by Alice Hoffman | [

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Headstrong women, reckless love affairs and a liberal dusting of the supernatural are the pleasurable trademarks of an Alice Hoffman novel (Practical Magic, Here on Earth), and this melancholy fable of love and loss is no exception. A haunted London hotel provides the backdrop for three stories, beginning in 1999, when Maddy, a Manhattan lawyer, sleeps with her sister's "ridiculously handsome" English fiancé, then discovers he is terminally ill. We are next transported to the London of the '60s, where doctor's daughter Frieda upends her life by falling for a drug-addled rocker. Finally we meet Maddy's mother, Lucy, who, as a girl visiting London with her parents in the '50s, becomes an unwitting accessory in a tragic love triangle—the origin of the inn's haunting. Hoffman tends to slip into facile language, but her passionate storytelling and intense characters make a deeply personal connection that should bewitch old fans and new readers alike.

by Randy Pausch | [

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Living-life-to-the-fullest books can get maudlin, but Pausch's shimmering volume is as bracingly pragmatic as it is inspiring. A Carnegie Mellon professor of computer science, he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in '06; in August '07 he was given three to six months to live. Insisting on still having fun, Pausch gave a lecture at the university about achieving childhood dreams, a talk so moving that videos of it popped up all over the Internet. Expanded into a book, Pausch's lessons are simple: Dream big. Be grateful. Have humor and use your time well. Nothing groundbreaking, but the author's voice is so smart, funny and frank that it seems like deep wisdom. This isn't so much a book to help others (though it will) as it is a remembrance for his three kids: lessons of a remarkable life well lived—and well loved.

by Julie Andrews | [

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As Andrews recounts in this frank, intriguing memoir of her youth, the woman the world knows as Mary Poppins and Maria von Trapp could have used a loving nanny herself. A survivor of the London Blitz—and of myriad family dysfunctions, including her mother's alcoholism—young Julie was saved by her precocious voice. By 12, she had joined her mom on England's vaudeville circuit, outshining her and becoming the family's main breadwinner. Composed as ever, Andrews relates her story without bile: Indeed, one wishes she were as forthcoming about her feelings as she is about backstage gossip. Fans will surely demand an encore.

by Sloane Crosley | [

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Quirky twentysomething essayist Crosley has a gimlet eye for everyday absurdities—especially those she encounters as she maneuvers the wilds of Manhattan. In this stellar debut, she riffs on everything from the meaning of her cache of plastic ponies to being maid of honor for a woman she hasn't seen since high school. Crosley's style is so conversationally intimate that you'll feel as though you're sitting with her at a cafe, breathlessly waiting to hear what she's going to tell you next.


LOSING YOU by Nicci French Lose yourself in this smart nail-biter of a tale about a mother's desperate search for her missing teenage daughter.

DEVIL'S PEAK by Deon Meyer Part thriller, part gripping social history of post-apartheid South Africa—a melting pot spiced with cruelty and rough justice.

THE GENIUS by Jesse Kellerman When acclaimed drawings turn out to be portraits of murdered children, a gallery owner turns amateur sleuth.

• HER STEPFATHER MADE SEXUAL ADVANCES WHEN SHE WAS A TEEN "I mumbled, 'I'm really sleepy. Good night now!'" she writes. He didn't try again.

• SHE FLUNKED HER FIRST SCREEN TEST "The hair department curled my hair into ringlets ... [I looked] like a ghastly version of Shirley Temple." The verdict: "Not photogenic enough for film."

• RICHARD BURTON HINTED HE WANTED MORE THAN FRIENDSHIP During Camelot, "I think I was the only woman in the company who hadn't succumbed to his overwhelming allure."

• Wasted, her memoir about anorexia, made Marya Hornbacher a bestselling author at 23. Now 34, she's back with Madness, a harrowing tale of the bipolar disorder she was finally diagnosed with in '97—and from which she believes she suffered as early as age 4.

ARE ANOREXIA AND BIPOLAR CONNECTED? People tend to use eating disorders as home-grown mood stabilizers, like I did. More and more I meet people diagnosed with bipolar after an eating-disorder diagnosis.

YOU HAVE "ULTRA-RAPID CYCLING BIPOLAR"—WHAT'S THAT? Major mood swings, all day long. Drugs help, but I consider it a good year if I'm only hospitalized once.

HOW CAN YOU TELL YOU NEED TO BE? I feel so out of control that I don't feel safe anymore. But with the help of friends and my husband, Jeff, it's been more and more possible to battle it at home.

WERE YOU REALLY BIPOLAR AT 4? It was thought of as adults-only until about 1990, but I had attacks of fear, then phases of frenzy. Now children are being diagnosed and treated. That's a very good thing.