The Club: The Jews of Modern Britain by Stephen Brook (Constable, pounds 14.95). One of our most engaging travel writers turns his sights on a target closer to home - indeed Brook is himself a member of this 350,000-strong "club". This does not prevent him expressing trenchant opinions about certain members. Sometimes he seems too severe. After adducing an impressive roster of talent, from Steven Berkoff to Lucian Freud, Brook remarks that Anglo-Jewry has a "mostly undistinguished record in the arts". Outspoken, often funny, few works so encyclopaedic in scope can be as enjoyable to read.
Welter Winchell by Neal Gabler (Papermac, pounds 13). Ex-hoofer WW hit the big time in 1929 by inventing the gossip column for the New York Mirror. Winchell's snappy manic style was ideal for the era. By the late Thirties, two-thirds of the US was reading his tittle-tattle and press agents lived in dread of being put on his DDL (drop dead list). It is a great story for our celeb-obsessed times, with a colourful supporting cast. In the Fifties, Winchell cosied up to McCarthy, but he was sunk by television and changing public taste. Only his daughter attended his funeral in 1972.
The Chalice and the Blade by Riane Eisler (Pandora, pounds 9.99). Human society was once characterised by the female life-giving chalice - Eisler particularly cites ancient Crete - but for the past 5,000 years, the male death-dealing blade has ruled. It is now high time, the author argues, for a return to "gylany", a term she has invented for a "linking of both halves of humanity".Two more volumes of this worthy, cranky stuff are promised - but it left this reader feeling a bit like Bertie Wooster after having his mind improved by Honoria Glossop.
Jackie by Wayne Koestenbaum (Fourth Estate, pounds 8.99). In the last 15 years Jackie Onassis has appeared in Wayne Koestenbaum's dreams over two dozen times. They shared a Christmas celebration (she gave him a $25 cheque), sat together at a dinner party hosted by Ronald Reegan (at which she sighed "how pretty!" at the sight of her own cheque book), and once Jackie shouted "Jew-Boy!" loudly in Wayne's direction. In an attempt to liberate his "inner Jackie", Wayne Koestenbaum, Harvard professor, has left no facet of his obsession with the Queen of Camelot unturned.
The Weekend by Peter Cameron (Fourth Estate, pounds 5.99). Peter Cameron's first novel comes packaged in a spiffy little square no bigger than the palm of a hand. Frivolous and diverting in equal measure, it tells the story of three buddies whose midsummer weekend in upstate New York is overshadowed by the anniversary of a friend's death from Aids. Nothing actually happens, apart from a couple of lover's tiffs, but the lifestyle described is so beguilingly Martha Stewart - colonial farmhouses, white sundresses - that the book is shamefully hard to put down.
The Silent Twins by Marjorie Wallace (Vintage, pounds 7.99). Identical twins Jennifer and June Gibbons were known at school as the "mocking birds": always moving in unison, refusing to speak to anyone (including members of their own family), and living a life governed omens. Journalist Marjorie Wallace's breathtaking account - first published in 1986 and based on her reading of the twins' Brontesque diaries, novels and poems - reconstructs the sisters' childhood on an RAF base in Haverfordwest, and a tormented adolescence which finally resulted in matching beds in Broadmoor. Sibling love at its scariest.
Bitterroot Landing by Sheri Reynolds (Women's Press, pounds 6.99). "Mammie" brews the sweetest liquor in the state. Men come from miles around to visit her woodland shack, drink her witchy potions, and get laid; that is until the day Jael whacks "Mammie" over the head with a mallet and kills her. And that's just for starters. Sheri Reynold's strangely compelling, and at times totally baffling, tale of everyday southern folk is a potent as a glass of hooch on a hot day.