Culture

Bestsellers

Culture | The five best-selling nonfiction hardbacks as measured by placement on four leading lists as of May 6

Issue: "Attack and dissent," May 19, 2001
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), Publisher's Weekly (general bookstores), and Amazon.com (Web purchases).
1
Seabiscuit
Laura Hillenbrand 38 points (ABA: 1st; NYT: 1st; PW: 3rd; Amazon.com: 1st)
CONTENT
The story of the horse who became a legend in the 1930s and the men who were with him on his way to the top.

GIST
Seabiscuit was the greatest racehorse in the world at a time when horse racing was a bigger deal than it is now. Three fascinating men worked hard to get him to this pinnacle. All four personalities come alive in this engaging biography.

WORLDVIEW
The brotherhood of man and the equinehood of horses.

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CAUTION

2
The Prayer of Jabez
Bruce Wilkinson 26 points (ABA: 3rd; NYT: 1st on advice/self-help/misc. list; PW: 1st; Amazon.com: 3rd)
CONTENT
The key to God's blessing is found in a 29-word prayer found in 1 Chronicles 4:10.

GIST
Over the past 30 years as Bruce Wilkinson has prayed this prayer every day, he's seen his Walk through the Bible ministry grow exponentially. That's the experience of all the people he cites: Their ministry opportunities, businesses, families all prosper.

WORLDVIEW
God as cosmic bellhop.

CAUTION
Prayer is good, but one particular phrase repeated over and over can become a mantra.

3
Who Moved My Cheese?
Spencer Johnson 25 points (ABA: 2nd; NYT: not listed; PW: 2nd; Amazon.com: 4th)
CONTENT
A parable about the inevitability of change and the need to embrace it.

GIST
In the parable, cheese makes us happy. We get accustomed to it, don't notice when it begins to smell bad, and we hurt ourselves and our organizations when we fight to hold on to it. Cheese doesn't indicate when it is wise to resist change in order to uphold a higher principle.

WORLDVIEW
Relativism.

CAUTION

4
Napalm and Silly Putty
George Carlin 22 points (ABA: 9th; NYT: 2nd; PW: 4th; Amazon.com: 7th)
CONTENT
Random musings on everyday life from the comic who is infamous for his tastelessness.

GIST
Carlin is unhappy about a lot of things and not shy about saying so. His material is raw, bitter, and contains plenty of shock value, but the humor usually falls flat.

WORLDVIEW
Hate-filled cynicism.

CAUTION
Obscenity, profanity, crudity, blasphemy, and a general bad attitude.

5
Founding Brothers
Joseph J. Ellis 20 points (ABA: 4th; NYT: 3rd; PW: 8th; Amazon.com: 9th)
CONTENT
A discussion of the early years of our republic centered around the interactions of several key founders during crucial episodes.

GIST
During the years immediately following ratification of the Constitution, it was not clear to the Founders that a republic spread over such a vast territory could survive. Ellis looks at the issues, personalities, and compromises made to increase the odds of survival. His book is respectful of the historical actors and their ideas.

WORLDVIEW
Ideas have consequences.

CAUTION

IN THE SPOTLIGHT
According to The New York Times, The Prayer of Jabez has sold more than 4.1 million copies and tops many bestseller lists. It's a lovely prayer, in which Jabez asks for God's blessing and that his boundaries be expanded. He prays that God will be with him and that he be kept from evil so that he won't cause pain. The text says that God answered Jabez's prayer. Mr. Wilkinson takes this little prayer and makes it the secret to success in every endeavor. There's certainly not anything wrong in praying this prayer, but it isn't the only prayer we should pray, and there's no biblical evidence that it is an especially efficacious prayer. The Bible does not present a tame God, who responds like a butler when we mechanistically recite certain words. If individuals say this prayer and remind themselves that God is the source of blessing and power, and that He is the one who guards our ways and grants us all we have, then saying it is a good thing. But some individuals read this book and come away thinking that prayer is a series of inputs and outputs.

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