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updated 08/23/2010 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/23/2010 AT 01:00 AM EDT

I'm with Fatty

LOSING FIFTY POUNDS IN FIFTY MISERABLE WEEKS

by Edward Ugel |

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REVIEWED BY JUDITH NEWMAN

MEMOIR

We tend to think of fat women in this culture as tragic. But a fat man? Now, that's comedy! Except when it's not. What if the fat man-who is, admittedly, a very funny fellow-is a depressed and emotional eater who, at 36, doesn't want to leave the house and, after being diagnosed with sleep apnea (he snores like a rhino), faces the humiliating and scary prospect of wearing a mask with a chin strap to bed? So Ugel poses a challenge for himself: Drop the 50 lbs. he'd put on the past year in the same amount of time. "I wasn't looking to go on Oprah in a bikini...I just wanted the American dream: to sleep like a normal guy again so my wife could see my face when she refused to have sex with me." What follows is a witty account of colonics and juice fasts, punishing workouts with his trainer, and his five-day bender on Chinese and Thai takeout when his wife leaves town. The ending is predictably upbeat, and we cheer for him. But he, and we, know the truth: He is locked in a lifelong battle with Crispy Beef and Peking duck.

Let's Take the Long Way Home

by Gail Caldwell |

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REVIEWED BY ANNE LESLIE

MEMOIR

In 2002, six years after her memoir Drinking: A Love Story came out, writer Caroline Knapp died of cancer at 42. Now comes Caldwell, 59, with a high-spirited and heartrending account of her six-year friendship with Knapp. Bonding over dogs and rowing-and having conquered alcoholism and bad relationships-they taught each other to trust and to let go.

How to Be an American Housewife

by Margaret Dilloway |

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REVIEWED BY MICHELLE GREEN

NOVEL

A strong-willed Japanese war bride, Shoko Morgan tries to run the perfect American household but only alienates her native-born children. Not until Shoko's life is fading does her grown daughter Sue travel to Japan and learn who her mother really was. This radiant debut pays moving tribute to the power of forgiveness.

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