These books may not reach the top of best-seller lists, but they may top your list of new personal favorites. 

Best-Reading Books

Christmas may be the high season for books, but spring brings its own special releases that usually ensure that readers stay interested. Here are a few suggestions — not necessarily the best-sellers, but recommended for some of the best reading:

Fiction

"Bad Girl Creek," by Jo-Ann Mapson (Simon&Schuster, $24, May 1 release) — A handicapped woman is left with a California farm and chooses four unusual roommates to help with the upkeep. Honest experiences and mutual bonding create a winning novel.

"The Bonesetter's Daughter," by Amy Tan (Putnam, $25.95) — Tan returns after a long writing absence to bring us another semi-autographical novel of relationships within a Chinese family. The author lost her mother recently, and this book is about loss against the backdrop of contemporary San Francisco. An ideal book-group choice.

"Chalktown," by Melinda Hayes (Theia/Hyperion, $23.95, to be released May 2) — An imaginative tale, almost Southern Gothic in nature, introduces the reader to a group of characters who become residents of a town where news is posted on chalkboards on front porches.

"Death of Vishnu" by Manil Suri (Norton, $24.95) — A comic but haunting story of modern-day India.

"The Hiding Place" by Trezza Azzopardi ($24 Atlantic Monthly Press) — The story of a family in Cardiff, Wales, this was a Booker Prize finalist in England.

"Dreamcatcher," by Stephen King (Scribner, $28, to be released March 20) — In his first novel since 1998, King's style evolves into multilayered plots. The key subjects are a group of adolescent boys caught in a sci-fi drama. For a preview before you buy, take a look at the excerpts that are being posted on the Internet during March at the Time.com site.

"Gabriel's Story," David Durham (Doubleday, $23.95) — This story is set in a western locale and is reminiscent of Larry McMurtry. An African-American cowboy goes west after the Civil War.

"Miss Garnet's Angel," by Sally Vickers ($25, Carroll&Graf) — A lyrical story of a 50-year-old retired teacher who leaves London and travels to Venice.

"My Dream of You," by Nuala O'Faolain (Riverhead Books, $25.95) — A bittersweet, beautifully written novel about a 50-year-old woman's loneliness and her longing for love. A story within a story, set in modern Ireland.

"Provinces of Night," by William Gay (Doubleday, $23.95) — Incredible writing. It follows in the Southern Gothic footsteps of Flannery O'Connor and William Faulkner.

"Turning on the Girls," by Cheryl Benard (Farrar, Straus&Giraux — A sci-fi feminist "1984" told with humor.

"A River Out of Eden," by John Hockenberry (Doubleday, $24.95, to be released in mid-April)— A frightening first novel by an NBC Dateline correspondent. Native Americans become involved in modern territorial disputes in the Northwest.

Nonfiction

"Buddha," by Karen Armstrong (Penguin/Putnam, $19.95) — Another of the series of lives written for Penguin by accomplished and well-know writers.

"Familiar Spirits," by Alison Lurie (Viking, $22.95) — fascinating memoir of the poet James Merrill and his longtime partner, David Jackson.

"Journey on the James: Three Weeks through the Heart of Virginia" by Earl Swift (University Press of Virginia, $27.95) This is the story of a trip on the James in a 14-foot canoe bulging with gear. Includes interactive map.

"A President in the Family," by Byron W. Woodson Sr. (Prauger, $24.95, April 30 release) — The author traces his family's origin back to Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings, attempting to prove the lineage.

"The Undiscovered Paul Robeson," by Paul Robeson Jr. (Wiley, $30, April release) — Robeson's son writes an intimate biography of his father emphasizing his spiritual, political and cultural experiences.

"The Union That Shaped the Confederacy," by William C. Davis (University Press of Kansas $29.95, to be released April 24) — Historian Davis relates the shaping of the postwar government by following the lives of two friends.

"Women Sailors and Sailors' Women," by David Cordingly (Random House, $24.95) — A history of women on the sea as sailors, pirates and captains, by the author of "Under the Black Flag," a history of pirates.



Kelly Justice, Beth Morelli, and June Stephenson contributed to this list.

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