Heads in Beds

by Jacob Tomsky |

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REVIEWED BY JUDITH NEWMAN

People PICK

MEMOIR

For those of us who'd rather live in good hotels than in our own homes, oh Lordy, is this ever a horrifyingly good time. It's sort of the equivalent of WebMD for hypochondriacs: You know you're learning way more than is good for you, but you just can't stop reading. Tomsky, who may be an even better writer than a hotelier (and he's a damn good hotelier) has worked every job and every shift; he takes us into the bowels (sometimes literally) of the hotel business, with all the pomp and circumstance, the hidden filth, and the fears and aspirations and secrets of guests and staff alike. We get the great VIP stories: the former teen star with the bags of pills who traveled with his "nutritionist" and insisted on eating cereal out of the hotel's silver potpourri bowls; the top executive whose traveling companion was a blow-up doll; and the famous actor who paid one housekeeper not to clean his room (he felt she was overworked). Along the way Tomsky teaches us a few things too, like why a guest need never pay for the items in that "fridge of joy" (a.k.a. minibar) and how all bellmen hate the guy who invented suitcases on wheels. The best tip: You want the upgrade, the perks? Never be shy about handing over cash to the front desk. Ever.

Help, Thanks, Wow

by Anne Lamott |

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REVIEWED BY JOANNA POWELL

NON-FICTION

Livin' on a prayer takes on new meaning in the latest from best-seller Lamott (Operating Instructions). With her signature blend of neurotic humor and blunt soul-searching, she delivers a quirky primer on how to commune with a higher power-even if you aren't sure who or what you're praying to. All you need, Lamott argues, are three basics: prayers for assistance (Help), prayers of gratitude (Thanks) and prayers expressing awe (Wow). Nothing here will change a doubter's mind, but readers with a spiritual tug will say amen.

Married Love

by Tessa Hadley |

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REVIEWED BY MEREDITH MARAN

STORIES

A teen marrying her 64-year-old professor, World War I-era cousins in love, a pair of students stunned by each other's class backgrounds. British author Hadley excels at the poignantly comic scene and the dangling ending that somehow still satisfies. These 12 touching tales showcase her gifts.

COMMENTS? WRITE TO KIM HUBBARD: bookseditor@peoplemag.com

BIRDS OF A LESSER PARADISE

by Megan Mayhew Bergman

Wise, deeply pleasurable stories centered on humanity's enduring connection to the world's wild things.

THE BIOGRAPHICAL DICTIONARY OF POPULAR MUSIC

by Dylan Jones

Irreverent takes on everyone from Abba to Zappa. A perfect gift for the discerning fanboy in your life.

WORTH FIGHTING FOR

by Lisa Niemi Swayze

Patrick Swayze's widow shares memories of their 34-year marriage and the actor's brave, harrowing battle with pancreatic cancer.

Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power author Jon Meacham (a Time contributing editor) on what Obama could learn from our third President.

DON'T WASTE TIME

Jefferson knew when to seize an opportunity-presidencies fly by. The clock is ticking fast. So when it comes to a fiscal deal, the President is going to be strongest the earlier he acts.

COMPROMISE

If you aren't going to get the ideal, take the least bad. Jefferson governed in a sulfurous partisan climate. There's nothing new about that.

BREAK BREAD

With your friends-and your foes. Many nights when Congress was in session, Jefferson had them down [to his house]. That doesn't mean there's going to be a bipartisan Valhalla, but it does mean people can get a sense of you as a leader, not as a caricature.

KEEP HOPE ALIVE

Jefferson was the architect of the politics of optimism. He really believed the future was full of exciting possibilities.

BE HONEST

On election night Obama said that he'd heard the people who voted against him. In his first inaugural, Jefferson basically said the same thing. So I think Jefferson would say, "Keep going, Mr. President. You're off to a good start."

A second Christian novel from William Paul Young

IS CROSS ROADS LIKE THE SHACK?

It's less autobiographical. It's about, How do you reach the soul of someone who's detestable? But it's not any less surprising.

HARD TO BE AS SURPRISING AS THE SHACK!

That was surreal. I made 15 copies at Office Depot, and then it sold over 18 million.

HOW DO YOU EXPLAIN THAT?

My family and I just laugh. We chalk it all up to God's sense of humor.

DWARF

by Tiffanie DiDonato

PEOPLE.com editor Rennie Dyball cowrote this memoir about a girl born with dwarfism who opted for radical surgeries that gained her an unprecedented 14 inches in height.

You can tell a lot about people by the books they keep. So author Thessaly La Force and artist Jane Mount asked dozens of creative types which books mattered to them most, then illustrated their choices, with interviews, in My Ideal Bookshelf. Meyer, author of the Twlight series, said she identified with tomboy Jo in Little Women and with Jane Eyre: "I liked heroines who weren't perfectly beautiful." What, no Twilight on her must-have list? "I'll never love what I've done," Meyer said, "as much as I love what these authors have done."