Click to follow
Made in America by Bill Bryson (Minerva pounds 6.99) The doyen of drollery eases back on the humour pedal in this discursive survey of Americana. His main concern is how the US has both preserved and changed the English language. This fascinating theme is exuberantly pursued, but Bryson also feels impelled to include potted histories of a ragbag of topics from food to movies. He specialises in debunking: Heinz never had 57 varieties; the Mayflower pilgrims didn't land on Plymouth Rock. Entertaining, if rambling.

Foreign Correspondent by Peter Lennon (Picador pounds 5.99)

The veteran Irish scribe recalls his penurious days as a Paris stringer in the Sixties, including lively cameos of celebs encountered in now defunct zinc bars. Samuel Beckett, revealed as a terrible driver and billiards ace, saves him from a drunken brawl with Peter O'Toole. Though civil unrest caused by the Algerian war is recalled in detail, the events of 1968 are oddly dismissed in a couple of pages. Sometimes, one detects the rechauffage of ancient clippings, but at best it's as good as A Moveable Feast.

Strange Angels by Andy Bull (Black Swan pounds 5.99) A travel book based on places linked with US icons - including Marilyn Monroe, Dean, JFK and Presley - sounds promising, but Bull admits at the outset "I wanted crazies to fill these pages", and the result is a tacky trawl of lookalikes and obsessives. One rich find is a possible transvestite who reckons to be the repository of Marilyn's soul. Bull's seamy itinerary is scarcely elevated by including the murderer who inspired The Silence of the Lambs in the iconic pantheon.

Signals of Distress by Jim Crace (Penguin pounds 5.99)

The passions and mores of the 1830s are flawlessly delineated in this masterly novel, imbued with the tang and power of the sea. Social upheaval impinges on a west country port when an American vessel is forced to shore by a storm. The sole passenger, a high-principled weakling, frees the ship's slave-cook into the wintry landscape. The captain seeks revenge, while his drunken crew court disaster by tumbling a mysterious landmark. Savage retribution awaits both reformer and ship.

Songs My Mother Taught Me by Marlon Brando (Arrow pounds 6.99)

The screen's greatest presence shows a predictable mix of truculence and bafflement in this ghosted autobiography. Brando views his life with sullen honesty, even implying that this is "a trashy book". Almost all his films are similarly dismissed. His attitude to women is summed up by a mindless rationale: "the penis has its own agenda". We learn much about the mess of the household in which he grew up, but there is reticence about the dysfunctional family he created.

Eyewitness Hiroshima ed. Adrian Weale (Robinson pounds 5.99)

Marking the 50th anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing, Weale has compiled a wide-ranging compendium of recollections. Aiming for objectivity, he stresses the research leading to the mushroom cloud. Inevitably, however, it is the memories of survivors - many unbearably painful to read - which dominate. In the light of such evidence, it is hard to remain impartial. A Yorkshire PoW working in Nagasaki's docks said: "the first real emotion... was shame. I started to feel guilty."

Songs of the West by Carol Birch (Mandarin pounds 5.99)

Everyone and everything in the little village of Ballinaphuca heaves with creamy goodness: womens' breasts, cows' udders and even the Guinness- flecked sea. But Marie - the peachiest inhabitant of all - harbours thoughts that are less than milky-white. Trapped in a dreary marriage, she longs for the artistic, holidaying Englishman in the gypsy caravan next door. As the whole village gathers, the caravan starts to rock.

The Last Disco in Outer Mongolia by Nick Middleton (Phoenix pounds 5.99)

Like many travellers to groovy-sounding places, Nick Middleton couldn't just visit Outer Mongolia - he had to write about it too. He even came up with a groovy-sounding title (even groovier than his last, Kalasnikovs and Zombie Cucumbers). Gory tales of Genghis Khan and other horse-riding psycho-paths are set against equally stomach-churning accounts of British Embassy knees-ups at "The Steppe Inn".

Perfect Parents by Christina Hardyment (OUP pounds 7.99)

"Forget the over-kissed child; today the rocks lying ahead are for the under-kissed parent". All child care manuals today advise on sex before and after birth, though this new preoccupation with parental needs - as this updated history of baby-care shows - will pass as surely as the Thirties obsession with Baby's Bowels. In a world where Dr Spock only just under-sells the Bible, it's reassuring to be told that mother really does know best.

Debatable Land by Candia McWilliam (Picador pounds 5.99)

Although set on a boat in the Pacific, it's the "heaped tall buildings" of Edinburgh that dominate the horizons of McWilliam's third novel. Sailing under a foreign sky, Alec cannot escape memories of the Leith docks and his fish-gutting mother. At times, the prose is so highly-flavoured that sentences have to be attempted twice - but those that work first time round burst on the tongue like the "soor plum" sweeties of Alec's childhood.

The Courage to Raise Good Men by Olga Silverstein & Beth Rashbaum (Penguin pounds 6.99)

Mothers often fear that an excess of mother-love will produce girly sons. Yet by curbing the boys' feminine instincts, so the argument goes, mothers may well deny them that particular dose of humanity essential to the development not of "new" men, but of "good" men. Olga Silverstein even gets her son to write the book's last chapter - his take on the whole debate? Oedipus Schmoedipus.

Spying in Guru Land by William Shaw (Fourth Estate pounds 6.99)

Inspired by the Waco fiasco, Shaw decides to infiltrate some of Britain's more peculiar cults to find out for himself. One of his funniest accounts is of his visit to the Chrisemma Foundation in Totnes. "Chrisemma" (guru- speak for Chris Orchard and his girlfriend Emma Lea) drive a Ford Fiesta - but never over 56 mph - and preach the happy news that all relationships are bound to crumble.