Culture

Bestsellers

Culture | The five best-selling nonfiction paperbacks as measured by placement on four leading lists as of Aug. 31

Issue: "Beating the school rules," Sept. 23, 2000
Scoring system:Scoring system: 10 points for first place, 9 for second, down to 1 for 10th, 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 bookstores), and Amazon.com (web purchases).
1
Winter Solstice
Rosamunde Pilcher 36 points (ABA: 2nd; NYT: 1st; USA Today: 4th; Amazon.com: 1st)
CONTENT
Emotionally wounded Londoners end up in northern Scotland, where they find love and belonging.

GIST
True love, not marriage, is the tie that binds in this Pilcher book. There's one interesting twist on a typical Pilcher plot: A recent widower, a church organist by trade, struggles with his faith in God. She finds a sentimental rather than a biblical way to bring about reconciliation.

WORLDVIEW
Sentimental.

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CAUTION
Implied adultery.

2
Purple Cane Road
James Lee Burke 24 points (ABA: 4th; NYT: 6th; USA Today: 7th; Amazon.com: 3rd)
CONTENT
Gritty New Orleans revenge story featuring homicide investigator Dave Robicheaux on the trail of his mother's killers.

GIST
Burke masterfully depicts New Orleans' seedy underbelly and the wages of sin and corruption. Robicheaux, the reformed alcoholic, who wanders these mean streets, often treads close to the ethical line.

WORLDVIEW
Existentialist moralism.

CAUTION
Language, sexual situations.

3
The Bear and the Dragon
Tom Clancy 20 points (ABA: 1st; NYT: not listed; USA Today: 1st; Amazon.com: not listed)
CONTENT
One thousand pages of typical Tom Clancy plot, with former CIA agent Jack Ryan now president of the United States.

GIST
Instability in China and a mysterious missile attack in Russia that might have been an assassination attempt, plus the discovery of vast quantities of oil and gold in that country, lead the two nations to war and the world to the brink of nuclear destruction.

WORLDVIEW
Conservative materialism.

CAUTION
Language, sexual situations.

4
Stalker
Faye Kellerman 17 points (ABA: not listed; NYT: 4th; USA Today: 6th; Amazon.com: 6th)
CONTENT
Cynthia Decker, daughter of Detective Peter Decker, runs into danger as a young cop.

GIST
Kellerman usually writes about Peter Decker and his wife Rina Lazarus. This book focuses on daughter Cynthia, a snob who believes she is above her fellow cops. When strange things happen, she thinks they are hazing her. By the time she realizes she's being stalked, it's almost too late.

WORLDVIEW
Moralism.

CAUTION
Language.

5
Dust to Dust
Tami Hoag 17 points (ABA: not listed; NYT: 2nd; USA Today: 5th; Amazon.com: 9th)
CONTENT
Detectives Sam Kovac and Nikki Liska investigate a death and uncover police corruption.

GIST
A hardboiled thriller where the women talk like men, the pols are dirty, and so are the cops. Kovac is convinced the death of a young Internal Affairs cop is not a suicide, as it first appears. But figuring out who did it means the good guys have to walk close to the line.

WORLDVIEW
Existential moralism.

CAUTION
Language and sexual situations.

IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Thucydides, one of the first great historians, called the Peloponnesian War the "greatest in history." But many people today would not even be able to name the contestants in the war (Athens, Sparta, and the Peloponnesian League), and for most, it seems like dead history. Best-selling author Steven Pressfield does a wonderful job of bringing the conflict to life in his epic novel, Tides of War (Doubleday, 2000). Alcibiades was a great leader&n#151;handsome, charismatic, a brilliant, never-beaten general, as well as a master politician. At the same time, he suffered from a lack of self-discipline in his private life and a lack of loyalty in his public one, eventually fighting for all three sides during the war. Mr. Pressfield not only exposes the many nuances of Alcibiades's character, but also pulls the reader into the world of ancient Greece through the use of great historical detail about the contrasting politics, military tactics, and culture of Athens and Sparta. Some of the similarities between then and now are striking: Technology has changed, but human nature stays the same. (Caution&n#151;contains crude language and obscenities.)

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