A Soldier of the Great War
Entertainingly florid and pointedly funny, this novel of an Italian veteran's WW I reminiscences is an eloquent treatise on the persistence of optimism even under the most appalling circumstances. (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich)

Typical American
A sly and touching first novel that hilariously relates the rise and demise of a Chinese immigrant and his baseball-loving family. The American Dream, celebrated and skewered. (Houghton Mifflin)

A Life of Picasso, Vol. I
The most authoritative, penetrating and readable Picasso biography yet explores the first 25 years, from Spain to the poverty and stimulation of Paris. (Random House)

Maus: A Survivor's Tale, II: And Here My Troubles Began
A cartoonist's cathartic quest to understand the Holocaust continues as he records the ordeals of his parents from the death camps to liberation and beyond. Often painfully funny, the book shows that the very strengths that got the father through Auschwitz imprison him later and make him a maddening yet unforgettable character. (Pantheon)

The Firm
Bucks and perks lure a Harvard Law grad to join an obscure Memphis firm. Then two associates die. Are the barristers laundering mob money? The hero's in peril whomever he trusts in the year's most spine-tingling page turner. (Doubleday)

The Devil's Candy
Scathing, uproarious, revealing—Salamon's chronicle of how The Bonfire of the Vanities was filmed is everything the movie should have been but wasn't. All that's missing in her tale of Hollywood egos run amok is the popcorn. (Houghton Mifflin)

The Bookmaker's Daughter
An elegant and evocative portrait of the author's father, the gambler, storyteller and eccentric "gentleman bandit" who dominated her Southern resort-town childhood. (Ticknor & Fields)

With awesome research and biting analysis, Faludi debunks the media-driven notion that the most recent wave of feminism has harmed American women. (Crown)

Obstinate, frugal and blunt, Herman Roth was the irresistible force his rising son Philip pressed against and drew inspiration from. Roth is masterful in this piercingly vivid account of their knotty relationship, seen through the lens of Herman's final struggle with a brain tumor. (Simon & Schuster)

Den of Thieves
A dazzling examination of the short but lucrative reign of the Wall Street greed barons of the '80s—Milken, Boesky, Levine and Siegel. It's a cops-and-robbers thriller and the most insightful business book of the year. (Simon & Schuster)

>•JAMES LEE BURKE A Morning for Flamingos [Little, Brown] •PETE DEXTER Brotherly Love [Random House] •NORMAN RUSH Mating[Knopf] •RAYMOND SOKOLOV Why We Eat What We Eat [Summit] •ANNE TYLER Saint Maybe [Knopf]