by Jessica Queller |

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TV writer Jessica Queller was 34 and single when she discovered that, as she now puts it, "my own body could kill me." Less than a year after her mother, a breast cancer survivor, died of ovarian cancer, Queller tested positive for the BRCA1 gene mutation, an indication that she was at high risk of contracting breast or ovarian cancer. "This truth," she writes, "would change the course of my life." That altered course is chronicled in Pretty, an affecting memoir about a decision more women will face in this era of genetic prophecy: whether to undergo a preventive double mastectomy. Queller grapples with body-image fears and her longing to be a mother, admires a mastectomy patient's new breasts and finally opts for surgery, choosing implants that reduce her D-cup to a B. She balances bleak moments with wit and maintains a fierce independence: Knowing she'll have her ovaries removed at 40, the author—now 38 and a Gossip Girl writer—decides she will try to have a baby on her own. Her brave, inspiring journey lends credence to her message: "Scientific advances give us new opportunities to live," she writes. "Seize them."

by Louise Penny |

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In this latest addition to Penny's Three Pines Mystery series, Inspector Armand Gamache of Quebec returns to solve the murder of a Three Pines local who appears to have been "frightened to death" during an Easter Sunday séance. The more Gamache investigates, however, the more it seems a simple scare wasn't the whole story. With its small-town hominess, the Canadian village of Three Pines draws the reader into its quaint traditions. Who wouldn't be charmed by the dramas of a community where Easter egg hunts and socials at the bed and breakfast are the most exciting events? Yet it is Penny's fastidious, cultured and smart Inspector Gamache who makes Month impossible to put down.

by Richard Price |

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A New York City bartender is shot after a night drinking with fellow aspiring artists. One tells detectives that hoodlums shot his friend for talking back, but other witnesses have a different take. Combining an uncanny sense of city life with compassionate portrayals of characters on various rungs of the social ladder, this eighth book by Price—co-writer of HBO's The Wire—proves he's one of the best urban crime writers working.

by Shirley Abbott |

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Abbott's impressive first novel centers on the World Trade Center attacks as a catalyst for characters whose emotional boundaries disappear in a roil of toxic dust. An adulterer allows his wife to think he's dead; a wealthy matron tries to revive her inert marriage; an aging bohemian savoring an affair fears her sin sparked 9/11. Though too many narrators tax her story, Abbott's nuanced take on New York after the fall is spot-on, reminding us that love is about survival as well as loss.

"I stumbled around in a fog, brooding over my existential dilemma: "To cut my breasts off, or not ... that is the question"

Three new books explore why human behavior so often defies logic—and offer tips on how to wise up

PREDICTABLY IRRATIONAL by Dan Ariely You'll eat more at a buffet even if you're full—and other stupid human tricks. Unlearn them here.

THE AGE OF AMERICAN UNREASON by Susan Jacoby Steeped in "infotainment" culture, Jacoby says, we're too uninformed to act rationally.

SWAY by Ori Brafman and Rom Brafman That's not you who's deciding, it's your unconscious—and it doesn't have a clue. (June pub.)

For his book The Blue Zone writer Dan Buettner, 47, spent seven years researching communities that boast high percentages of centenarians. Among the common habits he says can add 10 healthy years to your life:

HAVE HAPPY HOUR A glass of wine, some nuts and a gathering of friends are good for your heart.

BE NICE There wasn't a grump in the bunch of centenarians I met. Being likeable makes people happier to provide you company and care as you age.

GET A SMALLER HOUSE Close family connections—not just emotional but physical—are key to longevity.

HARA HACHI BU Japanese for "Stop before you're stuffed." Cutting calories by 20 percent can add six years.

PICK HEALTHY PALS Your friends' habits can be as influential as diets or exercise programs.