'Tis has none of the charm of the first book. It is a tedious account of Mr. McCourt's adjustment to America, his search for sex, his encounters with hypocritical priests and other religious folk, his time in bars, and his excuses for failure. Mr. McCourt has a remarkable memory for names, descriptions, and the telling details that should make a memoir come to life. He used that talent in the first book to depict a number of memorable characters, but in 'Tis he turns a gimlet eye on everyone he comes across. A more unappealing cast of characters is hard to imagine, and it's depressing that Mr. McCourt, who described with such acuity his own father's alcoholism, chose to follow so closely in his father's footsteps-even abandoning his own daughter when she was 8.

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