The Pennyroyal Caxton Edition of the Holy Bible, designed and illustrated by Barry Moser (Viking Studio, $65). This oversized new edition of the King James Version of the Holy Bible is described in promotional copy as "a publishing event of true millennial significance," but don't let the hyperbole put you off. Though the book sits heavily on one's lap, it is a joy to read, printed as it is on heavy paper (so many Bibles are on thin, almost translucent stock) and the type is a sturdy Galliard that proves exactly appropriate to the text. But what sets this Bible apart from others is the remarkable series of wood engravings by Barry Moser with which it is illustrated. Moser's style -- dark, brooding, haunted and haunting -- will not be to all tastes. My own initial reaction to the illustrations was skeptical, but they proved to wear well, revealing new dimensions with each examination. "Isaiah, naked and barefoot" is strikingly human, and the series of engravings devoted to the crucifixion is powerful. But not every picture has the force of shock: Moser's depiction of Mary at the Annunciation is simply exquisite. -- J.Y.
The Book of Divination, by Ann Fiery (Chronicle, $24.95). At the heart of the divinatory impulse, says Ann Fiery, is "curiosity of the highest caliber." In a quest for evidence of God's plan, and to capture the essence of the universes within and without the human personality, diviners have searched stars, numbers, dreams, foreheads, crania, palms, tarot cards, tea leaves, even entrails of goats. Divining is, she says, a great longing for a "practice life" -- a yearning to know what the future has in store, a need to feel prepared. The author presents these "darker arts" of the Western world with a positive spin, even gusto, describing the history of each. The curious may learn a thing or two about themselves: This Virgo read here, for instance, that she "can remain at tasks long after most people would have run screaming from the office." Well, we knew that. -- M.A.
The Tibetans, by Art Perry (Viking Studio, $35)."I had a terrible headache," the Canadian photographer-author says of his visit with Tibetan nomads. "On the Chang Tang Plateau it is common for the Himalayan height to push Western visitors to dangerous states of pulmonary and cerebral edema. . . . My brain was about to burst, and I could see myself as a future figure of nomadic folklore -- the Westerner whose head exploded." The nomads worried to see him lying motionless, but a sudden snowstorm on the desert shifted their priorities. They ran from their tents with tea urns, pots and old oil drums abandoned by the Chinese army, and filled them to overflowing with soft, loose snow. Later, a ginger, garlic and melted snow broth with flakes of dried yak meat, and the prayers of a shaman, eased his aching head. In Lhasa, the author shares vivid, passionate descriptions of the imprint of an invasive Chinese culture: the destruction of historic architecture, the proliferation of non-Tibetan stalls hawking "ugly Asian rip-offs of American products," "joyless and cruel" merchants selling half-dead catfish and half-feathered chickens, and garish Chinese brothels. He describes the Khampas of eastern Tibet who, in the face of public executions by Chinese troops, train themselves in commando warfare, no longer believing like most Tibetans that compassion alone can win over evil. His photos of Lhasa are striking. The words and pictures tell of a time and place apart from global culture, compelling in beauty. Perry asks that the hardships of the Tibetan people not be trivialized, that the picturesque not overshadow the difficulties. The sheer humanity in Perry's photos evokes that respect. -- M.M.
The Story of Christianity, by Michael Collins and Matthew A. Price (DK Publishing, $29.95); The impending millennium marks not only the beginning of a new century but a milestone in the evolution of one of the world's most influential religions, Christianity. To attempt to sum up two millennia's worth of faith, doctrinal tumult, and significant cultural and social implications is undeniably a daunting task, and one that is admirably tackled in The Story of Christianity. Intended by the authors to be an ecumenical piece of scholarship, it traces the growth of the religion from its Old Testament roots through the turbulent periods of Reformation and Counter-Reformation periods, right up to our own decade, marked by a rise in evangelism and the growth of the Church in the Third World. -- C.S.