CONTENT With alternating humor and pathos, newspaper columnist John Grogan tells the story of a marriage and the family pet that witnessed and caused many of the book's events.
GIST This book is a worthy No. 1 on bestseller lists: It's funny, touching, and clean. Marley is in many ways the dog from hell: destructive, neurotic, hard to train. But he's also loyal, and his antics bring humor to situations that are hard: miscarriages, postnatal depression, and a murder down the street.
CONTENT Twenty-two-year-old Immaculee Ilibagizi and seven other Tutsi women took shelter in the bathroom of a Hutu pastor for three months. Outside a killing frenzy took the life of more than 1 million Tutsis.
GIST Can you imagine eight people never leaving a bathroom for all that time? Ms. Ilibagizi writes that her time in hiding brought her closer to God: Her book, despite occasional drifts into a "power of positive thinking" mode, powerfully looks at evil and shows the power of the gospel to compel forgiveness.
CONTENT Mothers and daughters say one thing and may mean (or be perceived to mean) something else. Deborah Tannen dissects these complicated "metamessages" using lots of anecdotes and conversation transcripts.
GIST Linguist Tannen has made a cottage industry of studying the way people communicate. Here she applies her analytical tools to mother/daughter interactions. Mothers and daughters struggling to understand why everything they say gets taken the wrong way will find the book helpful.
CONTENT David Jeremiah focuses on grace and shows how it worked in the lives of the apostle Paul and hymn writer John Newton.
GIST Many Christian books that make it to the bestseller lists are theologically weak-but Captured by Grace focuses on God pursuing and saving sinners. Pastor Jeremiah skillfully intersperses the stories of the conversions of Newton and Paul with lessons from Romans and from the parables of the prodigal son and the lost sheep.
According to the Los Angeles Times, some schools are so intent on improving math and reading scores that they've cut back severely the teaching time allotted to history and science. Despite classroom cutbacks, fine history books for children continue to be published. For example, A Dangerous Engine: Benjamin Franklin, from Scientist to Diplomat by Joan Dash (Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 2006) makes the historical setting and events come alive for middle-school readers.
For younger readers, or those needing beautiful illustrations to break up the text, Milly Lee's Landed (Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 2006) tells the story of the ordeal a Chinese boy goes through to immigrate to the United States after passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882. Memories of Survival by Esther Nisenthal Krinitz and Bernice Steinhardt (Hyperion, 2006) is the memoir of a child Holocaust survivor. The text comes from her diaries, edited by her daughter, and its illustrations from beautiful embroidered scenes she designed and stitched so that her family could see what her childhood had been like.