Those born under the sign of the boar are genial slobs who can't say no. Learn all about yourself in Theodora Lau's The Handbook of Chinese Horoscopes (Harper Collins, $18.95). Flagellants beat themselves bloody, but corpses piled up like firewood anyway, as John Kelly recounts in The Great Mortality (Harper Collins, $25), his compelling history of the Black Plague. Similarly titled and evoking similar scenes of corpses overflowing morgues and graveyards, John M. Barry's The Great Influenza (Viking, $29.95) tracks a global epidemic that claimed tens of millions. Count your blessings; you're not in a gulag. Anne Applebaum's Gulag (Anchor, $16.95) is a thick, hair-raising page-turner about life inside Soviet prison camps. He quit school at fourteen to work in a factory, then became a legend for writing The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner. Hard knocks abound in Nottinghamer Alan Sillitoe's New and Collected Stories (Carroll & Graf, $15.95). So you're a rice queen. So you've got yellow fever. Sheridan Prasso analyzes your desires in The Asian Mystique: Dragon Ladies, Geisha Girls, and Our Fantasies of the Exotic Orient (Public Affairs, $26). The congregation was massacred under a ten-foot crucifix, and the photojournalist who captured the scene in an African church can't forget it, no matter how much he drinks, in Andrew Miller's sharp-as-glass novel The Optimists (Harcourt, $24). From doughnuts to daikon, Patricia Unterman scopes out 600-plus restaurants in the latest edition of her San Francisco Food Lover's Guide (Ten Speed, $18.95).
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