Culture | The five best-selling nonfiction hardbacks as measured by placement on four leading lists as of Sept. 4

Issue: "Hail to the Fox," Sept. 15, 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 Wild Blue
Stephen Ambrose 38 points (ABA: 2nd; NYT: 1st; PW: 2nd; 1st)
A story of World War II's B-24 bombers and the men who flew them focuses mainly on George McGovern and his crew.

A thoroughly researched and descriptive history of the B-24 "Liberators" that played an important but under-appreciated role in the war. George McGovern, who became a South Dakota senator and then the Democratic nominee for president in 1972, was one of the young airmen who handled themselves heroically in the face of danger.

John Adams
David McCullough 35 points (ABA: 1st; NYT: 2nd; PW: 4th; 2nd)
A compelling biography of the second president of the United States.

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.

Prayer of Jabez
Bruce Wilkinson 21 points (ABA: 3rd; NYT: not listed; PW: 1st; 8th)
The key to God's blessing is found in a 29-word prayer hidden in a list of genealogies in 1 Chronicles 4:10.

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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.

Who Moved My Cheese?
Spencer Johnson 20 points (ABA: 5th; NYT: not listed; PW: 3rd; 5th)
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.

Crossing Over
John Edward 17 points (ABA: not listed; NYT: 5th; PW: 8th; 3rd)
Psychic talks about his gift and his TV show.

John Edward scorns the less scrupulous psychics who frequent his profession. His job is communicating with the dead-and so what if he's not always correct? No one complains when top hitters in baseball make outs most of the time. That a book with such silly analogies has made it onto the bestseller lists shows that some people who read care about Edward's TV show, his travels, and the media bias he constantly faces.

The B-24 bomber, sometimes known as the "flying Brick," was the most common American airplane in existence during World War II. Until the introduction of the B-29 in 1944, it carried a bigger payload than any other bomber, and it wreaked havoc on the Axis powers. It was also generally regarded as the hardest plane to fly. Most of the men assigned to fly these planes had not yet celebrated their 23rd birthday, and-with a casualty rate approaching 50 percent-many never would. Stephen Ambrose, bestselling author of Undaunted Courage and D-Day, tells the tale of these pilots, navigators, bombardiers, and gunners in The Wild Blue. World War II buffs will be thrilled with this latest installment from Mr. Ambrose, since it includes plenty of technical details and stories gleaned from his thorough research. Readers hoping for character development may be disappointed. Forty-four people make his cast of characters and it is hard to keep them straight, let alone discover what makes them tick. Mr. Ambrose spends the most time on George McGovern and is obviously a fan, but offers no real insight into his character.


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