Wishful Drinking
by Carrie Fisher

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REVIEWED BY KYLE SMITH

People PICK

MEMOIR
Some showbiz people won't spill; others can't write. Neither is a problem for Fisher, a wit who was born weird, got weirder, became BFFs with drugs and alcohol and suffered, among other indignities, lockup in a mental facility, electroshock therapy and the worst hair in the galaxy in Star Wars. Fisher's loving but nutty friendship with her mom, Debbie Reynolds (the Jennifer Aniston of her day—dumped by Eddie Fisher for Elizabeth Taylor), is the core of this highly gulpable memoir based on a stage show; Debbie even suggested the two of them try pot together.

Later, Carrie married and divorced Paul Simon (who wrote "Graceland" about her) and was left by her second husband (father of her "incredible" daughter Billie, now 16) for a man. Fighting with Simon on their honeymoon, she told him, "Not only do I not like you, I don't like you personally!" They tried to keep arguing after that but "we were laughing too hard." That kind of Jedi trick is how Fisher makes each crushing tragedy hilarious.

by Mark Budman

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REVIEWED BY MICHELLE GREEN

NOVEL
A mordant dreamer, the protagonist of this first novel is deliciously at odds with his comrades in Russia; in college, the son of Jewish refugees disses a Chechen brute and barely escapes a mugging. Budman's episodic story (inspired by his life as an expatriate) is funniest when he's dissecting Russian culture; after his protagonist resettles in the U.S., he loses much of his edge. Still, this soulful tale about a perpetual outsider marks a debut well worth celebrating.

by Meryl Gordon

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REVIEWED BY JUDITH NEWMAN

BIOGRAPHY
It's chilling how a child once scorned can wreak havoc with a parent's life. And it's heartbreaking when the ailing parent must depend on the very person she has tried, but seemingly failed, to love. Add the patina of vast wealth and you have the story of Brooke Astor's life and downfall at the hands of son Tony Marshall. It's one riveting read.

BY Daniel L. Everett

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NON-FICTION
Moving with his family to the Amazon in 1977, linguist and missionary Everett meant to study the language of Brazil's Pirahã tribe and introduce them to the Bible. But in this spiritual adventure story, he reveals how his subjects' pragmatism overrode his faith in God. Through the years, he cracked the secrets of their survival-of-the-fittest culture, and he gives a compelling account of his research. If only he'd spilled the goods about his own inner life as well. His loss of faith, he writes, triggered a "family breakup." Omitting the specifics just seems perverse.

by Julia Leigh

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REVIEWED BY KIM HUBBARD

NOVEL
A mother and father bring their stillborn baby home to their country estate to "get to know her before the funeral." That's the macabre premise at the center of this haunting tale, which also features an abused wife and children both wiser and more naive than they think. Ian McEwan's Atonement may come to mind—but Leigh has a hypnotic power all her own.

by Sam MacDonald

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REVIEWED BY DANIELLE TRUSSONI

MEMOIR
At 27, Yale grad MacDonald had a 40-in. waist, a drinking problem, mounting debt and dead-end jobs. So he targeted all his problems with an extreme version of thrift: He downed 800 calories a day, mostly lentils and tuna; four years later he was slim and married with twins. Not a trick you'd want to try, perhaps, but if you're thinking about tightening your belt, the charming Hermit just might get you started.

'George Lucas ruined my life. And I mean that in the nicest possible way'

SO THEY MADE YOU LOSE WEIGHT FOR STAR WARS?
I went to a fat farm. But I'd have to lose 12 million pounds to have cheekbones. The hair didn't help.

ARE YOU PROUD OF THE FILM?
Yes. To be called Princess Leia at the age of 52 isn't exactly a dream-scape, but that's a high-class problem!

DID YOU HAVE QUALMS ABOUT DISCUSSING YOUR ELECTROSHOCK THERAPY IN THE BOOK?
I'd like to say I had three qualms ... but no.

HAS IT HELPED?
I have it once a month. I had it yesterday. ECT has a very, very bad rap, but it's the most effective treatment I've found.

• Celebrity photographer Matthew Rolston shares memories from the 20 years' worth of images in his new book, beautylight. "I pinch myself," he says, "that I get to do this job."

REESE WITHERSPOON "The concept was Reese as different fairy-tale characters. She's witty and wise, a natural performer."

JUDE LAW "Such a graceful man. He showed me his tattoo—lyrics from a Beatles song and his first wife's name."

LINDSAY LOHAN "She was maybe 17, living at home, still emerging. I was one of the first to realize she had a strong resemblance to Ann-Margret."

• Nick, Joe and Kevin's new book offers an intimate look at their wild ride to fame.

ON BEING ONE OF THE COUNTRY'S HOTTEST BANDS: "It's kind of weird to think that when we were growing up our friends had posters of 'N Sync and the Backstreet Boys on their walls," the boys agree, "and now people have posters of us."