CHOOSE one title from each group, like vitamins, for a balanced diet. Leave the Russians till Christmas when the weather will be more in tune.

Crime: Start off by relaxing into a good murder. Colin Dexter's The Way Through the Woods (Pan pounds 4.99): a new Morse, this one is better than telly. Carl Hiassen's Native Tongue (Pan pounds 4.99): for sheer off-the-wall American energy. Michael Dibdin's Cabal (Faber pounds 4.99): in which Aurelio Zen takes on the Vatican. Patricia Cornwell's All that Remains (Warner pounds 4.99): for stiffs in depth.

Biography: Significant Others (Thames and Hudson pounds 14.99): creative partnerships, eg Vita and Virginia, Nin and Miller; sex, art and gossip. Alan Bullock's Hitler and Stalin (Fontana pounds 9.99): significant others who never met, interwoven in a great narrative design. Alan Clark's Diaries (Weidenfeld pounds 20): unashamed nastiness.

Historical Fiction: Hilary Mantel's A Place of Greater Safety (Penguin pounds 5.99): the French Revolution in living colour, the domestic linked to the political arena. The Volcano Lover (Vintage pounds 5.99): Susan Sontag's passion for ideas exuberantly recreates Nelson and Emma Hamilton. Fiction: Donna Tartt's The Secret History (Penguin pounds 5.99): survival of the primitive in a closed circle of campus aesthetes, the tension of a thriller within an elegant novel. David Malouf's Remembering Babylon (Chatto pounds 14.99): another closed community wrestling with the primitive (aboriginal, and within itself) in 19th-century Queensland. Adam Thorpe's Ulverton (Minerva pounds 5.99): a cross-section through English rural and linguistic life, written with awesome versatility. Michael Ondaatje's The English Patient (Picador pounds 5.99): a poetic anatomy of casualties in a ruined Italian villa at the end of the war. Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha (Secker pounds 12.99): another episode from Roddy Doyle's Barrytown, seen through the medium of a child's sensibility and idiom, funny, moving and unsentimental.

On the plane home: Angela Carter's Expletives Deleted (Vintage pounds 5.99): vivid reviews of classics and contemporaries (and an entertaining sideswipe at foodism) for lots of good ideas on what to read next.

Compiled by Linda Adams of Muswell Hill

Bookshop (081-444 7588).