Laura Miller

Like a lot of people a decade or so out of college, A.J. Jacobs wished he’d learned more while he was there – or could remember a respectable chunk of what he did learn. Like almost no one, he decided the best remedy for his ”long, slow slide into dumbness” would be to read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica, from a-ak (”Ancient East Asian music”) to Zywiec (a town in south-central Poland).

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Candace Bushnell, Trading Up

Candace Bushnell doesn’t write either of the two things people think she does: light fiction or modern-day versions of Edith Wharton’s turn-of-the-20th-century novels of manners. The newspaper column on which the HBO series ”Sex and the City” was based had sharper teeth and a flintier heart than that essentially romantic show; readers who grab Bushnell’s books looking for hip, sexy froth tend to wind up complaining that they’re too depressing.

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