THE ANIMAL DIALOGUES
by Craig Childs |

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REVIEWED BY MICHELLE GREEN

NOVEL

In one haunting essay from this collection, nature writer Childs records a galvanizing moment in the Sonoran Desert. At the end of a scorching day, he and a companion hear a lone coyote howling into the sky. As an experiment, the author pulls his flute from his knapsack and plays "high, furious" notes back. Sighting the coyote in his binoculars, his hiking pal tells him that the animal seems to be responding to the music. "It sat down," he tells Childs. "It's just sitting out there, listening." Elsewhere Childs records the "cloak and dagger affairs" of ravens and the dreamlike experience of being stalked by a jaguar. "Times that I have seen the animals have been like knife cuts in fabric," he writes. "Through the stabs I could see a second world." Yet Childs makes it clear that any observer with enough humility and patience can witness the subtle ways in which raccoons or spotted owls communicate on their own turf—and can, perhaps, send the occasional human signal in return. Reflective but not romanticized, Dialogues is a quietly seductive ode to the power of mindfulness.

by Jami Attenberg |

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REVIEWED BY GABRIELLE DANCHICK

NOVEL

Jarvis Miller has been languishing ever since her successful artist husband, Martin, went into a coma six years ago. Before the accident (aneurysm, ladder, can of paint), life had been good. Possibly too good: Marriage to the charismatic painter had transformed the Manhattan party girl into a happily sedate, devoted Brooklyn wife. Now she whiles away the days clinging to memories, visiting Martin and contending with his rapacious art dealer and lech of a best friend. But Jarvis is soon shaken out of her shell, first by her involvement with the Kept Man Club (three men with career wives who meet weekly at the local laundromat) and then by a shattering discovery. Written in relaxed yet fresh prose, Attenberg's debut is unabashedly emotional, refreshingly devoid of New York City cynicism and tenderly funny.

by Marie Phillips |

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REVIEWED BY VICK BOUGHTON

NOVEL

Remember all those gorgeous Greek gods with superpowers to spare? Today, it turns out, they're living together in acrimonious squalor in London: Once radiant Apollo hopes to land a job as a TV clairvoyant; Aphrodite works for a phone sex service—until two meek mortals change their fortunes and prove that love is the superpower that counts. An irreverent charmer.

by Isabel Stenzel Byrnes and Anabel Stenzel |

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REVIEWED BY MOIRA BAILEY

MEMOIR

The connectedness of twins shines through in this tale by sisters born in California 35 years ago with a shared diagnosis of cystic fibrosis. Isa and Ana chronicle their journey through declining health and lung transplants, alternating medical memories with accounts of college acceptances and first loves. Grippingly honest, Two reminds us all to breathe deeply in the moments we have.

'This is a collection of my own encounters, staring at animals for as long as they would stay'

GOOD DOG. STAY. by Anna Quindlen
The Pulitzer Prize winner recounts life lessons she learned from Beau, her family's late, beloved Labrador retriever (who—is it just us?—bore a certain soulful-eyed resemblance to his mistress).

WHEN MAN IS THE PREY edited by Michael Tougias
A compendium of adrenaline-charged true tales of wild-animal attacks from Alaska to Argentina. Nature Channel fans should find it scarily satisfying.

• Scrabble players, rejoice: The revised Oxford English Dictionary includes 2,500 new words and phrases. Some suggestions for blowing away the competition:

OMIGOD (interjection) Expr. astonishment or shock, pain or anger: Oh my God!

CRAPOLA (noun) Material of poor quality, rubbish; nonsense

BOGUS (noun and adj.) Very displeasing or inferior, bad

SMOOSH (verb trans.) Squash, crush or flatten

FRICKING (adj. and adv.) Expressing amazement, anger, exasperation, etc.

NYAH (interjection) Expr. a feeling of superiority or contempt

BUZZKILL (noun) A person who or thing which dampens enthusiasm or enjoyment

Think it's easy being married to mega-preacher and author (The Purpose Driven Life) Rick Warren? In her candid memoir, Kay Warren reveals how tough she's found it—and how an unlikely cause of her own, AIDS activism, has helped.

WHY AIDS? In 2002 I read an article about AIDS in Africa. Millions of people were just wasting away. It rocked my world.

WHAT IS YOUR MESSAGE? We tell people to save sex for marriage, but we also say limit partners, and we support consistent use of condoms. The church has mostly been absent [from this fight], but it has to get involved.

HOW HAS YOUR MISSION HELPED YOUR MARRIAGE? For years I felt put on a shelf while my husband raced forward. I felt resentful. But we grew up and have had good marriage counseling. He went with me to Africa and saw that fighting AIDS isn't just for you, Kay—it's for us and for everybody. After 32 years Rick is my best friend.

If You Save One Life Former
PEOPLE senior writer Thomas Fields-Meyer helps Auschwitz survivor Eva Brown tell her harrowing tale of brutality and survival.

Mirage
PEOPLE staff writer Nina Burleigh spotlights the Indiana Jones-esque scientists who joined Napoleon's Egyptian invasion during the late 18th century.

A bumper crop of well-reviewed bestsellers is hitting the Cineplexes this season. Our take on what Hollywood is doing right—and what gets lost in translation:

THE KITE RUNNER

Khaled Hosseini's tale of friendship and betrayal in war-torn Afghanistan.

THE MOVIE HAS Two astonishingly good first-time actors playing the main boys; great-looking locales.

THE BOOK HAS More fully developed characters; an ending that feels completely organic.

BOTTOM LINE Fans of the novel won't be disappointed.

PERSEPOLIS

Marjane Satrapi's graphic novel about growing up during the Iranian Islamic revolution.

THE MOVIE HAS Movement, music and the lyrical voices of Catherine Deneuve and her daughter.

THE BOOK HAS Powerful, purposefully austere drawings ... which feel monotonous by the last page.

BOTTOM LINE Codirected by Satrapi, the movie is richer and more sensually pleasing than the book.

ATONEMENT

Ian McEwan's meditation on the lifelong ramifications of one imaginative little girl's lie.

THE MOVIE HAS Fab scenery, a stunning bit part for Vanessa Redgrave and Keira Knightley—who gets Cecilia Tallis's transformation by passion just right.

THE BOOK HAS Far more psychological complexity, plus McEwan's sharp, evocative prose.

BOTTOM LINE Great book, good movie. Catch both.

LOVE IN THE TIME OF CHOLERA

Gabriel Garcia Marquez's tale of undimmed passion, growing older and second chances.

THE MOVIE HAS A beautiful travelogue look, a haunting soundtrack and serviceable performances.

THE BOOK HAS Characters who change subtly and believably over the course of 50 years, lush language, a plot that keeps you turning pages.

BOTTOM LINE Read the book, wait for the DVD.