BOOKS: DOESTOYEVSKY AND A DECAF

LAVISHLY STOCKED SUPERSTORES REPLEDTE WITH CLUB CHAIRS AND COFFEE BARS HAVE TURNED BOOK BUYING INTO A HOT SOCIAL SCENE

Virtual eons ago, when people still socialized over martinis and not via modems, reading was a solitary pastime confined largely to the bedroom and the backyard. Call it a paradox of the online age-or maybe a backlash against it -- but book reading has suddenly gone aggressively public. The old-fashioned bookstore has been transformed into a convivial hang-out spot where customers can get cappucino, conversation, and a cushy chair for perusing the latest Elmore Leonard or the earliest Dostoyevsky.

In a culture where book reading is supposed to be an endangered habit, it is an oddly heartening sight. By the end...

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