The Defection of A.J. Lewinter

By Robert Littell (Overlook, $24.95)

Fans of Littell's espionage yarns will rush to this reissued 1973 Cold War gem. An American scientist specializing in ballistic missiles confounds the Americans and Soviets when he defects suddenly to the U.S.S.R. Each side is convinced the other has hatched a devious plot, and begins an often amusing effort to outconnive each other. (F)

Good Poems

Sel. by Garrison Keillor (Viking, $25.95)

Garrison Keillor is no stranger to poetry -- it has been a feature of his radio show, "A Prairie Home Companion," since its inception. He has also read many favortie poems in another short radio feature, "The Writer's Almanac," which airs every weekday. This collection brings together 350 poems culled from the thousands that he has recited on the air during the past five years. (NF)

Mr. Jefferson's University

By Garry Wills (National Geographic, $20)

In this most recent volume in the publisher's "Directions" series, Wills chronicles the founding of the Univ. of Virginia, the "academical village" that was one of Thomas Jefferson's proudest accomplishments. The road to this Palladian masterpiece (and World Heritage site) was not, as Wills relates, an easy path, but the result was an architectural and intellectual triumph. (NF)

The bestseller lists this week are culled from information submitted by Barnes & Noble, Borders and Olsson's based on sales from 12/09-12/22 (BW was not published Dec. 29). The "Washington Is Also Reading" list is based on reports from Chapters, Reprint Book Shop and Vertigo. The Book World bestsellers hotline is 202-334-9000, category code 4175. (01/05/03)