Eensy Weensy Urgings 

Exploding drinkers, expansionist chanters, and optimism mark this month's quick picks.

They kneel, they chant, and some accuse them of wanting to take over the world: Richard Hughes Seager investigates Japan's rich and powerful Soka Gakkai Buddhist sect in Encountering the Dharma (UC Press, $19.95). ... For axe-murdering a blind man, for being a Nazi spy, for burying a baby alive — over a thousand criminals were executed in England between 1868 and 1964; Steve Fielding's three-part series The Hangman's Record (Chancery House, $35; $40; $54) is grimly well-researched, with pictures and descriptions of each crime. ... You know the ant that moved the rubber-tree plant? In Mindset (Random House, $23.95), Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck reveals how her open-mind-vs.-closed-mind theory applies to Tiger Woods, Enron, and you. ... Donuts, babies, brain hemorrhages, and clinical depression — welcome to the world of thirtysomethings, as explicated in The May Queen (Tarcher Penguin, $14.95), a new anthology edited by Andrea Richesin, with local contributors including Michelle Richmond and Samina Ali.

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