1. America (The Book) - Jon Stewart
Content: Jon Stewart and his Comedy Channel team send up education (the book is a parody of a civics textbook), government, the courts, politics, and the media.
Gist: Fans of The Daily Show will enjoy the frequently sophomoric jokes and swipes at American institutions. Some liberals will like the humor that comes mostly from the left (but is not always directed at the right). Those who oppose cussing or pictures with the heads of Supreme Court justices stuck on naked bodies won't like it.
2. When Will Jesus Bring...? - George Carlin
Content: Third volume of stand-up comic George Carlin's wisdom.
Gist: Mr. Carlin's comic sensibility is on a par with the cartoon bumper sticker that shows Calvin of Calvin and Hobbes urinating in public. Mr. Carlin's primary target is God, and he also goes after social conventions, especially regarding language, that help human beings get along. Those who think a foul mouth and irreverence are hilarious will enjoy this book.
3. How to Talk to a Liberal - Ann Coulter
Content: A collection of Ms. Coulter's columns from the past several years. Those written during the run-up to and early months of the Iraq war are especially good, as is her insight into Sex and the City.
Gist: The flame-thrower of the right emphasizes funny and often outrageous rhetoric and doesn't mind infuriating the political left. She's not hoping to win Miss Congeniality or find common ground with liberals, and, unlike Mr. Stewart and Mr. Carlin, she stays clear of obscenity and profanity.
4. Chronicles Volume One - Bob Dylan
Content: The first volume in a three-part memoir by the singer/songwriter.
Gist: Not an autobiography but a memoir about music, books, and some early New York experiences, Chronicles is a poetic tale of a musician trying to escape the burden of being the "conscience of his generation." Dylan fans will find much to explore in prose that reads like lines from a song, full of image and rhyme, about a search for ground on which to stand.
5. Paper Life - Tatum O'Neill
Content: Tatum O'Neill's childhood reads like the case study of an abused and neglected child who should have been rescued by someone, but never was.
Gist: Ms. O'Neill sets up her memoir as a triumph over adversity, but she's only been sober two years. Her childhood was so awful-full of sexual, physical, and emotional abuse-that you can only pray she'll find complete healing. This is a hard book to read and a story that's not so easy to forget.
In the spotlight
Frank Schaeffer's Voices from the Front (Carroll & Graf, 2004) is a collection of letters from our soldiers serving in Afghanistan and Iraq. It's the third volume that Mr. Schaeffer has written about the military; like the other two, it was inspired by his son's enlistment in the Marines. What's most striking about the letters is how ordinary many of them are. For every letter that touches on a great theme, several others describe the day-to-day struggles of military life and include requests for simple luxuries like CD players, gum, and body wash. The letters bring home the fact that our defenders are barely old enough to vote-but are kids with a big job to do. Individually, few of these letters are profound, though a series of letters from a reserve chaplain are full of theological wisdom. Together, the letters portray a military made up of ordinary young people doing extraordinary things for their country. (Caution: language.)