Culture | The five best-selling nonfiction hardbacks as measured by placement on four leading lists as of June 11

Issue: "Keep the faith," June 23, 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 (Web purchases).
The Prayer of Jabez
Bruce Wilkinson 39 points (ABA: 2rd; NYT: *1st on advice/self-help/misc. list; PW: 1st; 1st)
The key to God's blessing is found in a 29-word prayer hidden in a list of genealogies in 1 Chronicles 4:10.

Bruce Wilkinson says he's prayed this prayer every day for 30 years and seen his Walk Thru the Bible ministry grow exponentially. That's the experience of the people he cites: They pray this prayer and their organizations and families prosper. The book may make prayer seem mechanistic.

Ghost Soldiers
Hampton Sides 30 points (ABA: 5th; NYT: 2nd; PW: 5th; 2nd)
Daring rescue of American POWs held in a prison camp in the Philippines.

Action moves back and forth between the POWs, held in near starvation conditions; increasingly desperate Japanese soldiers; and Rangers sent behind enemy lines to extract the prisoners before the Japanese could kill them. One chapter shows the crucial role chaplains played in keeping up POW morale.

A Short Guide to a Happy Life
Anna Quindlen 30 points (ABA: 3rd; NYT: *4th on advice/self-help/ misc.; PW: 4th; 3rd)
Sentiments on how to live a good life.

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This bit of puffery has 29 pages of photographs, 18 diminutive pages of text, and a $12.95 price tag. Learn from the Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist her wisdom for living: "I learned to love the journey, not the destination"; "I show up, I listen, I try to laugh." This book sold more than a half million copies in the last three months of 2000.

Who Moved My Cheese?
Spencer Johnson 29 points (ABA: 7th; NYT: *2nd; PW: 2nd; 4th)
A parable about the inevitability of change and the need to embrace it.

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. When is it wise to resist change in order to uphold a higher principle? Mr. Johnson doesn't say.

John Adams
David McCullough 28 points (ABA: 1st; NYT: 1st; PW: 3rd; not listed)
A compelling biography of our second president.

Mr. McCullough set out to write a dual biography of Jefferson and Adams, but once he began he found Adams to be the more interesting figure. One of Bill Clinton's legacies may be that John Adams, faithful husband and honorable man, is gaining in reputation as historians appreciate the place character plays in public life.

Pulitzer Prize-winning author David Herbert Donald, the author of a biography of Abraham Lincoln, examines the family life of the 16th president in Lincoln at Home (Simon and Schuster, 2000). Mr. Donald's book is divided into two parts. The first is a brief account of the Lincolns' life in the White House. It shows a man who loves his family and at the same time is trying to adjust to the demands of the presidency. Mary Todd Lincoln is absorbed in her own efforts to become first lady and refurbish the White House, which at that time "had the air of a run-down, unsuccessful, third-rate hotel." After the death of their son Willie in 1862, the Lincolns grew further apart. Abraham Lincoln worked himself to exhaustion so that those who saw him thought he looked cadaverous. Mrs. Lincoln became mentally unbalanced. Mr. Donald's account is noteworthy not only because of the intriguing nature of the Lincolns' personalities, but also because it highlights how different life was in the White House 140 years ago. The second part of the book is a complete collection of all the letters written between Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln. Although it sounds promising, the reader soon discovers that neither Lincoln was an especially profound letter writer, at least in their letters to each other. Their letters concern mundane matters such as money and dates of arrival, and are disappointing when compared to the rich, perceptive correspondence between President and Mrs. Adams. Still, when taken together with the first part, Lincoln at Home is a good concise picture of the personal life of the enigmatic 16th president.


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