Why Men Never Remember and Women Never Forget by Marianne J. Legato (Rodale, $24.95)

Men are different from women. You say you knew that. But if you truly understood and appreciated those differences, you might get along much better with members of the opposite sex, including your spouse, your son or daughter or colleagues at work. At least that's the theory promoted in this book by Marianne Legato, founder of the Partnership for Gender-Specific Medicine at Columbia University.

In the myriad differences in brain function now emerging across the range of human activity, from fighting (women stay angry longer than men because certain hormone levels take longer to return to normal) to making love (hormones impel men to resist post-coital cuddling), Legato sees potential for rapprochement, suggesting we can train ourselves to think more like the other side.

She readily acknowledges that her credentials are not as a brain specialist or a relationship expert, noting that she is a cardiologist and internist whose entree to this realm was through her pioneering work in gender-specific medicine.

The science is present, but not overwhelming, and the general tone is conversational in an "Oprah" sort of way. The book plays to both sides until midway, when in "Legato's Laws for Improving Communication between the Sexes" -- the heart of the book -- it lays bare its vaguely patronizing attitude toward men, giving advice to women that seems to presume men less capable of change.

On the other hand, a book that advises a woman not try to have a conversation with a guy while he's watching a ballgame, that she say what she means and that she resist using an argument as an excuse to revisit every grievance in the history of the relationship might help men, even if they don't read it.

-- Gregory Mott