Reviews > Culture

Bestsellers

Culture | The five best-selling nonfiction hardbacks as measured by placement on four leading lists as of May 18, 2000

Issue: "A vacation from PC," June 3, 2000
Scoring system: 10 points for first place down to 1 for 10th on The New York Times list (4,000 bookstores, plus wholesalers), the American Booksellers Association list (independent, sometimes highbrow stores), and two lists from The New York Times website: one for independent bookstores, one for chains.
Flags of our Fathers
James Bradley and Ron Powers 31 points (ABA: 3rd; NYT: 3rd; USA Today: 5th; Amazon.com: 2nd)
COTENT
The story of six WW II soldiers immortalized by the photograph of the flag-raising on Iwo Jima.

GIST
James Bradley's father was one of the flag raisers, but his father never spoke of his experience except to say, "The real heroes of Iwo Jima were the guys who didn't come back." The book recreates the battle, where 22,000 Japanese and nearly 26,000 Americans died, and reconstructs the lives of the six flag raisers.

WORLDVIEW
Humanism.

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CAUTION
Graphic description of war.

Who Moved My Cheese?
Spencer Johnson, M.D. 27 points (ABA: 4th; NYT: not listed; USA Today: 1st; Amazon.com: 1st)
COTENT
A parable about the inevitability of change and the need to embrace it.

GIST
Cheese makes us happy. We get accustomed to it, develop an entitlement attitude toward it, and don't notice when it begins to smell bad or disappear. When we fight to hold on to cheese, we hurt ourselves and our organizations. The parable, however, doesn't show how to discern when it is wise or necessary to resist change to uphold a higher principle.

WORLDVIEW
Relativism.

CAUTION
Some readers may enjoy T.D.'s schemes too much.

CAUTION
n/a

Ten Things I Wish I'd Known
Maria Shriver 26 points (ABA: 1st; NYT: not listed; USA Today: 2nd; Amazon.com: 4th)
COTENT
An expanded commencement address.

GIST
Shriver provides practical wisdom based on her own experiences. On career: Pursue your passion, be willing to start at the bottom, look for a good boss, and don't cut ethical corners. On family life: Kids change lives and marriage is hard work. She refers to the importance of God, but doesn't flesh out what that means.

WORLDVIEW
Humanism.

CAUTION
Frank discussions of racial prejudice for middle school and older.

CAUTION
Mild profanities.

Tuesdays with Morrie
Mitch Albom 16 points (ABA: not listed; NYT: 1st; USA Today: not listed; Amazon.com: 5th)
COTENT
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 motivations: "Have you found someone to share your heart with? Are you giving to the community? Are you at peace with yourself?"

WORLDVIEW
Materialism is shallow; the answer lies in a mix of Buddhism, Christianity, and Judaism on an agnostic base.

CAUTION
n/a

Soul Stories
Gary Zukav 14 points (ABA: 5th; NYT: not listed; USA Today: 3rd; Amazon.com: 3rd)
COTENT
Fifty-two short "chapterettes," providing a once-a-week dose of New Age drivel.

GIST
The soul is like a huge mother ship. Our earthly existence is like a small boat. The mother ship exists before we are born (and become a small boat), and when we die (leaving our boats behind) we return to the eternal mother ship. Such is the wisdom of Gary Zukav in this hodgepodge of Eastern and New Age beliefs.

WORLDVIEW
Pantheism.

CAUTION
n/a

IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Six men took their place among the pantheon of American heroes when they raised Old Glory atop the island of Iwo Jima. The photograph taken there embodied American courage and patriotism, but it also tended to disembody the men in the picture until they no longer seem like real people. James Bradley's Flags of Our Fathers (Bantam Doubleday Dell 2000) not only gives a gripping account of the battle of Iwo Jima, but also adds a bit more form to those faceless heroes. His father, John "Doc" Bradley, was the last of the six flag raisers to die. During his lifetime, he tried to avoid the fame that accompanied the photograph. He never discussed the battle with his family and pretended to be vacationing in Canada in order to avoid phone calls from reporters. After his death, his family found boxes of memorabilia from the battle, piquing the interest of son James, who began to investigate the lives of the six and ended up writing a book. Considering the natural constraints inherent in profiling six relatively obscure men who are no longer living, Bradley manages to elevate the men past the point of caricature and give a well-rounded view of each man's life from childhood to Iwo Jima and beyond.

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