WITH the publishing industry churning out a flood of un, anti, null- and non-books, it has not been a good year for genuine books. But a few emerged—although perhaps no single volume could pass the Robinson Crusoe test beloved of Sunday supplements (Which ten books, apart from a guide to edible fungi, would you take with you if cast away on a desert island?).

Two trends should be noted. One is that while middle-aged women of pious persuasion are novelizing as hugely as ever, adolescent girl threnodists have fallen into a decline. The other is...

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