1. Blink-Malcolm Gladwell
Content: Sub-rational, snap decisions are often as accurate as those made rationally and scientifically.
Gist: Mr. Gladwell illustrates the brain's ability to make snap decisions, often based on slices of information too subtle for the rational mind to grasp. With examples drawn from the military, emergency rooms, car sales, the art world, tennis, and psychology, the book demonstrates the power of the "adaptive unconscious" and the need to keep it from being hijacked by false presuppositions.
2. Collapse-Jared Diamond
Content: What divides ancient civilizations that collapsed and those that didn't? The difference was often ecological.
Gist: Lots of people are buying this thick, densely written book and picking up the message that our society, like some ancient ones, faces environmental disaster if we don't act. Mr. Diamond is a naturalistic determinist and draws sweeping conclusions, but his credentials and the book's scientific, historical gloss suggests it will influence policy debates.
3. French Women Don't Get Fat-Mireille Guiliano
Content: French women don't get fat and they don't endlessly talk about diets. Using common sense and a bit of self-control, you won't either.
Gist: Ms. Guiliano came to America as a student and put on weight. After returning to France, she learned the secrets that she passes on here: Eat smaller portions and sit down to eat. Buy fresh ingredients and cook for flavor. Written in a warm, conversational style, this book will appeal to those who enjoy food and are tired of by-the-numbers diet books.
4. Juiced-Jose Canseco
Content: A sensational tell-all, focusing on steroids and sex, by the former major league slugger.
Gist: If you pay any attention to sports, you've read about Mr. Canseco's charge of widespread steroid use in major league baseball. Less well-covered is his pride in his own sexual escapades, his contempt for women, and his charge that all baseball players are like him, with only Roger Clemons cleared of the offense of adultery. Mr. Canseco's book is ugly regardless of whether his accusations are true.
5. Men in Black-Mark R. Levin
Content: In clear compelling prose, Mr. Levin traces how the Supreme Court has become a super legislature, not even pretending to uphold the Constitution.
Gist: The problems Mr. Levin cites with the Court-its infatuation with foreign court rulings, its desire to legislate, its reliance on iffy science and social science-was evident in Roper v. Simmons, the recent decision outlawing the death penalty for juveniles. The ruling is bad for the country-but it should boost sales of this important book.
In the spotlight
Anne Lamott's new book of essays, Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith (Riverhead, 2005), picks up where the best-selling Traveling Mercies left off, with more reflections on her faith, politics, family, and church. Those hoping that Ms. Lamott has become orthodox in her theology or unconventional (for ultra-liberal Marin County) in her politics will be disappointed. She obnoxiously refers to God as "she" and displays a willingness to jettison doctrine for feelings. She still laments George W. Bush's presidency and salts her prose with strong obscenities.
One would never turn to Ms. Lamott for solid answers to life's questions, but she's popular among some evangelicals-college girls in particular-because of her "authenticity." Ms. Lamott writes with brutal honesty about her own sin and shortcomings. By admitting the messiness of her life, she allows room for grace, a lesson that those who hide behind pasted-on smiles still need to learn.