Culture

Bestsellers

Culture | The five best-selling nonfiction hardbacks as measured by placement on four leading lists as of Dec. 31

Issue: "Fighting words," Jan. 12, 2002
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), Publishers Weekly (general bookstores), and Amazon.com (Web purchases).
1
John Adams
David McCullough 38 points (ABA: 1st; NYT: 2nd; PW: 2nd; Amazon: 1st)
CONTENT
A compelling biography of the second president of the United States.

GIST
Mr. McCullough set out to write a dual biography of Jefferson and Adams, but then found Adams to be the more compelling figure. His sympathy for the second president shines through this fascinating book. 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.

2
The No Spin Zone
Bill O'Reilly 34 points (ABA: 4th; NYT: 1st; PW: 1st; Amazon: 4th)
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
Theodore Rex
Edmund Morris 33 points (ABA: 2nd; NYT: 3rd; PW: 4th; Amazon: 2nd)
CONTENT
In this second volume, biographer Edmund Morris focuses on Theodore Roosevelt's presidential years (1901-1909).

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GIST
Morris returns to the style that brought him the Pulitzer Prize for his first volume on Roosevelt. He portrays an energetic TR, thrust into the presidency upon McKinley's assassination and determined to grab the reins of power. Although some of the problems Roosevelt faced may seem obscure now, Morris's engaging style brings the time and Roosevelt to life.

4
Jack
Jack Welch 25 points (ABA: 6th; NYT: 4th; PW: 6th; Amazon: 3rd)
CONTENT
A memoir by Welch, a respected corporate leader who retired recently after 40 years at General Electric.

GIST
Plain-talking Jack Welch interweaves the story of his long GE career with his personal and management philosophies. He portrays himself as an arrogant, sometimes 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 corporations.

5
The Final Days
Barbara Olson 23 points (ABA: 7th; NYT: 6th; PW: 3rd; Amazon: 5th)
CONTENT
A detailed look into the scandals of the last days of the Clinton presidency, a time when "the Clintons exercised presidential power as if they ruled an emerging third world dictatorship."

GIST
Barbara Olson came to national attention during the Clinton impeachment, when she was a frequent guest on TV shows like Hardball. In her last book (she died on Sept. 11 when her plane crashed into the Pentagon), Olson is never understated in her condemnation of Clinton excesses.

IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Ministries that help women overcome the guilt and grief associated with abortion are spreading, but the enormity of the problem is still dodged by conventional counselors and doctors. Forbidden Grief (Acorn Books, available in March) suggests that the numbers are large but focuses on the woman who regrets her abortion decision, and the ways our culture makes it difficult for her to deal with those regrets. Through her work with thousands of women who have had abortions, therapist Theresa Burke brings to light the long-suppressed emotional consequences of abortion. She quotes many women who have developed eating disorders and risk-taking behaviors. Burke's approach is therapeutic, but one drawback is the book's advocacy of merely a vague spirituality-reconciliation with God with no mention of Christ. But if pastors, counselors, and relatives of women who act in apparently self-hating ways want to ask why, they should learn about the long-term effects of abortion.

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