RUN by Ann Patchett (HarperCollins)
TO SUM UP: A white Boston widower has two adopted African-American sons, one of whom nearly gets run over by an SUV before he's saved by a woman - yes, his birth mother. Worlds collide.
WHY YOU'LL LIKE IT: In her follow-up to the PEN/Faulkner winner Bel Canto, Patchett creates characters whose lives and fates you care deeply about.
BEST DESCRIPTION OF NEW ENGLAND IN WINTER: "Boston was a walk-in freezer turned to its lowest setting and the men with shovels and blowers were only now starting to venture out to cut a path where the sidewalks had been."
. . . to maintain your dignity while giving in to your chick-lit urge<.b>
SMART GIRLS LIKE ME by Diane Vadino (St. Martin's)
TO SUM UP: Acerbic, self-deprecating Betsy is disgusted with her best friend's mega-wedding, is terrified of Y2K (it's 1999), and dreams of ditching her bland, unfulfilling dot-com job to see the world.
WHY YOU SHOULD READ IT: With seriously good writing by this McSweeney's alum, Smart Girls is as fun and relatable as one of those silly pink books.
OUR VOTE FOR WEDDING OF THE YEAR: Betsy's sister throws a funky ceremony - her in a plastic nurse's costume, the groom in a kilt - followed by a banquet of KFC.
. . . To get a peek into your grandfather's pathology:
EXIT GHOSTBy Philip Roth (Houghton Mifflin)
TO SUM UP: Reclusive septuagenarian Nathan Zuckerman heads to New York, where he struggles against aging, "progress," and a wild infatuation with a young intellectual.
WHY YOU'LL LOVE IT: This fast-moving novel is classic Pulitzer-winning Roth, packed with sharp insights into sex, class, and politics.
BEST ENDORSEMENT FOR VIAGRA: "I came in contact for barely an hour with a beautiful, privileged, intelligent, self-possessed, languid-looking thirty-year-old . . . and I experienced the bitter helplessness of a taunted old man dying to be whole again."