PEOPLE PICK

Big Brother

by Lionel Shriver |

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REVIEWED BY MEREDITH MARAN

NOVEL

The author of 11 previous novels, including We Need to Talk About Kevin, Shriver has earned a reputation for tackling hot-button issues, including high school shootings and the health care system. This time she turns her sharp eye on morbid obesity, introducing us to a married Iowa couple, Fletcher and Pandora, and their "guest who will not leave," Pandora's 400-lb. brother Edison. Edison's intrusion throws the couple's life into chaos while also educating them about the plight of the seriously overweight. When Pandora brings Edison to her workplace, "My impulse to protect my brother from my employees was disconcerting; my first introductions were tainted with a challenging demeanor, like, So? What are you looking at? that made my workers glance to the floor." Shriver knows this territory well: Her own obese brother died from cardiac arrest at the age of 55. Her delicious, highly readable novel highlights Fletcher and Pandora's ambivalence and raises challenging questions about how much a loving person can give to another without sacrificing his or her own well-being.

The Bling Ring

by Nancy Jo Sales |

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REVIEWED BY JUDITH NEWMAN

NON-FICTION

American teens love celebrities. You know what they love even more? Celebrity stuff. Which is the jumping-off point for Sales's shocking, and yet somehow inevitable, story of a group of upper-middle-class L.A. kids whose obsession with fame compels them to swipe $3 million worth of swag from the homes of equally fame-obsessed starlets, Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton among them. (Hilton plays herself in the upcoming Sofia Coppola film.) Sales, a superlative reporter, asks the question for all of us: Why would well-off kids take that risk? One of their lawyers sums up their motivation and, perhaps, our national gestalt: "If I have what they have, then I'll be like them. If I can dress like they dress, my problems will go away, my pain will go away...."

Crazy Rich Asians

by Kevin Kwan |

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REVIEWED BY CAROL MEMMOTT

NOVEL

There's rich, there's filthy rich, and then there's crazy rich. Kwan's debut takes us to Singapore high society, where, as one character notes, "this crowd made Upper East Side girls look like Mennonites." A Pride and Prejudice-like send-up about an heir bringing his Chinese-American girlfriend home to meet his ancestor-obsessed family, the book hilariously skewers imperial splendor and the conniving antics of the Asian jet set.

Sparta

by Roxana Robinson |

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NOVEL

In this page-turner, Robinson brings us inside the homecoming of Marine Conrad Farrell, an Iraq War veteran. As his military plane approaches his Katonah, N.Y., home, Farrell anticipates his reunion with his girlfriend and family, realizing "he couldn't prepare himself, because he wasn't the person they were expecting to meet." Farrell's fresh memories of unspeakable horrors keep him in a purgatory between past and present. Robinson's fifth novel is an exceptional account of life after war.

The Lullaby of Polish Girls

by Dagmara Dominczyk |

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REVIEWED BY ROBIN MICHELI

NOVEL

This compelling coming-of-age story follows Anna, who immigrates to Brooklyn with her family as a child in the '80s, and Justyna and Kamila, the friends she makes on her return visits to Poland. Dominczyk uses a fresh, confident style to trace their journeys into young adulthood, creating an original portrait of friendship and identity.

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

THE REVOLUTION WAS TELEVISED

by Alan Sepinwall

A critic's grateful paean to the era that began when The Sopranos "made TV a better, happier place for thinking viewers."

THOSE WE LOVE MOST

by Lee Woodruff

An essayist who coauthored her husband Bob Woodruff's memoir, this debut novelist impresses with a moving tale about a family tragedy.

SEATING ARRANGEMENTS

by Maggie Shipstead

A smart addition to the wedding-weekend genre, featuring inappropriate lust, family feuds and a beached whale.

Max Brooks's World War Z - one of his three zombie bestsellers - will soon be a Brad Pitt film

When did you get hooked on the undead? I was 12. I watched my first Italian cannibal zombie movie; it scared the bejesus out of me. When Y2K fever was happening I went looking for a book on how to survive the zombie apocalypse, and nobody was writing it because they were all off having a life.

Did your dad, Mel Brooks, offer writing advice? He said, "Cut it down, get to the jokes."

Can zombies be funny?

If there is a joke, it's on me for being so into this.

Jen Lancaster, 45, spent a year following Martha Stewart's lifestyle tips. What could possibly go wrong?

Why did you decide to do this?

Whenever something would go wrong, my husband would say, "Do you think Martha Stewart has to chase her cats off the Thanksgiving buffet?" I needed actionable information.

How did you start?

My first big project was Easter. I went all out and learned some important lessons: Chocolate melts on a sunny day and 15 lbs. of candy is too much for eight children.

Successes? I followed her recipes for four Thanksgiving pies (one had 25 steps). It took 11 hours. When everyone started to dive in, I thought, Oh no! They were too pretty to eat!

Anything "too Martha" for you? I'm never going to build my own chicken coop.