Valentine's Day is still many weeks away, but love can be found now in the titles of three new nonfiction books.
"Love Smart," "Why Do I Love These People?" and "Love Always, Petra" are among the latest hardcover books that readers just might take to their hearts.
Other notable new hardcovers include novels by Nadine Gordimer, Philippa Gregory and Marge Piercy, and mystery fiction by Sue Grafton and Dean Koontz.
¢ In "Love Smart" (Free Press), Phil McGraw - aka "Dr. Phil," the ubiquitous TV psychologist - offers advice for improving one's romantic life. His suggestions for the lovelorn include forgoing excuse-making and acting decisively. He offers guidance on self-assessment, determining one's needs in a partner, and creating and executing a plan.
¢ For "Why Do I Love These People?" (Random House), Po Bronson spent three years searching for and interviewing people to find stories of families that survived hardships to create better lives. Each of the 20 stories involves two family members - a parent and child, or husband and wife. Their tales tell how their relationships were saved or, in some cases, how it was necessary to let go.
¢ Petra Nemcova didn't let go of the palm tree she clung to for eight hours: That's how she survived when she was caught in the South Asia tsunami of Dec. 26, 2004. She tells her story in "Love Always, Petra" (Warner Books), written with Jane Scovell. Nemcova, a fashion model, discusses her rescue by Thai natives and tourists, the loss of her boyfriend in the tsunami, and her physical and emotional recovery.
¢ In "Get a Life" (FSG), Gordimer, a Nobel Prize-winner in 1991, offers her 14th novel. Set in her native South Africa, it tells about a young cancer-stricken ecologist whose treatment makes him temporarily radioactive. To protect his young family, his parents take him in. During his stay with them, he begins to get a clearer picture of the contradictions between his work and that of his wife, an ad executive whose clients include companies he opposes.
¢ "The Constant Princess" (Touchstone) is Gregory's historical novel about Katherine of Aragon, the daughter of Spain's Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand. The story tells how Katherine endured the death of her teenage husband, Prince Arthur of England, and later married Arthur's younger brother, King Henry VIII, in a union based on a lie only recently discovered by historians.
¢ Piercy sets "Sex Wars" (Morrow) in post-Civil War New York and the emerging women's rights movement. Historical figures Victoria Woodhull, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony rub elbows with fictional characters, including Freydeh, a young Jewish woman who moves to the U.S. from Russia in search of a better life.
¢ In "Forever Odd" (Bantam), Koontz offers a sequel to his 2003 novel "Odd Thomas," about a young fry cook from a desert town in California who is able to communicate with the dead. The gift comes in handy when the father of Thomas' best friend is murdered and the friend disappears.
Other new nonfiction
¢ Frank McCourt, author of "Angela's Ashes," offers a memoir of his 30 years as an English teacher in New York City public schools in "Teacher Man" (Scribner).
¢ "The Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East" (Knopf) by Robert Fisk is a hefty, 1,000-page account of the past 25 years of conflict in the Middle East, including analysis and personal experiences, by a longtime reporter on the region.
¢ Linda Bird Francke goes "On the Road With Francis of Assisi" (Random House) in her biography of the 13th-century Italian saint rendered through the author's travels to places Francis visited.
¢ "Oh What a Slaughter" (Simon & Schuster) by Larry McMurtry cites letters, memoirs and other contemporary documents in a history of massacres in the American West during the last half of the 19th century.
¢ In "John Paul the Great" (Viking), Peggy Noonan examines the significance, achievements, popularity and shortcomings of Pope John Paul II.
¢ In "Ultimate Sacrifice" (Carroll & Graf), Lamar Waldron reveals President Kennedy's plan to stage a coup in Cuba on Dec. 1, 1963, the mob's involvement, and the plan's connection to Kennedy's assassination.
Other new fiction:
¢ "The New Woman" (Viking), Jon Hassler's fifth book about the misadventures of the eccentric citizens of small-town Staggerford, centers upon the strange series of events at the local building for seniors' housing.
¢ Sue Townsend's "Adrian Mole and the Weapons of Mass Destruction" (Soho), the fifth in the series, finds Mole, the British misfit and failed novelist, lusting for his fiancee's sister and seeking Prime Minister Tony Blair's help in getting a refund on his vacation deposit.
¢ In "Six Bits a Day" (Forge) by Elmer Kelton, two brothers leave the family farm to search for work in the West Texas cattle country of 1889.