THE HANDMAID'S TALE, by Margaret Atwood. In this political novel, set in the next century, a religious dictatorship rules the United States, child-bearing is a privilege, and people -- especially women -- are treated as chattel. (Book World, February 2)

RAT MAN OF PARIS, by Paul West. An inventive, richly burnished novel about the relationship between a Paris eccentric and a lonely schoolteacher that becomes a meditation on love, history, and delusion. (Book World, February 2)

PERU, by Gordon Lish. A little boy kills his playmate in a sandbox -- or does he? A chilling and hypnotic novel that blurs memory and desire, the past and the present. (Book World, February 2)

WITH THE CONTRAS: A Reporter in the Wilds of Nicaragua, by Christopher Dickey. A Washington Post reporter on the contras, the civil war, and the CIA in Nicaragua. (Book World, January 26)

SILICO SAPIENS: The Fundamentals and Future of Robots, by Joseph Deken. Who can replace a man? The effect of robots on human society. (Book World, January 26)

THE AFFAIR: The Case of Alfred Dreyfus, by Jean-Denis Bredin. A reexamination of the scandal that shook turn-of-the century France -- its government, army, society itself. (Book World, January 26)