Culture

Bestsellers

Culture | The five best-selling nonfiction hardbacks as measured by placement on four leading lists as of Nov. 5

Issue: "Politics Post 9/11," Nov. 17, 2001
Scoring system: 10 points for first place 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), Publishers Weekly (general bookstores), and Amazon.com (Web purchases).
1
Jack
Jack Welch 29 points (ABA: 6th; NYT: 3rd; PW: 5th; Amazon.com: 1st)
CONTENT
A memoir by one of the 20th century's most respected corporate leaders, who retired recently after 40 years at General Electric.

GIST
Welch interweaves the story of his long GE career with his personal and management philosophies. He portrays himself as an arrogant, abrasive figure who bucked the bureaucracy while advancing through it. He credits his mother for instilling in him the self-confidence, drive, and focus needed to succeed and reshape one of America's oldest companies.

2
The No Spin Zone
Bill O'Reilly 28 points (ABA: 3rd; NYT: 1st; PW: 1st; Amazon.com: not listed)
CONTENT
A series of O'Reilly-style debates where he gets the first, last, and longest word. Between his opinions he excerpts interview snippets from his television show.

GIST
O'Reilly portrays himself as a tough interviewer on a relentless search for truth, daring to ask the hard questions of his celebrity guests that the average guy wants asked. He takes on controversial topics, using excerpts of interviews with well-known guests to present the opposing sides.

3
John Adams
David McCullough 26 points (ABA: 1st; NYT: 5th; PW: 8th; Amazon.com: 4th)
CONTENT
A compelling biography of the second president of the United States.

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GIST
McCullough's sympathy for the second president shines through this fascinating book, which had an initial printing of 250,000 and has now sold close to 1 million copies. 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.

4
Germs
Judith Miller, Stephen Engelberg, and William Broad 23 points (ABA: 2nd; NYT: 4th; PW: 4th: Amazon.com: not listed)
CONTENT
A history of the development and use of biological weapons by governments and cults, and a forecast of future use by terrorists and rogue states.

GIST
A highly readable, sober look at the history of bio-weapons, the reasons for the ban on their use, the attempts to develop defenses against them, and their past use by cults. Judith Miller, one of the authors, has been in the news since receiving a suspicious letter containing a powdery substance at The New York Times.

5
Islam
Karen Armstrong 19 points (ABA: 4th; NYT: 7th; PW: not listed; Amazon.com: 3rd)
CONTENT
A readable, brief history of Islam's rise and stagnation, with an emphasis on socioeconomic and political influences rather than theology.

GIST
Armstrong tells liberal readers what they want to hear: Islam is a peaceful, democratic religion; Christians invented anti-Semitism and ruthlessly attacked Islam; Islamic fundamentalism is a reaction to European colonialism; all religious fundamentalism is aggressive, rooted in fear and lacking compassion; spirituality is good, doctrine is bad.

IN THE SPOTLIGHT
College seniors submerged under a pile of college applications often look for ways to judge between the hype and the reality of various universities. The Intercollegiate Studies Institute's Choosing the Right College is one of the best guides. The book's main selling point is that it offers its critique from a conservative perspective. It judges the 110 competitive colleges on the basis of how far they have strayed from a traditional liberal-arts education into political correctness. The guide points out the irony that as colleges gain in reputation it is often because they have become more politically correct. The guide goes into specific detail about questionable curriculum offerings such as Duke's "Marxism and Society" program. It also recommends praiseworthy departments and professors by name. College choosers should not decide on the basis of this book alone, but it is a good place to start.

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