Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls

by David Sedaris |

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REVIEWED BY DANIELLE TRUSSONI

ESSAYS

Didn't know David Sedaris gave his boyfriend a stuffed owl for Valentine's Day? Or that his dad used to worship Donny Osmond? Here's your chance to learn all that and more. Sedaris's latest collection offers up his signature over-the-top ruminations on life, death and the joys of French dental work. While the essays here aren't a big departure—Sedaris's experiences are obviously an endless source of good material—they are so winning that you'll forgive him if they sound a bit familiar. Who else could get away with an essay like "Standing By," in which Sedaris encounters all manner of odd travelers in the airport, including Adolf Hitler, who is asked to "meet his party at Baggage Claim Four"? From his tendency to forget that his father "isn't dead yet" to his enthusiasm for colonoscopy drugs, Sedaris makes the mundane hilarious.

The Smart One

by Jennifer Close |

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REVIEWED BY ROBIN MICHELI

NOVEL

In this novel about the boomerang phenomenon—adult children returning to the parental nest—sisters Claire, 29, and Martha, 30, battle to find their way in life while their brother Max, a college senior, unexpectedly faces fatherhood. As in her previous novel Girls in White Dresses, Close nails the yearning, confusion, fear and bravado that characterize contemporary young adulthood. She's less successful at channeling the midlife angst of the siblings' mom, who's grappling with her changing role. Still, wit and vibrant characters make The Smart One an engaging exploration of a thoroughly modern family dynamic.

The Movement of Stars

by Amy Brill |

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REVIEWED BY ANNE LESLIE

NOVEL

On Nantucket in the 1800s, Hannah Price struggles to obey her Quaker community while becoming an astronomer—her dream. Then exotic Isaac Martin asks to study with her, and she finds she has a lot to learn about love. Inspired by real-life astronomer Maria Mitchell, Brill's Hannah lights the way, like a comet, for women whose minds and hearts lead them beyond boundaries.

Palisades Park

by Alan Brennert |

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REVIEWED BY RICHARD EISENBERG

NOVEL

Between the 1920s and the '60s, the Stopka family's fortunes take as many turns as the roller coasters at their beloved Palisades Amusement Park. Tomboy Toni has an especially wild ride: her high-dive into the park's majestic pool plunges her into a career as a carny headliner. But Toni soon learns that, like the mirrors in the fun house, her relatives aren't who they appear to be. Brennert writes his valentine to the New Jersey playground of his youth in Ragtime style, mixing fact and fiction. It's a memorable trip.

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

MY ANIMALS AND OTHER FAMILY

by Clare Balding

The daughter of a champion horse trainer, Balding grew up "thinking I was a dog." Her memoir's a delight.

EVERYTHING IS PERFECT WHEN YOU'RE A LIAR

by Kelly Oxford

Humorist and Twitter superstar Oxford on growing up in Edmonton. Dedicated to "my childhood glasses. You made me who I am."

CARRIE AND ME

by Carol Burnett

Burnett's loving, poignant tribute to the daughter she helped recover from teenage drug addiction and then lost to cancer at age 38.

After a troubled upbringing, Mary Williams, 45, the daughter of Black Panthers, was adopted by Jane Fonda. She shares her journey in a new memoir.

What was growing up with the Panthers like?

People misunderstood: The party was actually a loving, empowering environment. The turning point was when my father went to jail and my mother had to raise six of us by herself. Alcoholism and abuse crept in.

At 11 you went to Fonda's summer camp; five years later, after you were sexually assaulted, she took you in. What was Jane like as a mom?

Intense. If she asked, "How are you feeling?" she wanted a paragraph answer! In my family, being hit was the norm; in Jane's family, nobody got cursed out.

You were estranged from your birth mom for years. And now?

As I entered my 40s, I started forgiving her. She still has substance-abuse issues; it's not a fairy-tale ending. But I hope to get closer to her.

If not for Jane, what do you think would've become of you?

What happens to a lot of girls in my neighborhood. My only goals were to have a boyfriend to protect me and a baby to love me. Jane saved my life.