THE LAST LECTURE
by Randy Pausch
An entire book of living-life-to-the-fullest advice from a college professor sounds about as inviting as a 20-page term paper. But Pausch, a Carnegie Mellon computer science prof diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in '06, is so earnest and funny that you'd let him teach you anything. Among his tips: Respect your childhood dreams, remember to laugh and appreciate the gifts you receive. The author—who died in July—is one of them.

UNACCUSTOMED EARTH
by Jhumpa Lahiri
The Bengali immigrants in these mesmerizing stories are scattered across three continents, yet their struggles are universal. An exquisitely wrought collection.

WISHFUL DRINKING
by Carrie Fisher
That weird Princess Leia hair? She hated it! Taking comic aim at everything from her bizarre if loving relationship with mom Debbie Reynolds to her electroshock therapy, the Star Wars actress's hilariously candid memoir rises to the top.

THE SNOWBALL
by Alice Shroeder
Warren Buffet out-earned his teachers as a paperboy and drove his new bride to the Vegas slots on their wedding day. An endearing portrait of the world's most famous capitalist.

SAY YOU'RE ONE OF THEM
by Uwem Akpan
Bleak but transfixing, these tales of families in war-torn Africa have a heartrending message: Blending in can mean the difference between life and death.

NETHERLAND
by Joseph O'Neill
A haunting novel about a shakily married Dutch-born Manhattanite who finds solace in cricket and an unlikely friendship after 9/11.

THE STORY OF EDGAR SAWTELLE
by David Wroblewski
A bestselling debut, this saga of a mute teen who leaves his Wisconsin farm after a mysterious death—and the über-dogs who help him survive—made even cat lovers smile.

WHEN YOU ARE ENGULFED IN FLAMES
by David Sedaris
Just when you think you've heard everything about humorist Sedaris' life, he comes up with more, and it's gold. (Think man-purses and evil neighbors.) A treat.

AMERICAN WIFE
by Curtis Sittenfeld
Intrigued and impressed by Laura Bush and her marriage, Prep author Sittenfeld set out to imagine the enigmatic First Lady's life trajectory. The result: a thought-provoking page-turner for the waning days of the Bush Presidency and beyond.

OLIVE KITTERIDGE
by Elizabeth Strout
She's gruff, impatient and unwilling to suffer fools, but the aging Maine schoolteacher at the center of these keenly observed stories will ultimately win your heart.

>• Man in the Dark by Paul Auster
"Paul Auster is the smartest man on Earth. He understands how fragile we are." —Gavin Rossdale

Harmonic Wealth by James Arthur
Ray "It honestly helped me get through everything my family and I went through this year." —Hulk Hogan

Are You There Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea by Chelsea Handler
"Oh my gosh, it's probably the funniest book I ever read in my life." —Kellie Pickler

The Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb
"He's an incredible storyteller. I couldn't put the book down." —Alyson Hannigan

The Given Day by Dennis Lehane
"It's incredible. All you have to do is read the prologue. Breathtaking." —Kevin Bacon

>Forget about boy wizards—in '08 Stephenie Meyer's vampires ruled. It's been "very surreal," says the author, whose bestselling Twilight quartet was the year's must-read even before the movie it spawned became a hit. "When I first sat down to write Twilight, it was just a story I enjoyed telling myself that nobody was ever supposed to see." Next up? "Getting back to what I love the most: writing."

>• True Blood:HBO's drama about a group of the undead living among live humans became a sleeper success.

• Vampire Weekend: The indie pop-rock band hit Billboard's Top 20.

Moonlight: The short-lived CBS series about a hunky, crime-fighting vamp developed a cult following.