By EW Staff
December 24, 1993 at 05:00 AM EST


1 Smilla’s Sense of Snow

Peter Hoeg (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $21) Okay, so maybe thetitle does sound like one of those Scandinavian art-house filmsfull of icicles and angst, but Danish novelist Hoeg’s brainy,offbeat thriller reads like anything but a homework assignment.The daughter of an Inuit woman and a world-class Danish doctor,heroine Smilla Qaavigaaq Jaspersen has never entirely made herpeace with European society. The author of numerous scientificpapers on the properties of glaciers and pack ice, Smillamistrusts authority, dislikes most people, and can’t hold a job.When a 6-year-old Greenlander whom Smilla had befriended plungesto his death from the roof of her apartment building, she can’taccept the official verdict. Knowing little Isaiah was terrifiedof heights, Smilla launches an investigation of her own — oneleading in the direction of a powerful corporation responsiblefor mining Greenland’s mineral wealth, a pair of doomedscientific expeditions to the Arctic north, and a perilousvoyage into the ice. Is Smilla in pursuit of the truth, or isshe being lured? Brilliantly quirky, unpredictable, and rivetingfrom beginning to end, Smilla’s Sense of Snow is that rarest ofnovels: a critically acclaimed tour de force that has alsomanaged to crack the best-seller lists — and given author Hoeg ashot at literary stardom.

2 Case Closed

Gerald Posner (Random House, $25) As thorough and incisive a jobof reporting and critical thinking as you will find, this bookby ex-Wall Street lawyer Posner does more than buttress theWarren Commission’s conclusion that Lee Harvey Oswald actedalone in JFK’s assassination. It also indicts and pretty muchconvicts the entire JFK-conspiracy industry of sloppy research,shoddy thinking, hysterical speculation, and downrightdishonesty. More than that, it’s written in a penetrating, lucidstyle that makes it a joy to read.

3 Pigs in Heaven

Barbara Kingsolver (HarperCollins, $22) Taylor Greer, theresourceful, free-spirited heroine of The Bean Trees, returns,rattling across the Southwest with her adopted Cherokeedaughter, Turtle. Taylor is on the run because an idealisticyoung lawyer passionately committed to the preservation of herCherokee tribe wants to regraft Turtle to her severed roots.Kingsolver navigates gracefully between the passions ofmotherhood and those of heritage. With their spirit andunfashionably unneurotic moral gumption, her characters are agift to the literature of contemporary womanhood.

4 The Night Manager

John le Carre (Knopf, $24) In this superb novel — his 11th sincehe invented the modern espionage story in 1963 with The Spy WhoCame in From the Cold — Le Carre works familiar territory withthe mastery of a brilliant conductor returning to a complexsymphony.

5 Like Water for Chocolate

Laura Esquivel (Doubleday, $17.50) Here’s a deliciously magicalstory that’s equal parts folklore and soap opera, with lots ofMexican recipes thrown into the mix. A testament to the powersof both love and food, with plenty of plot twists, this one’s apot-boiler in the best sense of the word.

6 Days of Grace

Arthur Ashe (Knopf, $24) In this graceful memoir, publishedafter his death from AIDS last February, Ashe chronicles thebrave battles he fought in life. It is an extraordinary book bya man who never gave in to pity or rage, who devoted his lastfew months to helping others, and who reached his pinnacle longafter he left the tennis court.

7 Virtual Light

William Gibson (Bantam, $21.95) In his first solo novel in fiveyears, Gibson turns his eye on the near future: California in2005. Just shy of being a science-fiction masterpiece, VirtualLight is the next best thing — a terrifically stylish burst ofkick-butt imagination, with enough sentiment to make the futureseem not so frightening.

8 A Simple Plan

Scott Smith (Knopf, $21) The plot of this novel slices into itsfirst pages as savagely as a knife: Hank Mitchell finds $4million in the wreckage of a small plane. He and his companionsdecide to wait and see if the plane is found before splittingthe cash. A simple plan? Yes. And then again, no. As first-timenovelist Smith’s coiled-rattlesnake story line unwinds, greed,ineptitude, and insanity conspire to make things go terriblywrong.

9 Cruel & Unusual

Patricia D. Cornwell (Scribner’s, $21) Cornwell’s heroine,brainy and ballsy medical examiner Kay Scarpetta, comes upagainst a grisly conundrum: An executed murderer’s fingerprintsturn up at a new crime scene. As always, there’s a lot to keepus turning the pages: Kay’s own hang-ups and fears, her slob ofa partner, her difficult niece. Amid scenes of horrific carnage,her many struggles make this an extremely effective novel ofsuspense.

10 Star Trek Memories

William Shatner, with Chris Kreski (HarperCollins, $22)Shatner — a.k.a. Captain Kirk — has bypassed personalautobiography, instead writing a first-rate history of the NBCseries in which he starred from 1966 to 1969. The book is fullof Trek trivia, with never-before-told tales of backstagebackstabbing and in-depth interviews with the original cast andcrew. Trekkies should be sifting through its pages for aeons tocome.

The Worst

1 The Last Brother

Joe McGinniss (Simon & Schuster, $25) In this bombasticpsychomelodrama about Sen. Edward Kennedy, ”what if’ becomes”maybe,” then changes into ”certainly” without a shred of proofin between. Curiosity notwithstanding, to buy this book is to bean accessory to a literary felony.

2 A Woman’s Worth

Marianne Williamson (Random House, $17) Self-styled self-helpguru Williamson urges women to say no to bad self-images, topray their way to equality, and to become queens in their ownminds. Her meditations are filled with good intentions andblinding contradictions. This is fast-food feminism at itsapolitical worst.

3 Homeland

John Jakes (Doubleday, $25) More cardboard characters andstarched prose from the titan of the family-saga genre — and thisone (about German immigrants) is the first in a trilogy.

4 They Can Kill You…But They Can’t Eat You

Dawn Steel (Pocket Books, $22) With her cache ofintellect-numbing lessons and vapid cliches, Steel might do wellas a Venice Beach psychic or Herbalife saleswoman. But aschronicler of her own amazing life, the one-time prez ofColumbia Pictures and ex-marketer of knockoff Gucci toilet papermakes a lousy spin doctor.

5 Great Good Food

Julee Rosso (Crown, $29) You have to have a license to practicemedicine, but it seems any old marketing whiz/ex-chef’s partneris allowed to write a cookbook. Don’t try this one if you preferyour recipes accurate and appetizing.

Honor Roll


Arc d’X, by Steve Erickson. Part historical melodrama, partcyberpunk thriller, and part science-fiction odyssey, thismillennium novel is not just good, it’s flat-out amazing.


President Kennedy: Profile of Power, by Richard Reeves. Readerswill be both fascinated and repelled by this brilliantly writtensaga of democracy in the raw.

Stiffed: A True Story of MCA, the Music Business, and the Mafia,by William Knoedelseder. A brisk, tough, funny, scary book thatreveals the music business to be as viciously avaricious as anymob family.


Remembering Denny, by Calvin Trillin. A slender but heartfeltinvestigation into the life and suicide of a promising Yaleclassmate (1957) — but, more than that, a deeper look at education,class, and career in the unreal era of the great American dream.


Cinderella and Little Red Riding Hood, by William Wegman. Theartist decked his weimaraners in satin and tulle to create themost wonderful and unusual versions ever of these classic fairytales.




Toni Morrison (Beloved, Song of Solomon, Jazz), who became thefirst African-American woman to receive the Nobel Prize forliterature.


Mafia Cookbook author Joseph ”Joe Dogs” Iannuzzi, who quit thefederal Witness Protection Program to plug the book on Letterman,only to be struck from the lineup at the last minute.


First novelist Scott Smith (A Simple Plan) got hammered by ahandful of critics, but Stephen King jumped to his defense,lambasting the reviewers on Good Morning America.


”Writing a book just might be the hardest thing I’ve ever done,besides trying to get laid in college.” — Howard Stern, Private Parts


Christopher Andersen (Jagger Unauthorized), who revealed that MickJagger hates the smell of Jerry Hall’s breast milk, and RandallRiese (Her Name Is Barbra), who noted that Barbra Streisand wasa teenage shoplifter.


”This book is for any woman who has steadfastly resisted thefrequent urge to feloniously resolve her relationship with ourhormonally challenged counterparts.” — Jennifer Berman, Why Dogs Are Better Than Men


Prince Charming: The John F. Kennedy Jr. StoryDutton relegated the book’s title to the back cover so itwouldn’t mar John-John’s mug on the front.