by Mary Higgins Clark

After a bitter divorce and the terror of being pursued by a stalker, defense attorney Emily Graham buys her ancestral home in seaside Spring Lake, N.J., hoping for a quieter life.

It doesn't quite work out that way. Hours after Emily moves in, contractors find the body of a young woman buried in her backyard. Stranger yet, clutched in the dead woman's hand is a finger bone of Emily's great-great-grandaunt, who had disappeared 110 years earlier. With two centuries of clues to cover, Clark wastes little time on character development. No matter. As the bodies pile up—and the suspect list grows—her chatty style and plot surprises make a reader want to settle in. (Simon & Schuster, $26)

Bottom Line: An address to remember

A Celebration of Humanity

"Without a family," wrote novelist Andre Maurois, "man, alone in the world, trembles in the cold." This sumptuous collection of pictures by 100 photographers from around the globe—chosen from 40,000 entries in a contest created by New Zealand publisher Geoff Blackwell—pays homage to the people who keep us warm. From a German baby gleefully tugging on her mother's nipple to a Rwandan genocide survivor reuniting with her only living relative to an Australian family sadly burying their dog, the pictures pulse with the love, delight and sorrow that characterize family life, wherever you find it. It's a coffee-table book to be savored—and kept far away from your family photo albums. Aunt Lucy's birthday party captured on an Instamatic simply can't compare. (Morrow, $50)

Bottom Line: Gorgeous, affecting tribute to the ties that bind

An America Legend
by Laura Hillenbrand

In 1938, a celebrity who never granted an interview generated more press mentions than Franklin Roosevelt, Clark Gable or Lou Gehrig. Who was this superstar? A horse named Seabiscuit. Thanks to Hillenbrand's passionate writing and fine research, readers who don't know a filly from a furlong will be captivated.

A grandson of the powerful Man o' War, Seabiscuit was a lazy and willful runt until trainer Tom Smith spotted him. A loner who had broken mustangs, Smith knew horses. He persuaded the affable Charles Howard, a former bicycle mechanic who had parlayed 21 cents into a fortune, to buy the much raced Seabiscuit. Ridden by jockey Red Pollard, who was secretly blind in one eye, this unsightly animal soon began winning everything in sight. Hillenbrand's jargon-free language makes the races—and the period—exhilarating. (Random House, $24.95)

Bottom Line: Odds-on favorite

A True Story of Adoption
by Janis Cooke Newman

Until her mother began dying of cancer in 1993, the author of this engrossing memoir didn't want children. Once the desire hit, though, she longed for a baby desperately enough to undertake an agonizing journey. Unable to conceive, Newman and her husband headed from their California home to Russia to adopt an infant they had fallen in love with on a videotape from a Moscow orphanage. Named Grisha, the Russian word for snow, because his mother had abandoned him in winter, the 1-year-old proved as appealing as they had hoped, even if he did smell like the boiled cabbage that was a staple of the orphanage. The couple's fight to bring Grisha (renamed Alex) home after months of dashed hopes and bureaucratic snafus vividly illustrates the perils of foreign adoption. Alex, now a healthy and happy 6-year-old, shows it's worth it. (St. Martin's, $22.95)

Bottom Line: Nail-biting adoption saga with a happy ending

by Nicholas Weinstock

Book of the week
[STARS 1]

Oscar does it all. As a personal assistant to publishing company pooh-bah Dawn, who is so demanding she makes Cruella de Vil look like the Little Mermaid, he oversees every detail of his boss's life, from her business appointments to whether or not her caddish boyfriend is cheating on her. But when Dawn asks him to plan her lavish wedding and orders him to keep it top secret, Oscar decides that he no longer wants to win the Oscar for Best Flunky in a Supporting Role. He has reached his limit, but luckily for him, his boss's platinum AmEx has not. In this light and funny first novel—written by a former publishing assistant—crass corporate politics are easy to laugh at, but the story has a sweet side, too. Enlisting the help of a bridal magazine columnist named Lauren LaRose, Oscar finds himself falling in love with her while mulling whether to go with a tiered or stacked cake. Too bad that Lauren, who gives great female perspective to the book by relating some of the most horrifying blind-date stories in history, thinks that Oscar is planning his own wedding—to someone else. (Cliff Street, $22)

Bottom Line: Give a copy to your boss—anonymously

>GENERATION EX Karen Karbo Finally, a funny alternative to all those self-righteous self-help books. In this account of life after marriage, the author shares her own messy experiences to mine the humor beneath the hurt. (Bloomsbury, $24.95)

SYLVIA AND TED Emma Tennant

You don't need to be well-versed in poetry to be riveted by this fictionalized story of a doomed literary love triangle—the affairs of Ted Hughes with Sylvia Plath and Assia Wevill. (Henry Holt, $22)

IN HARM'S WAY Doug Stanton In 1945, the USS Indianapolis was sunk by a Japanese submarine. Stanton tensely tells how four days of shark attacks and hypothermia killed hundreds. (Henry Holt, $25)

>Bob Dole

After three failed runs at the Presidency, Bob Dole knows this much about what it takes to earn a lease at the White House: "You've got to have a backbone, but you've also got to have a funny bone." Dole is certainly overqualified on the latter count: When he's not doing tongue-in-cheek commercials for Pepsi, Dole, 77, a partner at a D.C. law firm, collects quips from West Wing wags throughout history. In his compendium Great Presidential Wit (...I Wish I Was in the Book) (Scribner, $19.95), Dole presents such gems as:

•"Whenever I hear anyone arguing for slavery, I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally."—Abraham Lincoln.

•"A muttonhead, after an education at West Point—or Harvard—is a muttonhead still."—Theodore Roosevelt.

•"If you don't say anything, you won't be called on to repeat it."—Calvin Coolidge.

•"The best way to give advice to your children is to find out what they want and then advise them to do it."—Harry Truman.

•Asked by a golf lover what his handicap was, Ronald Reagan replied, "Congress."

  • Contributors:
  • Cynthia Sanz,
  • Kim Hubbard,
  • Erica Sanders,
  • Linda Kramer,
  • Jennifer Wulff.