1. The Babes in the Wood, by Ruth Rendell (Vintage, $13). Two kids and their babysitter vanish during a flood: accident or mayhem? Given that Rendell is a master of mystery, you know which it is, and how expertly she carries it off.
2. Daughter of the Saints, by Dorothy Allred Solomon (Norton, $14.95). If you liked Jon Krakauer's Under the Banner of Heaven, try this memoir about being one of 28 siblings in a polygamous Mormon family always one step away from the law.
3. Belongings, by Sandra M. Gilbert (Norton, $23.95). American Book Award-winning Berkeley poet Gilbert describes love, loss, bonding, and separation with such blinding clarity that even those who say they don't get poetry will get this.
4. Joy Comes in the Morning, by Jonathan Rosen (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $25). A man attempting suicide has a crippling stroke, then is forced to contemplate his past and future silently in this eloquent novel about fighting inner demons.
5. West of Then, by Tara Bray Smith (Simon & Schuster, $24). When Smith was seven, her mother abandoned her, as we learn in this scorchingly lovely account of searching the streets of Hawaii for a homeless, addicted mother who once had everything.
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