A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth
A vastly entertaining massive novel. It takes place in India in the 50s and revolves around a mother's quest to marry her daughter off to a "suitable boy". There are many characters, but Seth has such a deft hand at characterization, I was never confused. It's a book about love, about family, about turmoil. It's my comfort novel and I read it annually. It's the kind of book where you grow to feel close to the characters.
Blink by Malcolm Gladwell
You'll remember him from The Tipping Point. This is Gladwell's new book, about how we make snap judgements. Lots of interesting studies described here. For instance, students exposed to five seconds of videotape of a professor teaching consistently evaluated the professor essentially the same as students who had been taught by that prof for an entire semester.
He talks about the information that unconsciously affects our judgement and performance. He cites one a rather frightening study, done by psychologists Steele and Aronson:
...using black college students and twenty questions taken from the Graduate Record Examination, the standardized test used for entry into graduate school. When the students were asked to identify their race on a pretest questionnaire, that simple act was sufficient to prime them with all the negative stereotypes associated with African Americans and academic achievement -- and the number of items they got right was cut by half.
So damn scary. The book is excellent. Read it. As well, Gladwell gave a keynote at SXSW Interactive 2005 and you can listen to it. It will give you a good taste of the material in the book. Also, it's very entertaining.
Amazing Spider-Man, currently being written by J. Michael Straczynski.
Or, as I call it, Peter Parker, High School Science Teacher. JMS understands that the story is not about Spidey, it's about Petey and everything he goes through. JMS has been writing for a few years now and for the most part, it's been really excellent. Peter is back with MJ, Aunt May knows Peter is Spider-Man, and oh my god, what JMS did to Gwen Stacy! This is a good time to start picking up the book since the story has just taken a pretty major turn. And, hey, it's JMS.
Here Is Greenwood by Yukie Nase
If you've only seen the anime, you're missing out. The manga, published in English by Viz (I know, I know, but it's not too bad), is chock-a-block with entertaining, funny stories about Hasukawa, Shun, Mitsuru, and Shinobu at Ryokuto Academy. It fills in so much that's missing from the anime. Try it, you'll like it. First three volumes are out.