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Books: Leisure reading

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'Jew vs. Jew'

By Samuel G. Freedman

Simon & Schuster, $26

In light of the selection of Sen. Joseph Lieberman, an orthodox Jew, as vice presidential candidate on the Democratic ticket, this book seems especially timely. It is a study of the conflicts that exist in the Jewish community from Florida to New England, from Los Angeles to the Catskills in New York and from Cleveland to Denver. It also deals with the tensions in Israel and the ways those relate to the problems of American Jews.

The author, a professor at Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism, is known for his expertise and compassion. He talks about such flashpoints as conversion standards, the role of women, the peace process in the Middle East and the sexual climate on Ivy League campuses. The stories in the book are real and very down to earth. — Dennis Lythgoe

'Life Stories'

Edited by David Remick

Random House, $26.95

This volume contains 25 of the best profiles that originally appeared in The New Yorker, published to celebrate the magazine's 75th anniversary. Included are essays on such divergent contemporary figures as Henry Luce, Ernest Hemingway, Marlon Brando, Steve Blass, Johnny Carson, Roseanne Barr, Richard Pryor, Floyd Patterson, Mikhail Baryshnikov and others — including Biff Truesdale, the show dog.

Authors include Calvin Trillin, Kenneth Tynan, Janet Malcolm, Lillian Ross and Ian Frazier.

The New Yorker profile was originally designed as "a concise rendering of a life through anecdote, incident, interview and description (or some ineffable combination thereof)." This book is a treasure. — Dennis Lythgoe

'The Money Men'

By Jeffrey H. Birnbaum

Crown, $25.95

Subtitled "The Real Story of Fund-raising's Influence on Political Power in America," this book is highly pertinent to the 2000 presidential campaign. Birnbaum, currently the Washington bureau chief of Fortune magazine, is well-known as a panelist on TV's "Washington Week in Review." His subject of political fund-raising is distasteful to many people, but as told by the author, it is one of the most fascinating stories of American politics.

For decades, Birnbaum has followed the money in Washington, and he knows the forces that wield power as well as the more subtle influences of various pressure groups. It is his position that the fund-raisers and fund-givers have a much bigger say in how the government works than they ever have before. The best part is the author talks specifics — names and organizations. — Dennis Lythgoe