by V. S. Naipaul

Studies of India tend to be as portentous and unwieldy as the country itself. But in a sharply detailed 191 pages Naipaul, a Trinidadian novelist (Guerrillas) of Indian ancestry, fashions provocative theories on why India finds itself torn between tradition and future. Though written before Indira Gandhi's fall, Naipaul's observations—from the villager who flaunts his fluorescent light as a symbol of prosperity to politicians vacuously mouthing quotations of Mahatma Gandhi—nonetheless illustrate "the inadequacy of every Indian's idea of India." (Knopf, $7.95)

by Dora Jane Hamblin

LIFE magazine's advertising department once coined a promotional slogan: "Consider the alternative." They meant competing publications, but wise guys on the editorial staff suggested that the only alternative to LIFE was death. And indeed LIFE as a weekly succumbed at the end of 1972. Now Dodie Hamblin, a LIFE reporter and writer for nearly 25 of the magazine's 36 years, has written memoirs—hers and LIFE'S. The book is a chatty, anecdotal, gee-whiz look at the magazine's journalists and their sometimes implausible pursuit of the great picture and the right word. Many Americans say they still miss the weekly LIFE. This is the next best thing. (W. W. Norton, $10)

by Sara Davidson

"We were certain we belonged to a generation that was special." So writes journalist Sara Davidson, 33, in a book that almost undermines but finally vindicates Socrates' axiom that the unexamined life is not worth living. Davidson scrutinizes the lives of three women who came of age in the 1960s—her own and those of two pseudonymous Berkeley sorority sisters. What results is not so much a social history—though the protests, communes, drugs, Woodstock and Altamont are all here—but an account of the upheaval those times brought to three middle-class, Jewish, intellectual women from California.

by Howard Simons

The author, managing editor of the Washington Post (played by Martin Balsam in All the President's Men), is by avocation a maker of lists. Not simply any lists, as in David Wallechinsky's and Irving Wallace's similar but solipsistic volume, but factual and fascinating lists of the kind he and his family drew up during a seven-week, 9,500-mile drive from D.C. to Seattle and back in 1975. Here are all the places where George Washington slept (more than 50), the largest gardens in the U.S., our 14 active volcanoes and 174 other trivia games. An amiable companion to take on any family's trip. (Fireside, $5.95)