THE BRIEF WONDROUS LIFE OF OSCAR WAO by Junot Díaz (Riverhead Books)
TO SUM UP: A pudgy Dominican-American boy searches for love, tries to avoid a curse.
WHY IT'S A MUST-READ: There's a reason we've been clamoring for the short-story writer's first novel, and he delivers: It's lyrically written, narratively enthralling, ridiculously good.
Click here to purchase The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz.
...for another angle on the immigration debate:
BROTHER, I'M DYING by Edwidge Danticat (Knopf)
TO SUM UP: This heartrending family memoir bounces between Port-au-Prince and Brooklyn, two inhospitable and glorious worlds.
DANTICAT'S CHOPS: The Haitian-American novelist was a National Book Award finalistand the darling of Afro-Caribbean lit profs everywhere.
Click here to purchase Brother, Im Dying by Edwidge Danticat.
...if you root for Ugly Betty to find love:
THE FLAWLESS SKIN OF UGLY PEOPLE by Doug Crandell (Virgin Books)
TO SUM UP: A pimply bank teller searches for his wife after she escapes to a weight-loss clinic.
WHY YOU'LL LIKE IT: If a Jenny Craig ad and a Proactiv infomercial had an affair, it would look like this: embarrassing but sweet.
Click here to purchase The Flawless Skin of Ugly People by Doug Crandell.
...so you can be a smarty-pants at the cocktail party:
THE PEDANT'S RETURN: WHY THE THINGS YOU THINK ARE WRONG ARE RIGHT by Andrea Barham (Bantam)
TO SUM UP: A compilation of 103 trivial myths that are actually true.
WHY YOU SHOULD READ IT: So you can flaunt your arcane knowledge all over the joint. Did you know that Charlie Chaplin failed to qualify in a Charlie Chaplin look-alike contest? We did.
Click here to purchase Pedant's Return: Why the Things You Think Are Wrong Are Right by Andrea Barham.