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Books for Grownups February 2010

Here is what our generation wants to read.

AARP The Magazine and Publishers Weekly have teamed up to let you know about the latest fiction, nonfiction, and lifestyle/self-help of interest to you. Once you've checked out the selections below, visit Publishers Weekly's fiction and nonfiction pages for reviews, author Q&As, and more.

FICTION

The Autobiography of Fidel Castro
By Norberto Fuentes, trans. from the Spanish by Anna Kushner (Norton, $27.95)
Remember when that bearded guy took over Cuba and the well-wishing turned to fear of Russian missiles raining down on the East Coast? Well, you can relax now—and enjoy this intelligent, darkly humorous, faux autobiography of Fidel Castro, written by a former member of his inner circle.

Ticket to Ride
By Ed Gorman (Pegasus, $25)
It's the summer of 1965. In a small Iowa town, a protest march against the escalating war in Vietnam leads to murder. Gorman's eighth mystery to feature lawyer Sam McCain gets the period's pop culture just right. It also deftly captures the bafflement of good folk coming to realize you can't always trust the people in authority.

Union Atlantic
By Adam Haslett (Doubleday/Talese, $26)
What happens when a nouveau-riche banker clashes with a retired Boston schoolteacher? That's the premise of this fictional take on the financial crisis by debut novelist Haslett, who proves wise beyond his years—40—and prescient, too: he finished the book the day Lehman Brothers collapsed.

The Disappeared
By Kim Echlin (Black Cat, $14)
Despite her father's disapproval, 16-year-old Anne Greves falls in love with a Cambodian-refugee math instructor in 1970s Montreal. He leaves her, but 11 years later Anne travels to Phnom Penh to find him. This daringly imaginative novel also confronts the destruction of a nation unleashed by the Pol Pot regime.

True Confections
By Katharine Weber (Shaye Areheart, $22)
Weber effortlessly ranges from World War II to the present day in this lively story of a young woman who marries into a candy empire. Call it a delicious novel.

NONFICTION

The Language of Life: DNA and the Revolution in Personalized Medicine
By Francis Collins (Harper, $26.99)
A medical revolution is upon us, and NIH director Collins does a fabulous job of explaining its dimensions. "Personalized medicine" (care based on an individual's genetic makeup) can now be used to understand and treat diseases at the molecular level. Collins also recommends—guardedly—direct-to-consumer DNA testing.

True North: Journeys into the Great Northern Ocean
By Myron Arms (Upper Access, $16.95)
Veteran sailor Arms (Servants of the Fish) delivers a richly descriptive, almost poetic collection of essays about sailing up and down fiords from northern Labrador to western Greenland and among the fishing villages of the Faroe Isles. The sturdy crew of his trusty boat, Brendan's Isle, included his youngest son, Steve.

I Walked with Giants: The Autobiography of Jimmy Heath
By Jimmy Heath and Joseph McLaren. (Temple University Press, $35)
This bold account by Philly-born saxophonist Heath is a jazz milestone. In a career stretching from the Big Band era to today's contemporary sound, Heath struggled with drugs, shady club owners, and Jim Crow, but his influence lives on in the blue notes of Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and Dexter Gordon.

Star: How Warren Beatty Seduced America
By Peter Biskind (Simon & Schuster, $30)
This refreshing biography looks at Beatty's dual, often dueling status as Tinseltown legend and lothario. (His little black book included Natalie Wood, Leslie Caron, Julie Christie, Diane Keaton, and current wife Annette Bening.) Despite a string of flops, Beatty helped shape some of New Hollywood's key films; Biskind explains how.

Just Kids
By Patti Smith (Ecco, $27)
The singer-songwriter (and punk-rock pioneer) transports readers back to the chaotic, creative, halcyon days for art and artists in New York City. Smith was just 21 in 1967 when she made her way from Philadelphia to Brooklyn, where she was soon homeless, jobless, hungry—and swept up in a romance with shock photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, who became a lifelong friend.

LIFESTYLE/SELF-HELP

Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation
By Daniel J. Siegel, M.D., foreword by Daniel Goleman (Bantam, $27)
Psychiatrist Siegel, a professor at the UCLA School of Medicine, shows how a troubled mind can find ease by understanding both Eastern meditation and Western neuroscience, both mindfulness and matrixed neurons.

How to Change Someone You Love: Four Steps to Help You Help Them
by Brad Lamm (St. Martin's, $24.99)
In this self-help guide to helping others, the founder of Intervention Specialists addresses "loved ones who know that change is critical and urgent"—that is, the spouses, parents, and friends of addicts whose lives are out of control. Lamm, himself the beneficiary of an intervention staged by a friend, presents a four-step method that draws on his experiences of addiction and recovery.

The Generosity Plan: Sharing Your Time, Treasure, and Talent to Shape the World
By Kathy LeMay (Atria/Beyond Words, $15)
It's never too late to become a philanthropist—and as professional global activist LeMay shows, you needn't wait to become a millionaire, either. Her step-by-step plan to giving matches any budget and lifestyle.

Koto: A Culinary Journey through Vietnam
By Tracey Lister and Andreas Pohl (Hardie Grant, $29.95)
Vietnam was a central political narrative in the lives of many boomers, but this book invites us to explore the stunningly rich food, culture, and history of the diverse nation. Part cookbook, part travel guide, and all panegyric, Koto leads readers through seven main regions, from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City to the Mekong Delta.

The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun
By Gretchen Rubin (Harper, $25.99)
Rubin had a loving husband, two great kids, and a writing career—so why wasn't she happier? To find out, she set what she thought were attainable goals in various aspects of her life—marriage, work, parenting, self-fulfillment—then spent a year trying to achieve them. For lovers of transformative tales, this curiously compulsive read becomes a happiness project of its own.

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