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Leisure reading

'The Innocent'

By Harlan Coben

Dutton, $26.95.

Harlan Coben's newest mystery begins with a nightmarish and believable event. A basically good boy, a college freshman from a happy middle-class family, accidentally kills another kid in a brawl at a fraternity party. He goes to prison for it.

When he gets out, in four years, he rebuilds his middle-class life. But he is scared now. He's always aware his freedom could be taken from him at any moment.

Even before murders start happening in his vicinity and cops start staking him out, his life seems on the verge of unraveling again. His wife is acting weird, for one thing.

The book is called "The Innocent." The reader pities this young man, whether or not he is innocent.

The writing snaps and the plot races. The subplot about strippers strains credulity but there is no time to think about that until the book is over. Once you start, you've got to keep reading. — Susan Whitney

'Now I Can Die in Peace'

By Bill Simmons

ESPN Books, $24.95.

Bill Simmons, formerly of the Boston Herald, writes the popular "Sports Guy" column for ESPN.com and ESPN magazine. A longtime Boston Red Sox fan, Simmons was so excited when the Red Sox won the 2004 World Series that he looked over his columns from the past five years, trying to figure out why he didn't predict it.

He started second-guessing himself, pounding the table and going after himself — the way sports guys do. Many of those columns appear in the book, coupled with Simmons' own fresh criticism of himself. The result is a very funny book and a joy to Red Sox fans everywhere.

One cautionary: If you don't know baseball, don't read this book. — Dennis Lythgoe

'Sharing Good Times'

By Jimmy Carter

Simon & Schuster, $13 (paperback).

In this profound little book, former President Jimmy Carter writes about "the things that matter most" — the simple, relaxed days he has enjoyed with family and friends, including exploring the outdoors with his father and with black playmates; painting, pursuing adventures, accompanying family on trips and sharing almost everything with his wife, former first lady Rosalynn.

In the book he writes, "Rosalynn and I still relish the days when just the two of us are at home together. We do our own things most of the time, but share responsibilities in the house, the yard, and around the outdoor grill. We work out in a nearby gym, swim, ride bikes, or take a long walk every day, and we're highly competitive while fishing in one of our ponds or playing tennis. I have a stronger serve, her ground strokes are more accurate, and neither of us would dream of exerting less than our full effort. We have developed a formula for equalizing the odds, so that every set is likely to come out about even." — Dennis Lythgoe