You get stock-picking advice and an entertaining read in "Beating the Street," by mutual-fund legend Peter Lynch and co-author John Rothchild, due out this month from Simon & Schuster.

Lynch managed to outpace the rest of the stock market by wide margins year after year as manager of Fidelity Magellan fund, from which he retired in 1990 at 46.Lynch's earlier book, "One Up on Wall Street" (Viking, 1990), advised readers to look for close-to-home stock-picking ideas. If you see people flocking to a store, he said, check out that company's stock.

In the new book, Lynch and Rothchild dish out tips on evaluating stocks - how they came upon specific stock-buying ideas, what sources they used as references, how they evaluated risks and possible rewards.

"Professional investors are scrambling to buy services like Bridge, Shark, Bloomberg, First Call, Market Watch and Reuters to find out what all the other professional investors are doing," they write, "when they ought to be spending more time at the mall."

For example, Lynch bought shares of the Body Shop, which sells naturally made cosmetics, because his daughters patronized the store.

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He discovered General Host when looking for companies that would benefit from an upturn in homebuilding, which he suspected would occur in 1992.

What looked so good about this humdrum stock? For one thing, its price had fallen well below that at which the company had recently repurchased shares.

And General Host's book value (basically, assets minus liabilities) was $9 per share, or more than its share price then.

The book also offers a "three-minute drill" that shows how to test the reliability of shareholder equity, what to make of inventory levels, when to ignore "goodwill" assets and whether to be alarmed by debt loads.

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