By Shawn Colvin (William Morrow, 224 pages, $25.99)

Celebrity memoirs, especially those written in midlife, usually aren't terribly interesting unless you're a big fan of the celebrity in question. Folk singer/songwriter Shawn Colvin's "Diamond in the Rough" is better than most in this genre. Colvin, whose best-known tunes include "Sunny Came Home" and "Diamond in the Rough," is refreshingly honest and witty, and just a tad prone to narcissism, as she lays out her childhood in South Dakota, her drug- and alcohol-addled youth, her love affairs and marriages, her experience as a mother, her battle with depression, and her creative struggles and growth. It's clear that she's evolved and matured, and along the way has developed a wry humility. Still, one wonders why she is writing a memoir when she's just in her 50s, has a young child and hasn't had a hit lately. Clearly it has plenty to do with the release of her first new album in six years, "All Fall Down." As autobiography, this book feels incomplete. Still, it's an entertaining little read with lots of great photos, and Colvin fans are likely to enjoy it greatly.



By Bella Pollen (Grove Press, 441 pages, $15)

"The Summer of the Bear" opens in 1979 with the Fleming family -- Letty and her three children -- heading north to Scotland. Letty's husband, Nicky, a foreign diplomat based in West Germany, has died in a mysterious fall, and all kinds of secrets and mystery enshroud his life and death. Was he a spy? A traitor? Did he fall, or was he pushed? Or did he jump?

This riveting story unspools in a most satisfactory way, with the point of view bouncing among the devastated Letty, her detached older daughter, her angry middle daughter, and her peculiar and hopeful young son, Jamie, the story's true hero. The backdrop is a chilly, remote island in the Outer Hebrides where Letty grew up, and the plot is a fascinating blend of prosaic everyday life and magical realism. A tame grizzly bear has been brought to the island to be used in a TV ad, and it escapes. For weeks, it hides out, moving closer and closer to the Fleming family, keeping them under surveillance. The sections told from the bear's point of view are handled beautifully, deftly. It is that bear, and its peculiar relationship to Jamie, that nearly destroys the family -- or does it save it? Oh, gosh, this was good.