1. MY LIFE -- Bill Clinton
Content: Bill Clinton's overweight memoir revisits some events of his life in minute detail, and glosses over many others.
Gist: Instead of going deeper, the 42nd president is still fighting the same political battles, using the same tactics, and skirting the truth. The poorly done index won't help those hoping to skip a few of the 1,008 pages. It leaves out general search terms like Christianity, forgiveness, repentance, and scandal, though all of these subjects are discussed.
2. EATS, SHOOTS & LEAVES -- Lynne Truss
Content: With wit and style Ms. Truss presses the case for correct punctuation and assures people it's more than OK to be a punctuation stickler.
Gist: It's surprising that a book about the correct use of punctuation should shoot to the top of the bestseller lists, especially in a day of slap-dash e-mails. Ms. Truss fills the book with amusing examples of poor punctuation and meanings changed by carelessly omitted marks. Caution: She uses British rules for punctuating quotations, and they differ from American ones.
3. SHADOW DIVERS - Robert Kurson
Content: Deep-wreck scuba divers discover a sunken German U-boat off the coast of New Jersey-and then begin the search to discover its story and correct a piece of history.
Gist: A gripping action/adventure tale and a true story of historical detection. Mr. Kurson's narrative reads like fiction. Its sometimes foul-talking characters are obsessed, several to the point of death, with uncovering the U-boat's identity. They sacrifice their marriages and much else in a quest for meaning that floats beyond their reach.
4. DRESS YOUR FAMILY ... - David Sedaris
Content: A collection of personal essays and NPR radio commentaries inspired by events from Mr. Sedaris's family experiences.
Gist: Mr. Sedaris mines his own and his family's pathologies to fuel his collection of essays. Although the essays are funny in places, his kind of humor, biting and cruel, reflects a jaundiced worldview and gay sensibility.
5. IMPERIAL HUBRIS - Anonymous
Content: A provocative and deeply pessimistic book, which claims the United States has neither the will nor the understanding to win the war against Osama bin Laden.
Gist: The author, a CIA analyst ordered not to use his name, concludes that the United States must either change its Middle East policy or wage a Shermanesque, scorched-earth war against Islamists. He argues bin Laden hates the United States because of our policies toward Israel, etc., and not because of our values and culture.
In the spotlight
Imperial Hubris: Why the West Is Losing the War on Terror (Brassey's, Inc., 2004) is an odd bestseller. The book is both extremely dovish and ultra-hawkish. The author assumes that if we stop propping up corrupt Middle Eastern governments, supporting Israel, pressuring governments to keep oil prices low, and aiding India and Russia as they brutally suppress Muslim insurgencies, then Osama and his suicide bombers will return to their fig trees and gardens. That overlooks Islam's aggressive history: Any country that once was under Islamic rule (Spain, for instance) belongs under Islamic rule, and Muslims have the duty to fight for it.
The author admits that the United States is unlikely to change its foreign policy, so the only option is all-out force-yet U.S. policymakers have no stomach for a brutal, enemy-crushing war. He describes a situation where almost any U.S. action provides propaganda fodder for Osama. It's strange for pessimism so deep to sell so well.