1. Plot Against America - Philip Roth
Plot: A Nazi-influenced Charles Lindbergh defeats Franklin Roosevelt by a landslide in the 1940 presidential election and begins persecuting American Jews.
Gist: It's sadly fascinating that at a time of unprecedented Jewish integration into American culture, a distinguished author in his 70s-winner of the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and many other honors-would devote what may be one of his last remaining books to . . . this paranoid project.
2. The Dark Tower VII - Steven King
Plot: Mr. King finishes the fantasy saga inspired by Clint Eastwood's The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly and Tolkien's Lord of the Rings.
Gist: This series, filling more than 4,000 pages, is supposed to be Mr. King's life's work. The volume makes no sense if you haven't read the previous ones (and according to some reviewers, even if you have). It's notable for its high body count, language, and graphic descriptions.
3. The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
Plot: A curator at the Louvre is murdered, but before he dies leaves clues that send his granddaughter (a police cryptologist) and his colleague (a Harvard professor) on a search for the killer.
Gist: This goddess-worshipping conspiracy tale continues to sell its weird theories of biblical interpretation and a profane premise: that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married and produced a daughter. It has generated a host of books exposing its nonsense.
4. Trace - Patricia Cornwell
Plot: Virginia's former chief medical examiner, Kay Scarpetta, returns to Richmond to help solve a murder that turns out to be connected to the person stalking her niece and a lunatic named Edgar Allen Pogue.
Gist: Once upon a time Patricia Cornwell wrote solid mysteries. Then her plots became perverse, her characters caricatures, and her bad guys almost superhuman cellar dwellers. This may not be her worst outing, but it's close.
5. Five People You Meet in Heaven - Mitch Albom
Plot: An old man dies and in heaven meets five people whose lives were intertwined with his.
Gist: The bestselling author of Tuesdays with Morrie has a knack for description, but his fable about what happens after death flows poorly and drips with clichés. Aphorisms like "in heaven you get to make sense of your yesterdays" compete with Jonathan Livingston Seagull's wisdom.
In the spotlight
In 1997 WORLD reported that the International Bible Society and the Committee on Bible Translation for the New International Version of the Bible were revising the NIV to make it gender inclusive (for example, changing singulars to plurals so that "he" becomes "they"). In response to the ensuing uproar, IBS and the CBT promised not to go ahead with the changes. But they continued their work, evading their promise by calling the version with the gender revisions the TNIV instead of the NIV. Now the complete TNIV is available from Zondervan. The Oct. 11 Publishers Weekly features a cover ad and four pages inside hawking the TNIV's benefits. The feminists who argued that the generic use of "man" or "he" marginalizes women probably didn't foresee how their concerns would work their way into the Christian marketplace. TNIV editions include True Identity: The Bible for Women, decorated with a bunch of tulips, and Strive: The Bible for Men, featuring the silhouette of a lone man against a sunset.