Picks and Pans Main: Books

updated 10/05/2009 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/05/2009 AT 01:00 AM EDT

The Kids Are All Right

by Liz, Diana, Amanda and Dan Welch |

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"Each truth is our own," declare the authors of this astonishing group memoir about memory, resilience and four orphans who refused to be broken by loss. In 1983 the Welch children's investment banker dad died in a car crash, leaving the family deeply in debt. Their soap-star mom succumbed to cancer soon after, and while 19-year-old Amanda lost herself in drugs and punk rock at college, Liz, 16, Dan, 14, and Diana, 8, were wrenched apart. Liz stayed with the couple she babysat for. Troubled Dan bounced from home to home. But Diana had it hardest, living with a family bent on erasing her past and denying her access to her beloved siblings. In indelible voices, each Welch contradicts, embellishes or supports the others' memories, creating a blisteringly funny, heart-scorching tale of remarkable kids shattered by tragedy and finally brought back together by love.

Juliet, Naked

by Nick Hornby |

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How's this for a less-than-satisfying love triangle: No one is really in love with anyone else. English couple Duncan and Annie have a long-running relationship that's been jogging in place for years. All they have in common is their admiration for a reclusive retired rocker, Tucker Crowe, whose new stripped-down version of his classic album Juliet, called Juliet, Naked, is about to be released—just as Annie strikes up a secret e-mail flirtation with him. Hornby's deep humanity and clever observations are as winning as ever, but more comedy would have helped brighten this tale of three depressed and damaged people.

Going Away Shoes

by Jill McCorkle |

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In this remarkable collection, McCorkle explores the lives of women who seem to be losers. They've divorced, buried sons or become, like Debby in the title tale, "a mythical stereotype, the oldest child who stays home to tend the sick and dying mother...." Yet each has a kind of energy—or, at least, momentum—that saves her from sinking: One delicious story is a devastating letter from a patient to the shrink who failed to mend her marriage. Bold and addictive, Going Away Shoes is a find.

I Shudder

by Paul Rudnick |

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Playwright-screenwriter Rudnick (Addams Family Values) has written a hilarious, often touching hodgepodge of essays about his work and his life with his pleasingly demented family. It's the literary equivalent of the tchotchke, at least as he defines it: "Something peculiar which you don't need, and which has no discernible purpose or value, but which you can't live without."

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