January 11, 1991 at 05:00 AM EST

The Life of Graham Greene, Volume I: 1904-1939 Norman Sherry
Volume 1 of Sherry’s biography of the novelist-adventurer is a sublime portrait of the artist as a cosmopolitan. Despite the huge canvas (family life, education, love, religion, mental breakdown, experience in Africa, early work), the tone is intimate. Sherry lets Greene take us into his confidence. A

Anna L.M.N.O. Sarah Glasscock
Does every Southern woman style hair? Anna, the heroine of this McMurtryesque first novel, is another gutsy hairburner. But Glasscock, who can tell a story, doesn’t choke us with local color, and she knows how to make Anna more than the latest bud on the Steel Magnolia assembly line. B+

A Peace to End All Peace David Fromkin
Fromkin’s historical narrative (nominated for both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award in 1989) describes the creation of the modern Middle East during the period from 1914 to 1922. Centering his book on the decisions of Winston Churchill, Fromkin, the author of The Independence of Nations, enlivens — but never compromises — the history he presents. A

Keep the Change Thomas McGuane
Joe Starling, McGuane’s latest Montana dude, can’t stick with anything, but you’ll have no trouble sticking with him. He’s McGuane’s best creation in years, and Keep the Change is a reminder of what an effortlessly fresh, funny, and appealing writer McGuane can be. A-

Italian Days Barbara Grizzuti Harrison
Harrison’s journal of a meandering 1985 trip through Italy (Milan, Venice, Rome, Calabria, the Mezzogiorno) is rich, sensual, and completely absorbing. You read it like fiction, hooked on the colorful destinations, the playful asides on traveling, and the gracious traveler herself. A

Jack A.M. Homes
Homes’ New Wave Catcher in the Rye tells the story of a teenage boy who finds out his father is gay. Jack takes the adolescent novel into new territory; no one is ”normal” in Homes’ funny, slightly eerie world. These remarkable characters react to events gradually, slowly learning to live with modern life’s most subtle complications. A

Bird, Kansas Tony Parker
In groups of interviews from ”Stay-at-Home Wives” to ”Kids at School” to ”Some of Our Business Folk,” Parker lets the people of this Kansas town chat about their lives, and they’re no rubes. Parker’s oral history is good reading, but it’s hard not to feel you’ve covered this territory many times before. B

Death of a Hollow Man Caroline Graham
Murder strikes the Causton Amateur Dramatic Society during a production of Amadeus. Graham’s theatrical whodunit is wholly entertaining, and her descriptions of backstage life with an amateur theater group are worthy of Robertson Davies. She writes with humor and supplies plenty of entertaining characters. But this is a real mystery, too, and the resolution does not disappoint. A-

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