Culture

Bestsellers

Culture | The five best-selling nonfiction paperbacks as measured by placement on four leading lists as of October 1

Issue: "A patient nation," Oct. 13, 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), USA Today (3,000 large-inventory bookstores), and Amazon.com (web purchases).
1
Personal History
Katharine Graham 35 points (ABA: 1st; NYT: 1st; PW: 2nd; Amazon.com: 6th)
CONTENT
The late Katharine Graham's frank look at her long life lived in the seat of national power.

GIST
This book is a love story about a woman and a newspaper, The Washington Post, which her father bought when it was failing. Her husband took over the paper, and when he committed suicide in 1963, she became publisher. She covered history-and made it.

WORLDVIEW
"If there is one thing that leaps out at me it is the role of luck and chance in our lives."

2
Band of Brothers
Stephen Ambrose 31 points (ABA: 7th; NYT: 1st; PW: 1st; Amazon.com: 4th)
CONTENT
The story of E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne based on interviews, letters, and journals.

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GIST
Stephen Ambrose writes manly histories where grit, courage, and perseverance determine personal and national survival. Here he describes the men of Easy Company, who fought at Utah Beach on D-Day, at the Battle of the Bulge, and at the liberation of Hitler's Eagle's Nest. Their experiences forged them into a tight "band of brothers."

CAUTION
Language, gore.

3
It's Not About the Bike
Lance Armstrong with Sally Jenkins 21 points (ABA: 3rd; NYT: 3rd; PW: 6th; Amazon.com: n/l)
CONTENT
Armstrong takes on cancer and the Tour de France and wins both.

GIST
"When I was 25, I got testicular cancer and nearly died...." Lance Armstrong didn't die. His memoir describes well his cancer and cycling battles. Readers looking for a testimony to God's grace will instead find dismissal.

CAUTION
Foul language, description of dangerous childhood pranks.

4
Me Talk Pretty One Day
David Sedaris 19 points (ABA: 2nd; NYT: 4th; PW: 8th; Amazon.com: n/l)
CONTENT
A collection of self-absorbed essays starring Mr. Sedaris and his eccentric family.

GIST
These autobiographical accounts find gay humor in a family's perversities. Mr. Sedaris writes of his food-hoarding father and his foul-mouthed brother. He recalls taking speech therapy with other lisping, unathletic boys and wonders whether they all became homosexuals as he did. He'd like to be an artist, he thinks, because he'd have a studio full of naked men.

CAUTION
N/A

5
The Four Agreements
Don Miguel Ruiz 10 points (ABA: 6th; NYT: n/l; PW: n/l; Amazon.com: 6th)
CONTENT
A guide for living based on ancient Toltec teaching.

GIST
Mr. Ruiz, arguing that man is good and part of a pantheistic god, claims that external rules, laws, customs, and manners leave us shackled. Only by rising above the Ten Commandments or any other rules can we love ourselves and be all we can be.

CAUTION
Christians will recognize this as blather, but others could be confused by the book's twisting of words like sin.

IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Ever since the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, journalists have been raising the question of chemical and biological attacks by terrorists. Ironically, Sept. 11 also witnessed the publication of Germs by Judith Miller, Stephen Engelberg, and William Broad (Simon and Schuster), a new book on biological warfare. Germs is a gripping narration of the military's involvement in biological-weapons development. Biowar was at first seen as a humane alternative. But new thinking arose as military strategists decided it was smart to make biowar anathema and keep conventional war expensive-enabling fewer nations to play and thus stabilizing the world. National strategists also feared that an attack using a non-lethal virus might encourage retaliation using a lethal one. Under the Nixon administration, germ and chemical weapons were banned, with only research into defensive responses allowed. The Soviets, regardless of treaty, created an enormous and expensive bio-weapon program, and some of the expertise and germ stock has headed south. Low-tech germ warfare is now available to just about anyone. Terrorists who do not play by civilization's rules may be preparing for a record-breaking attack.

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