The Monirtor's Guide to BESTELLERS HARDCOVER FICTION

Article excerpt

MONITOR'S PICK EMERSON: THE MIND ON FIRE, by Robert D. Richardson, U. of California Press, $30

One role of the biographer is to rekindle interest in important figures no matter how familiar they may be through their writing.

Robert D. Richardson's biography "Emerson: The Mind on Fire" does just that and more for one of the seminal intellectual and spiritual thinkers of the American experience.

Although Emerson is scarcely a forgotten figure, his very familiarity tends to disguise his amazing originality. His protean, deliberately unsystematic mind resists attempts at classification. Even readers who love his poetically pithy essays, such as "Self-Reliance," "Compensation," and "Nature," may find it hard to imagine the man who wrote them.

But thanks to Professor Richardson's superbly written book, Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) takes on the lineaments of a thinking, feeling, entirely believable human being: an awkward middle child initially overshadowed by his seemingly more-gifted brothers; the grief-stricken widower of an aspiring poetess who died at 19; a man who taught himself how to recover from overwhelming bouts of depression by relying on his spiritual inner resources.

Whether he is describing the strange character of Emerson's remarkable aunt, Mary Moody Emerson; Emerson's first meeting with Thomas and Jane Carlyle; or Emerson's responses to his wide-ranging readings, Richardson writes with clarity, vigor, and liveliness that transform his meticulous research into a compellingly readable, highly intelligible story.

b= Favorable review; M= Mixed review; n= Unfavorable review; -= No review noted

The Christian Science Monitor; The New York Times; Kirkus Review of Books; Los Angeles Times; Selected reviews*

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MEN ARE FROM MARS, WOMEN ARE FROM VENUS, by John Gray, HarperCollins, $23

Written more for the female audience, this easy-to-read guide helps men and women better understand how the other sex communicates. Although redundant and sometimes stereotypical, it goes beyond psychobabble. Gray, who has written an assortment of books on this topic, explores such issues as the difference between a man's silence and a woman's, why men and women resist the other sex's solutions, and how a man reacts when a woman needs to talk. By Shelley Donald Coolidge

b - - - b TT

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IT TAKES A VILLAGE, by Hillary Rodham Clinton, Simon & Schuster, $20

"It Takes a Village: And Other Lessons Children Teach Us," conveys the personal views and experiences of the first lady about what matters in the rearing of children. Relatively free from jargon, it concerns the complex social issues of child rearing. Comprehensive and topical, if not original; breezy and conversational in a didactic way; autobiographical, yet clearly the work of a policy wonk shaping national policy; this book concerns a subject that should have no rival for our attention. By Jim Bencivenga

M b - b n HC

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How Could You Do That?!, by Laura Schlessinger, HarperCollins, $22

Radio host Laura Schlessinger follows-up her bestseller "Ten Stupid Things Women Do to Mess Up Their Lives," with this look at morality. Her message: Living happily means making choices - often between short-term pleasure and long-term consequences. She doesn't mince words when explaining that people's actions should more frequently be based on character, courage, and conscience. This quick read is full of strong opinions, religious undertones, and advice she's given callers. By Kim Campbell

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THE WAY OF THE WIZARD, by Deepak Chopra, Harmony, $15.95

A follow-up to the best-selling "The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success," Deepak Chopra's newest book is aimed at people wishing to transform their lives. Based on the teachings of the legendary wizard Merlin, the 20 lessons are intended to be stepping stones to personal and spiritual fulfillment - a tall order likely to leave most readers disappointed. …