Vodka, Orphans, and Dragonflies 

If you don't read these books, you're missing out.

Millions of Mexican fans were stunned to learn that their favorite teen idol was linked to a sexual-slavery ring. In Girl Trouble (Rayo, $12.95), Christopher McDougall briskly traces the true career and largely fugitive life of Gloria Trevi, Mexico's most popular singer in the '90s: a smokin'-hot Monterrey-born Madonna. ... He never expected to score so big on the TV quiz show, Who Will Win a Billion? ... Nor did uneducated foundling orphan Ram Mohammed Thomas ever dream that his win would land him behind bars. Vikas Swarup's hilarious debut novel Q & A (Scribner, $24) is a lesson about urban survival, with grit glistening among the laughs. ... Tuberculosis among the early Native Americans? Medieval men's cavities filled with rosary beads? The Archaeology of Disease (Cornell University, $39.95), by Charlotte Roberts and Keith Manchester, details how skeletal discoveries at archaeological sites reveal much about illnesses in earlier eras and how they were treated. Dead men do tell tales. ... Unwanted because he was born with cerebral palsy, Ruben Gallego spent his youth in Soviet orphanages, placed there by his grandfather, a Spanish Communist Party official. Gallego's slender and grippingly stylistic memoir Black on White (Harcourt, $22) mixes moments of sunlit warmth with shafts of vodka-flavored gloom. ... When dragonflies mate, the male clamps the female's head with an appendage in his tail. It isn't pretty; nor are lizard-eating spiders or writhing blister-beetle larvae, but David Attenborough's Life in the Undergrowth (Princeton, $29.95) captures the bug-and-insect world with unforgettable images.


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