by Stephen King

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The 13 tales in King's latest collection run the gamut from psychological terror ("Harvey's Dream," in which a man's nightmare about the death of his daughter has an unfortunate resonance in his waking life) to the sort of occult fare for which the author is known ("The Cat from Hell"—you can imagine). King is as sharp—and disgusting—as ever: Witness "A Very Tight Place," reminiscent of "Quitters, Inc." from his earlier collection Night Shift, in which the protagonist is locked inside a Port-A-Potty and forced to escape through the business end. The strongest here, though, are the two that deal with 9/11: "Graduation Afternoon" is a very short, but effective, story about an attack on Manhattan, while "The Things They Left Behind" deals with the guilt a World Trade Center survivor feels for having called in sick on that terrible morning. They're at the center of this haunting compilation—proof King is at his best when he grounds his narratives in reality.

by Malcolm Gladwell

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An analysis of what makes some rise to the top and others fall short, Gladwell's latest is as deliciously original as his bestsellers Blink and The Tipping Point. Think "the best and the brightest" are destined for success? Gladwell claims overachievers are just born at the right place and time and learn to seize the moment. An engaging take on a culture that, in his words, is "too much in awe of those who succeed and ... too dismissive of those who fail."

by Patricia Harman

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A flower child who found her calling after coaching a friend through a home birth, nurse-midwife Harman works with her ob-gyn husband at a West Virginia clinic. In her sweetly perceptive memoir, she reveals how her exam room becomes a confessional. Coaxing women in thin gowns to share secrets—about abusive boyfriends, OxyContin habits, unplanned pregnancies—she reminds them that they're not alone.

by P.D. James

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Murder in a country manor, suspects summoned to the library, endless cups of tea—P.D. James is still the doyenne of English whodunits. Set in a plastic surgery clinic, her 14th Adam Dalgliesh mystery centers on a journalist strangled after surgery, leaving taciturn detective Dalgliesh with a houseful of suspects and motives aplenty. Secrets and feuds are serviceably revealed, but James' psychological acuity and rich atmospherics remain unmatched.


I LIKE YOU by Amy Sedaris
Just in time for the holidays, Sedaris's tongue-in-cheek party-planning guide. Perfect if you like wisecracks with your crudités.

HER LAST DEATH by Susanna Sonnenberg
Survivor of a privileged, dysfunctional childhood, Sonnenberg has transformed her pain into a transfixing memoir.

FRENCH MILK by Lucy Knisley
A recent college grad's graphic memoir about the six weeks she spent in Paris with her mom (Oh, the croissants!). Slight but charmant.

>"Mowgli from The Jungle Book. As a kid I wanted to play with tigers in the Bengal forest, to play with Baloo, to be raised by wolves ..." —SANJAYA MALAKAR

"The caterpillar from The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Because he gets to keep eating." —DEMI LOVATO

"Carrie Bradshaw from Sex and the City. She just has such a cool life. With the clothes, and the bags, and the Big and the friends—it's just perfect." —KELLY ROWLAND

"I'd have to go with Superman. He could take anybody. Even Batman. No question. He'd hit him with the burning eyes!" —JON STEWART

• Before there were paparazzi hordes, there was Ron Galella. In a new book, he pairs his street shots of A-listers with their reactions—and defends his work. "Celebrities are public figures," he writes, "... fair game."

>• He was—literally—a literary giant: a congenial 6'9" former basketball player who towered over his fans at signings. Yet Michael Crichton, who died at age 66 on Nov. 4 after a private battle with throat cancer, will be remembered most for the immensity of his gift. The author of 15 suspense-filled novels (10 became movies) and creator of NBC's ER had "talent [that] outscaled even his own dinosaurs," said Steven Spielberg, who directed Crichton's Jurassic Park. "There is no one in the wings that will ever take his place."

In this prescient novel written during Crichton's Harvard Medical School days, scientists race to contain a deadly space organism. His first bestseller.

CONGO (1980)
A smart, fast-paced tale of a jungle expedition—complete with its own signing simian—gone awry. The '95 film adaptation didn't do it justice.

A modern-day Frankenstein featuring a murderous artificial-intelligence programmer. Plays deftly into '70s computer paranoia but still thrills in the MySpace age.

This monster hit reaffirmed Crichton's talent after a rough patch during the late '80s. The movie version grossed almost $1 billion.