And the Mountains Echoed

by Khaled Hosseini |

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REVIEWED BY HELEN ROGAN

FICTION

People PICK

It begins with a desperate father who leaves his "far-flung and dusty" Afghan village to set out across the desert. He pulls 3-year-old Pari in a wagon; 10-year-old Abdullah walks alongside. Neither child knows that heartbreak awaits them in Kabul. From that forlorn journey, a swirling narrative opens wide. More expansive than The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns, the novel spans three generations and includes overlapping tales of expatriates and aid workers, parents and children, doctors and drug lords. Hosseini shows how easy it is for people to brutalize or abandon those they should protect. But his ultimate achievement is demonstrating the power and persistence of family. As an epigraph, Hosseini uses a haunting poem by Rumi: "Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, / there is a field. I'll meet you there." That's the message you'll take away from this marvelous book.

She Left Me the Gun

by Emma Brockes |

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REVIEWED BY RICHARD EISENBERG

MEMOIR

Eager to investigate the rot in her family tree, journalist Brockes heads from England to South Africa to interview the siblings of her brash late mother, Paula. Brockes had heard rumors about her grandfather Jimmy, a ne'er-do-well alcoholic and addict. But it takes her ace reporting skills to uncover the brutal tale of Jimmy's sexual violence against Paula and her sister, his murder conviction and the cover-up that set the pedophile free. A chilling, unforgettable tale.

We Need New Names

by Noviolet Bulawayo |

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REVIEWED BY ROBIN MICHELI

NOVEL

Eking out a bare-bones existence in Zimbabwe, 10-year-old Darling and her friends steal guavas to dull their hunger. But they also play, laugh and dream of a better life. Then Darling is sent to her aunt in America—and gives up more than she ever imagined. Bulawayo's first novel is original, witty and devastating.

Inferno

by Dan Brown |

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REVIEWED BY DANIELLE TRUSSONI

NOVEL

Could Dante Alighieri, living in the 14th century, have imagined our current global population of 7 billion? It's a question The DaVinci Code's Robert Langdon, here in his third Brown adventure, ponders as he tries to save the world from mass extinction at the hands of a Transhumanist who's using Dante's Inferno as a clue book to curb population growth. Working alongside the beautiful and damaged Sienna Brooks, Langdon moves from Florence to Venice to Turkey, where a wholly modern vision of hell unfolds. While Brown's guidebook descriptions of tourist attractions tend to be overwrought, the pleasure of traveling at his side is well worth the detours.

Homeward Bound

by Emily Matchar |

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REVIEWED BY MEREDITH MARAN

NON-FICTION

What's up with backyard chicken coops, Etsy enterprises and knitting groups? They're all part of the "New Domesticity," writes journalist Matchar, a trend she argues has transformed "housewife" from a dirty word into a term that's "electric with the shivery delight of taboo-breaking." Her intriguing book explores how this turn toward lifestyles of the past may not bode well for gender relations of the future.

The Star Attraction

by Alison Sweeney |

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REVIEWED BY JOANNA POWELL

NOVEL

Sophie Atwater is at the top of her game as a high-powered Hollywood publicist. But when a new client, A-list actor Billy Fox, turns his seductive charms on her, suddenly everything she's worked for—job, boyfriend, identity—falls into jeopardy. Soap star and Biggest Loser cohost Sweeney (is there any actress who's not a novelist these days?) has written an entertaining, inside-scoopy debut that's the perfect kickoff to beach-read season.

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

THE WOMAN BEFORE WALLIS

by Andrew Rose

Prince Edward abdicated the British throne for American divorcée Wallis Simpson, but he loved a French murderess first. Who knew?

DAD IS FAT

by Jim Gaffigan

Gaffigan's hilarious collection of parenting essays takes its title from the first sentence one of his kids ever uttered. Oh no, he's not bitter.

THE THIRD COAST

by Thomas Dyja

Think New York and L.A. are America's premier cultural capitals? This engrossing history of Chicago may change your mind.

Talk about abridged: Jack and Holman Wang's boiled-down versions of the great books have just a single word per page. Intended to get kids hooked on literature early, the Cozy Classics series is for ages "zero and up."

WAR AND PEACE

"There's no right way to read our books to your kids," Holman says. "If you don't want to explain war, you could just say, 'Some things make a really loud noise.' "

LES MISERABLES

The authors spend 20 to 25 hours handcrafting each of the books' needle-felted characters.

In a spicy tell-all, four of the music network's first VJs - Nina Blackwood, 57, Mark Goodman, 60, Alan Hunter, 56, and Martha Quinn, 54 - talk sex, drugs and rock and roll. Some of the good stuff:

PROWLING COUGAR Once, John Mellencamp (who then went by John Cougar) invited Blackwood to a 2 a.m. party; when she showed up, only Cougar, his manager and a pal were there. "I could be ... clueless," writes Blackwood, who turned him down.

MADGE HAD 'TUDE At 25, Madonna "had the air of someone who knew stardom was inevitable."

SURVIVING DAVID LEE ROTH Goodman and Hunter did cocaine with the Van Halen frontman. But once, when Roth set Goodman up with a "hot" naked groupie, he drew the line: "I felt weird."

FUN WITH SHARON & OZZY During an interview with Osbourne in his trailer, the power went out. Recalls Goodman: "Sitting in total darkness but not missing a beat, Ozzy shouted, 'Keep pedaling, Sharon!'"

—KRISTEN MASCIA