Culture > Notable Books


Notable Books | The five bestselling nonfiction hardbacks as measured by placement on four leading lists as of July 22

1. Slander: Liberal Lies about the American Right

36 points [NYT: 1st; ABA: 3rd; LAT: 3rd; PW: 1st]

CONTENT A well-documented, heavily footnoted exposé of liberal bias in the press and vapidity in the marketplace of ideas.

GIST Ann Coulter skewers liberal politicians and journalists with humor and lots of specific examples. She compares media treatment of Phyllis Schlafly and Gloria Steinem, book advances to liberal and to conservative authors, and liberal myths (for example, "the religious right") with reality.

2. You Cannot be Serious

34 points [NYT: 2nd; ABA: 2nd; LAT: 2nd; PW: 4th]

CONTENT Tennis's bad boy tells his story, from his boyhood in Queens to his run at the top of the tennis world and his current role as Upper West Side father of six.

GIST On-court tirades branded John McEnroe as a rebel, and he played and partied hard. Now in his 40s, Mr. McEnroe looks back, acknowledges that he would have behaved better had he been properly sanctioned, and admits that the displays of temper probably hurt his game.

3. Stupid White Men

31 points [NYT: 3rd; ABA: 1st; LAT: 1st; PW: 8th]

CONTENT A screed against the evil powers he says run the country and a political-action handbook.

GIST Bill Clinton is a closet Republican and Molly Ivins a genius. Mr. Moore obviously wrote the book prior to Sept. 11, so it has the dated feel of an old yearbook. Remember the old jokes about President Bush's intellect and the Florida elections? They're offered up here as original wit.

CAUTION Crudities and blasphemy.

4. Self Matters

22 points [NYT: not listed; ABA: 5th; LAT: 4th; PW: 2nd]

CONTENT Advice from a psychologist praised by Oprah as a "walking, talking, in-your-face reality check" for those who feel lost in their lives.

GIST Mr. McGraw diagnoses a problem-discontentment and unhappiness-and offers the standard self-help cure: Look within for keys to understanding past bad choices and rotten self-images; it's where readers will discover their true selves and find personal happiness. Walking, talking nonsense.

5. John Adams

21 points [NYT: 4th; ABA: 4th; LAT: 10th; PW: 5th]

CONTENT A compelling biography of the second president of the United States.

GIST Mr. McCullough's sympathetic portrait of Adams has now sold more than 1.5 million copies. Publishers Weekly calls that sales figure the highest for any hardback historical biography, ever. 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.

In the spotlight

Jan Karon's Mitford books have sold more than 10 million copies for publisher Viking. The eighth book in the series, In This Mountain (Viking, 2002), had an initial printing of 650,000 copies. It finds Father Tim chafing at retirement: He is supposedly working on a book of essays, but his writing is as lifeless as his tired body feels. The good father decides that retirement is not for him and that he and his wife Cynthia need to put on the harness again and embark on a mission trip to rural Tennessee. The folks in Mitford need him as well, but Father Tim doesn't see that until an accident forces him to refocus. In this latest Mitford tale, Ms. Karon returns to the formula that made the series so popular. She avoids the caricatures that made A Common Life so disappointing, and develops a story that forces Mitford's residents, who have been helped so much by Father Tim, to minister to him as he struggles to regain his joy.

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), The Los Angeles Times (southern California bestsellers), and Publishers Weekly (general bookstores).


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