1. Buddha/Volume One: Kapilavastu, by Osamu Tezuka (Vertical, $24.95): Written and drawn in the inimical style of Japan’s all-time most famous manga artist, it’s the saga of Buddha’s birth but so much more. Expect future volumes every few months from a hot new publisher that specializes in Japanese translations.
2. Can You Keep a Secret?, by Sophie Kinsella (Dial, $21.95): In its Pepto-Bismol jacket, this promises to be lame chick lit, but wit and literacy elevate this first-person page-turner in which a London working girl reveals way too much to a total stranger who turns out to be her sexy and sensitive new boss.
3. The Girl Watchers Club, by Harry Stein (Harper Collins, $24.95): Yes, they’re a bunch of old guys, but the group of WWII vets — still the best of friends — profiled and interviewed by an Esquire writer really do have major stuff to tell us about combat and camaraderie, whether we ever go to war.
4. Triomf, by Marlene van Niekerk (Overlook, $25.95): Translated into English after winning several international awards, this bitterly beautiful South African novel set during the waning days of apartheid introduces a twisted clan whose restless days and nights are punctuated by incest and madness.
5. Blinded by the Sunlight, by Matthew McAllester (Harper Collins, $25.95): Newsday reporter McAllester was arrested with several other journalists in Baghdad last year just as war broke out. Their ensuing week in Saddam’s grimmest prison are recounted here along with stark tales of Iraqi lives and deaths.