OK, summer is over and our permission to read only light stuff has run out. Somehow, fall brings with it the resolution to improve ourselves, to learn something new. But that doesn't mean we have to toss fun aside. There are plenty of books that can provide both. And no one has said you can't take a moment or two off for pure relaxation. Below is a list of fall books that should help you both learn and relax.
"Angel Trumpet, A Civil War Mystery," by Ann McMillan (Viking, $22.95) This may not be a huge seller nationally, but here in Richmond there are many readers who will be hooked by McMillan's descriptions of this area during "The Late Great Unpleasantness."
"Catfish and Mandala: A Two-Wheeled Voyage Through the Landscape and Memory of Vietnam," by Andrew X. Pham (Farrar Straus & Giroux, $25) A memoir by a member of a boat-people family that takes you on a journey as he searches for an identity.
"Cruddy," by Lynda Barry (Simon &Schuster, $23, This is an illustrated avant-garde novel by the creator of the comic Ernie Pook's Comeek.
"Daughter of Fortune," by Isabel Allende (HarperCollins, $25) Allende twists a unique plot in her first novel in six years. With the aid of a translator, Allende tells of a Chilean woman immigrating to San Francisco in the 1840s. Love, pregnancy and robberies all become parts of Eliza Sommers' wild city life.
"Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban," by J. K. Rowling (Scholastic, $19.95) Fans will be delighted that a third story in this series has arrived. It is already at the top of Amazon.com's list of its 100 hot books.
"Hearts in Atlantis," by Stephen King (Scribner, $28) There is a definite Vietnam twist to this semi-horror novel, and some may compare it to the Dark Tower series. King fans will gobble this book up.
"Hitler's Niece," by Ron Hansen (HarperCollins, $25) a carefully researched novel about which Donna Seaman in Booklist says, "Hansen's insightful, brilliantly interpretative and frightening novel does more to illuminate the welter of evil that fueled Hitler than a dozen biographies."
"In Pursuit of the Proper Sinner," by Elizabeth George (Bantam, $25.95) In her 10th novel, George ties in a songwriter's death with a couple of British countryside murders in an intricately woven, heavily detailed suspense story.
"Look Back All the Green Valley," by Fred Chappell ( Picador USA, $24) the fourth in his quartet that started with "Farewell I'm Bound to Leave You." This is his usual fine, entertaining writing.
"Personal Injuries," by Scott Turow (Farrar, Straus&Giroux, $27) Turow scores big with a well-drawn, strong, successful lawyer whose vices are handled in an original way. Points of view shift throughout the novel, but the real meat is in the story.
"Pop Goes the Weasel," by James Patterson (Little, Brown, $26.95) Alex Cross is back and involved in a series of serial killings of young women in D.C. The motivation behind the killings is a deadly computer game. This makes for a very long thrill, but it is right up the darkened alley for Patterson fans.
"The Sun King," by David Ignatius (Random House $21.95) Ignatius, a columnist for the Washington Post, writes page-turners. This one may not be quite as strong as some of his others ("Siro" and "A Firing Offense") but it's still fun and interesting to anyone who likes to keep up with the media and what life is like in Washington. It skewers his own profession of journalism.
"What Salmon Know," by Elwood Reid (Doubleday, $21.95) Short stories about working people and their struggles.
"Faith of My Fathers," by John McCain and Mark Salter (Random House, $25) The advance buzz is that this is a winner (no matter what happens to McCain's presidential campaign). Kirkus says it is "impressive and inspiring."
"Faster," by James Gleick (Pantheon, $24) Observations about how everything is moving faster. Very impressive.
"Galileo's Daughter: A Historical Memoir of Science, Faith, and Love," by Dava Sobel (Walker, $27 ) 124 letters survive from the Galileo family. This book is largely based on them. It should especially interest history buffs.
"Hillary's Choice," by Gail Sheehy (Random House, $21.95) Sheehy is known for her "Passages" books. This time she has picked a subject that should lend itself to her brand of psychological analysis.
"'Tis," by Frank McCourt (Simon&Schuster, $26) How could this memoir of McCourt's early days in the U.S. fail? Reports tell us it will live up to its hype.
"Ethics for a New Millennium," by the Dalai Lama. (Riverhead Books, $24.95) The Dalai Lama has a huge following in the U.S. His books are simple and clear. This one has joined another of his, "The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living" (Riverhead Books, $22.95) on the New York Times Best Seller list.
"Miss Manners' Guide to Domestic Tranquility: the Authoritative Manual for Every Civilized Household," by Judith Manner (Crown, $30) Miss Manners doesn't like the manners now on display in the household. Tongue-in-cheek, perhaps, but a different approach to an unusual subject.
"Reason for Hope: A Spiritual Journey," by Jane Goodall (Phillip Berman co-author) (Warner, $26.95) There will be plenty of readers for these reminiscences about her life with the chimps.
"The Spectator: Talk About Movies and Plays with Those Who Made Them," by Studs Terkel (New Press, $26.95) Terkel spent the past 45 years interviewing many of the entertainment figures on his Chicago radio show. This compilation should appeal to film fans and Terkel advocates alike.
And two new dictionaries are being published this season: Webster's New World College Dictionary, Fourth Edition (IDG Books Worldwide, $21.95) and Encarta World English Dictionary (St. Martin's Press $50). Webster's is a new edition of the bible used by those who follow AP style; the second intrigues because it is edited by word guru Anne Soukhanov.
Kelly Justice of Carytown Books and Beth Morelli contributed to this column.
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