Spoken from the Heart

by Laura Bush |

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REVIEWED BY CAROLINE LEAVITT

MEMOIR

The delightful surprise in former First Lady Laura Bush's memoir is her opening: a real, moving, intimate story of an only child in a dusty Texas town who reads, dreams, and feels terrible guilt and grief over the car accident she caused that took a friend's life. Her literary bent is unmistakable here. Unfortunately, when she marries her "symbiotic soul," George Bush ("the most eligible bachelor of Midland marrying the old maid"), this fascinating portrait veers into predictable politics. Laura supports her husband's absence from the disaster site after Katrina because the necessary entourage would have held up rescue operations. She believes invading Iraq was the right choice even if Saddam didn't have weapons of mass destruction. Occasionally, she lashes out, criticizing Nancy Pelosi and a media she likens to "smart alec" kids. It's what you'd expect, and it makes for less than fascinating reading. But readers seeking a glimpse of this most private of First Ladies' innermost feelings will find it in the haunting depth and richness of her book's early chapters.

'No one, not even the president, is going to make the right decision every time'

The Other Wes Moore

by Wes Moore |

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REVIEWED BY MICHELLE GREEN

MEMOIR

A college senior who'd just won a Rhodes Scholarship, the author was studying in South Africa when his mother phoned with news from the harsh streets where they'd lived in Baltimore: Police were "looking for another guy...with your name for killing a cop." Struck by the irony, the young man who'd flirted with failure early on tracked down "the other Wes Moore," born in the neighborhood a few years before him and behind bars for murder. Their bittersweet relationship fuels this compassionate memoir-a story that explores how some survive and others sink in urban battlegrounds where, as the author puts it, "the idea of life's impermanence underlines everything."

Girl in Translation

by Jean Kwok |

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REVIEWED BY BETH PERRY

NOVEL

At age 5, Kwok moved with her family from Hong Kong to a New York City slum. Now a Harvard-educated mom, she has spun some of her experiences into this involving debut. Kimberly Chang, 11, aces school, falls in love-and helps her mom at a sweatshop until her lungs crust with dust. Kwok drops you right inside Kimberly's head, adding Chinese idioms to crisp dialogue. And the book's lesson-that every choice comes at the expense of something else-hits home in any language.

Spoon Fed

by Kim Severson |

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REVIEWED BY ELLEN SHAPIRO

MEMOIR

Whether hiding chicken nuggets from slow-food guru Alice Waters or obsessing about Gourmet editor Ruth Reichl "in a Single White Female kind of way," NY Times food writer Kim Severson has certainly been under the influence of cooking's grande dames. Luckily for us, she got past her Lucy Ricardo moments-and plenty that weren't so funny-to produce this delightful memoir, a combo platter of life lessons, dishy profiles of her mentors and gustatory edification (with recipes!).

The Pregnant Widow

by Martin Amis |

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REVIEWED BY JOSH EMMONS

NOVEL

Not as acidly funny as his best work, Amis' latest captures the pent-up desire of youth and is equally insightful about aging. Beginning in the '70s, when sex-crazed Keith Nearing and some pals are sharing a villa in Italy, the novel moves through the next 40 years, chronicling its characters' minor ups and near-bottomless downs with affection but no sentimentality. If you like your novels bracing and unvarnished, don't pass this one up.

>WHAT THEY'RE READING

CHRIS MELONI

The Buddha Within by S.K. Hookham. It introduced me to a way of interacting with life that I've never had before, so it's been helpful.

ERYKAH BADU

I sleep with books-there's nothing like rolling over to a hardback! Right now I'm reading Decoding Your Life by Janet D. Swerdlow.

LUKE WILSON

Off to the Side by Jim Harrison. I love the way the guy writes about food. It's like watching GoodFellas: Afterwards, I want a really good meal.

>• What's it like growing up with celebrity parents? In The Daughters, the first of a series of three young-adult novels, Regis Philbin's older daughter Joanna, 37, offers an insider's view.

WAS IT FUN HAVING A FAMOUS DAD?

I'm very lucky—a lot of people love my dad. I got to go to premieres with him.... And when I was 12, I was so in love with Michael J. Fox and I got to meet him. My head almost exploded.

THE DOWNSIDE?

My dad talks .... When my sister was in first grade, he read a love letter a boy had written her on the air. The boy stopped speaking to her.

ANY ADVICE FOR TODAY'S CELEB'S KIDS?

They get so much more media attention now. Surround yourself with people who are friends with you, for you. And develop a very thick skin!

>• A rejection letter "can sway or scar a life," writes editor Bill Shapiro, "causing one person to give up his dreams, another to work harder." They're no fun either way, but after reading the examples in his new book, Other People's Rejection Letters, at least you'll know you're not alone.

>WHAT THEY'RE READING

CHRIS MELONI

The Buddha Within [by S.K. Hookham]. It introduced me to a way of interacting with life that I've never had before, so it's been helpful.

ERYKAH BADU

I sleep with books—there's nothing like rolling over to a hardback! Right now I'm reading Decoding Your Life by Janet D. Swerdlow.

LUKE WILSON

Off to the Side by Jim Harrison. I love the way the guy writes about food. It's like watching GoodFellas: Afterwards, I want a really good meal.

>• What's it like growing up with celebrity parents? In The Daughters, the first of a series of three young-adult novels, Regis Philbin's older daughter Joanna, 37, offers an insider's view.

WAS IT FUN HAVING A FAMOUS DAD?

I'm very lucky—a lot of people love my dad. I got to go to premieres with him.... And when I was 12, I was so in love with Michael J. Fox and I got to meet him. My head almost exploded.

THE DOWNSIDE?

My dad talks .... When my sister was in first grade, he read a love letter a boy had written her on the air. The boy stopped speaking to her.

ANY ADVICE FOR TODAY'S CELEB'S KIDS?

They get so much more media attention now. Surround yourself with people who are friends with you, for you. And develop a very thick skin!

>• A rejection letter "can sway or scar a life," writes editor Bill Shapiro, "causing one person to give up his dreams, another to work harder." They're no fun either way, but after reading the examples in his new book, Other People's Rejection Letters, at least you'll know you're not alone.