Blindness and Seeing by Jose Saramago (Harvest, $10; Mariner $14). My favorite books for some some years now. Stories in allegorical form by the late Portuguese writer about the manner in which western democracies exercise repression aided by the media. They are also galloping tales with wonderfully drawn characters.

Look at Me and A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan (Anchor, $15; Knopf, $26). This American writer dazzled with Look at Me, which describes, among other things, the manipulation of images by the increasingly abstract versions of capitalism that have replaced manufacturing industries. Egan’s books cover an astonishing range of themes, all inter-related, global as well as personal. Written before 9/11, Look at Me reveals an extraordinarily prescient vision. A Visit from the Goon Squad follows a group of diverse characters across several decades, going back and forth across time. We’re always conscious of their future lives, so different from anything they could have imagined. Only a writer with Egan’s gift for intricate structuring could have pulled this off.

A Case of Exploding Mangoes by Mohammed Hanif (Vintage, $15). A sly, very funny satire on Colonel Zia by a Pakistani writer, told from the point of view of a deluded henchman. Very sophisticated in the Monty Python mould.

Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller (Random House, $15). A memoir of a Rhodesian childhood. Exquisitely written, utterly endearing and laced with ominous rumblings.

Life and Fate by Vasily Grossman (New York Review Books Classics, $25). An epic account of the battle of Stalingrad and life under Stalin as experienced firsthand by Grossman himself. He employs a huge array of characters from every walk of life. This novel has been compared to War and Peace the structure of which it closely echoes. Riveting and timely in its depiction of moral choices to be made under terrifying pressures.

Actress Julie Christie has appeared in more than 40 films, including "Doctor Zhivago," "Nashville," and "Away From Her"