Culture | The five best-selling nonfiction, hardcover books measured by placement on four leading lists as of Jan. 18

Issue: "Warner: First things first," Feb. 12, 2000
Scoring system: 10 points for first place, 9 for second, down to 1 for tenth, on the lists of the American Booksellers Association (independent, sometimes highbrow stores), the New York Times (4,000 bookstores, plus wholesalers), USA Today (3,000 large inventory bookstores), and (Web purchases)
Tuesdays with Morrie
by Mitch Albom
37 points (ABA: 1st; NYT: 1st; USA Today: 2nd; 3rd)
Content Weekly 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 ALS (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?"
Worldview Smorgasboard. Chasing material things is shallow, and the answer lies in a mix of Buddhism, Christianity, and Judaism on an agnostic base.
by Frank McCourt
30 points (ABA: 2nd; NYT: 4th; USA Today: 4th; 4th)
Content Continuing the story begun in Angela's Ashes, McCourt describes his search for sex, his encounters with hypocritical priests and other religious folk, his time in bars, his excuses for failure.
Gist Life is hard, especially for McCourt, an Irishman with bad eyes, bad teeth, and a fondness for alcohol learned from his father.
Worldview Cynicism. Life is full of misery, which the simple-minded relieve with religion and the poet relieves with drink.
Caution Obscenities, profanities, and crude descriptions.
A Vast Conspiracy
by Jeffrey Toobin
24 points (ABA: 3rd; NYT: NA; USA Today: 5th; 1st)
Content An attorney-turned-journalist's account of the Clinton impeachment trial.
Gist The president may have made a few mistakes, but his dishonesty was not the reason for the scandal. The blame should fall on overzealous prosecutors, treacherous witnesses, partisan politicians, and frenzied journalists.
Worldview Non-biblical relativism. It is wrong to cheat and to lie, but it is even worse to judge cheating and lying.
Caution Crude descriptions, anatomically exact detail, and unproven gossip.
The Rock Says...
by the Rock with Joe Layden
22 points (ABA: 8th; NYT: NA; USA Today: 1st; 2nd)
Content The "People's Champion" of the World Wrestling Federation tells his life story, from a childhood spent traveling with his father (wrestling superstar Rocky Johnson), to playing football at the University of Miami, to his current position atop the wrestling world.
Gist WWF bluster, two-page chapters, and numerous action photos.
Worldview Narcissism: The Rock is cool and kids everywhere should look up to him.
Caution Obscenities, profanities, and crude descriptions.
The Greatest Generation
by Tom Brokaw
19 points (ABA: 5th; NYT: 3rd; USA Today: 8th; 9th)
Content 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 Heroic humanist: People, when challenged, have it within themselves to be bold and courageous.
In the Spotlight
Submarine warfare's importance in military strategy grew in the years between the world wars, but naval bureaucrats treated the lives of the submariners as unimportant. No one pushed very hard to develop technology for submarine escape and rescue, so when a sub sank, sailors who did not immediately drown faced a more terrifying fate. Surface ships might be circling a few hundred feet above, but those below would spend their last few minutes trying to claw their way out before finally suffocating. One maverick officer, Charles "Swede" Momsen, changed everything. Momsen was responsible for almost every submarine escape and rescue device invented during that era, yet his inventions were never tested in an actual emergency until the submarine Squalus sank in 1939. In The Terrible Hours (HarperCollins, 1999), best-selling author Peter Maas relates the story of the 39 hours the Squalus spent at the bottom of the North Atlantic and the courage of Momsen's team of rescuers. The saga shows that Swede Momsen belongs in the pantheon of true American heroes.

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