Edited by Bill Moyers

In the companion volume to his latest PBS series, Bill Moyers interviews 11 poets who performed at the Dodge Poetry Festival in New Jersey a year ago, ranging from eminences (poet laureate Robert Pinsky, Princeton prof Paul Muldoon) to rising stars (Mark Doty, Jane Hirshfield). Moyers asks some standard questions—Why do you write? What do you love most? When did you start writing?—and sometimes gets boilerplate answers: Because I don't have a choice. Being alive. In first or second grade. He can also go over the top, as when he opines that Stanley Kunitz (who at age 94 hasn't lost a step) would "in a rational world" be TIME's Man of the Century. But there are more than a few nuggets of insight that make up for the occasional lapse. When we come to Deborah Garrison's "An Idle Thought" (about choosing to be "a true first wife" as opposed to a seductress with "perfected bod, highlighted hair/ and hip career"), we see why her fans might talk about her around the watercooler. Moyers's work reflects, feeds and will help sustain the decade-long boom in American poetry. (Morrow, $20)

Bottom Line: Clear window into truly poetic souls

by Mother Love with Tonya Bolden

Those for whom five hours a week of Mother Love's syndicated TV weepfest, Forgive or Forget, are not enough, can now rest easy. With this intriguing and instructive tome, the straight-talking talk show host, comedian and actress commits her gospel about the healing power of forgiveness to paper.

Love's theory is simple: Inner peace comes only when you seek forgiveness from those you have wronged and grant it to those who have wronged you. And the everchatty former school-bus driver (real name: JoAnne Hart) illustrates her points with entertaining, if sometimes tawdry, anecdotes from her TV show. But in addition to all the tales of boyfriend-stealers, secret-blabbers and double-dealing debtors, the book also offers poignant testimony about learning to put your emotional baggage behind you. And if the advice isn't particularly original—well, duh, apologies should be delivered with sincerity and without excuses—it's probably worth hearing it again. (HarperCollins, $22.95)

Bottom Line: Mother knows best, when it comes to love

by Scott Turow

Lawyer, womanizer, liar extraordinaire, Robbie Feaver is the kind of hotshot who's always playing the angles. Now, in Turow's latest legal thriller, Feaver must give the performance of his life—as he scrambles to stay out of prison by participating in an elaborate FBI sting to snare the very judges he has been paying off.

But can an operator like Feaver ever really play it straight, even when the stakes are this high? And on the flip side, just how low will the putative good guys, such as prosecutor Stan Sennett, go in pursuit of such a coup? Questions like these are among the many troubling ethical issues that swirl beneath Injuries' suspenseful—and surprising—plot.

Turow returns to Kindle County, the corruption-rife Chicago stand-in he has been exploring since 1987's Presumed Innocent, for a tale inspired by actual cases he prosecuted as an assistant U.S. attorney in the early '80s. Though he creates a compelling portrait of an undercover operation and the toll it takes on those involved, not all of the characters rise to Feaver-pitch, and the going slows at times. But Turow is not afraid to ask some tough questions here, and his thought-provoking answers are worth pondering. (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $27)

Bottom Line: Cunning legal cat-and-rat tale

by Gloria Stuart with Sylvia Thompson

The star of dozens of 1930s B movies and the occasional classic (The Old Dark House, The Invisible Man), Stuart resurfaced triumphantly in Titanic. Surely the actress, now 89, must harbor a trove of anecdotes about her chums of yesteryear: Cagney, Karloff, Jack Benny. Alas, that hope sinks like you-know-what. Her life as a 1920s bohemian has some interest (though she glosses over "a botched abortion"), and she does share a few entertaining morsels—Humphrey Bogart, for instance, played chess by mail with wartime GIs—but this exasperating memoir is mostly gussied-up diary entries and secondhand gossip. After Stuart left Universal in 1939, she tried painting and fine-book making and excelled at them. One of her books, owned by several museums, is about author Christopher Isherwood, whom she mentions offhandedly as a longtime friend. Period. But she devotes two pages to the obscure poker group that she has belonged to for 40 years. (Little Brown, $24.95)

Bottom Line: Bring on the iceberg

by Peter Guralnick and Ernst Jorgensen

One measure of Elvis Presley's undying charisma is the fact that this absurdly detailed chronicle of his life is surprisingly fascinating. Nothing is too banal for veteran music writer and Elvis biographer Peter Guralnick and producer Ernst Jorgensen. They note, for instance, that Elvis's father, Vernon, borrowed $25 from a bank in Tupelo, Miss., on March 6, 1943, paying it back, with $2 interest, three months later. And that location shooting for Blue Hawaii ended on April 17, 1961.

The authors also detail Presley's manifold weaknesses, such as his inconstancy toward his overlapping girlfriends (and wife Priscilla) or his capricious temper: On Feb. 9, 1974, we learn, he shot out a chandelier and several television sets at the Las Vegas Hilton.

The book might have gone on to include Elvis "sightings," Elvis impersonators and the still-flourishing Elvis industry. But as it is, Day by Day is a useful research tool. And Elvis being (or having been) Elvis, it's most readable as a narrative, even if you have to fill in the transitions yourself. (Ballantine, $49.95)

Bottom Line: The King is in the details

by Linda Fairstein

Page-turner of the week

In the third Alexandra Cooper novel featuring the author's younger, sexier, blonder alter ego, Fairstein combines her own expertise as head of the Manhattan D.A.'s Sex Crimes Unit with meticulous research about the current art scene's most outrageous scams and unsolved heists.

This time, Alex must unravel the rape and murder of Denise Caxton, a prominent dealer and collector. Alex and her NYPD buds Mike Chapman and Mercer Wallace are hoping for a "cold hit" (police parlance for an exact computer match between DNA left by the rapist and that of previous crimes). But they'll also need to suss out whoever ordered the hit.

As they winnow down suspects, Alex—as always, elegant in her designer high heels and Escada suits—leads the way into galleries, art—filled penthouses and swank watering holes where a glamorous veneer covers all shades of nastiness. Readers of this fast-paced thriller will get a view of today's art world unlike anything taught in Art History 101. (Scribner, $25)

Bottom Line: Stylish study in criminal expressionism

>DARK LADY Richard North Patterson

In his latest suspense novel, the author—another legal eagle turned scribe—creates Stella Marz, a prosecutor so ruthless that she's known by the book's title. (Knopf, $25.95)

SECOND WIND Dick Francis The forecast is dark and murky for a hurricane-chasing weatherman who gets ensnared in a treacherous political conspiracy. (Putnam, $24.95)

  • Contributors:
  • David Lehman,
  • Cynthia Sanz,
  • Pam Lambert,
  • Edward Karam,
  • Ralph Novak,
  • Jean Reynolds.