Please Please Read These 

If you don't, you're missing out.

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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