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December 29, 1996

Fiction

AIRFRAME by Michael Crichton (Alfred A. Knopf: $26) A mysterious glitch threatens the production of a profitable jetliner (1). Southern California ranking: 1; Last Weeks: 1; Week on List: 3

THE TAILOR OF PANAMA by John le Carre. (Alfred A. Knopf: $25) Clothier to Central America's elite turns British agent for the power and the money (13)*. Southern California ranking: 2; Last Weeks: 7; Week on List: 9

THE FALLEN MAN by Tony Hillerman. (HarperCollins: $24) Two sleuths track a killer after finding a human skeleton at the top of a Navajo shrine (4)*. Southern California ranking: 3; Last Weeks: 2; Week on List: 3

ALIAS GRACE by Margaret Atwood. (Nan A. Talese/Doubleday: $24.95) A 19th century psychologist helps a murderess with memory loss to recall her crime (14). Southern California ranking: 4; Last Weeks: 4; Week on List: 5

THE LAWS OF OUR FATHERS by Scott Turow. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux: $26.95) (8)*. Southern California ranking: 5; Last Weeks: 3; Week on List: 9

THE CHRISTMAS BOX by Richard Paul Evans. (Simon & Schuster: $12.95) A wise elderly lady teaches a young family about the true meaning of Christmas (2). Southern California ranking: 6; Last Weeks: 5; Week on List: 11

THE THIRD TWIN by Ken Follett. (Crown: $25.95) A researcher stumbles onto a right-wing plot to reshape American society using genetics (12). Southern California ranking: 7; Last Weeks: --; Week on List: 6

SILENT HONOR by Danielle Steel. (Delacorte: $24.95) A successful Japanese family's world is overturned by World War II and confinement in a relocation center (5). Southern California ranking: 8; Last Weeks: --; Week on List: 5

"M" IS FOR MALICE by Sue Grafton. (Henry Holt: $25) Jealousy among the heirs to a fortune ends in murder, and it's up to Kinsey Millhone to nab the culprit (9)*. Southern California ranking: 9; Last Weeks: --; Week on List: 6

EXECUTIVE ORDERS by Tom Clancy (Putnam: $27.95) Jack Ryan's president and facing problems in the Middle East (3)*. Southern California ranking: 10; Last Weeks: --; Week on List: 10

Nonfiction

A REPORTER'S LIFE by Walter Cronkite. (Alfred A. Knopf: $26.95) (1)*. Southern California ranking: 1; Last Weeks: 2; Week on List: 2

ANGELA'S ASHES by Frank McCourt. (Scribner: $24) A memoir of childhood in a gloomy Irish city (3). Southern California ranking: 2; Last Weeks: 3; Week on List: 9

THE DILBERT PRINCIPLE: A Cubicle's Eye View of Bosses, Meetings, Management Fads & Other Workplace Afflictions by Scott Adams. (HarperBusiness: $20) (7). Southern California ranking: 3; Last Weeks: --; Week on List: 21

MY SERGEI: A Love Story by Ekaterina Gordeeva with E.M. Swift. (Warner: $18.95) The romance and tragedy of Olympic ice skating's Romeo and Juliet (2). Southern California ranking: 4; Last Weeks: 8; Week on List: 6

MY DARK PLACES: An L.A. Crime Memoir by James Ellroy. (Alfred A. Knopf: $25) The writer's exhaustive search for answers to his mother's murder in 1958. Southern California ranking: 5; Last Weeks: 5; Week on List: 6

THE NBA AT 50 Edited by Mark Vancil, with foreword by David Halberstam. (Park Lane Press: $50) A celebration of basketball's players and coaches, past and present. Southern California ranking: 6; Last Weeks: 10; Week on List: 3

THE BROWN DERBY RESTAURANT: A Hollywood Legend by Sally Wright Cobb and Mark Willems. (Rizzoli: $30) Gossip and photos galore about the stars' favorite eatery, plus recipes. Southern California ranking: 7; Last Weeks: --; Week on List: 1

SIMPLE ABUNDANCE: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy by Sarah Ban Breathnach. (Warner: $17.95) (6)*. Southern California ranking: 8; Last Weeks: 7; Week on List: 20

DOWN IN THE GARDEN by Anne Geddes. (Cedco Publishing: $39.95) Adorable infants posed as flowers, peas in a pod and other floral delights (11). Southern California ranking: 9; Last Weeks: 9; Week on List: 3

THE ZONE by Barry Sears with Bill Lawren. (HarperCollins/ReganBooks: $22)*. Southern California ranking: 10; Last Weeks: 6; Week on List: 41

Paperbacks: FICTION

1. THE ENGLISH PATIENT by Michael Ondaatje. (Vintage: $11)

2. SNOW FALLING ON CEDARS by David Guterson. (Vintage: $12)*

3. THE HUNDRED SECRET SENSES by Amy Tan. (Ballantine: $6.99)

4. BEST AMERICAN SHORT STORIES OF 1996 edited by John Edgar Wideman. (Houghton Mifflin: $12.95)

5. THE BOOK OF RUTH by Jane Hamilton. (Anchor: $11.95)

Paperbacks: NONFICTION

1. ZAGAT SURVEY 1997 LOS ANGELES/SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA RESTAURANT GUIDE edited by Merrill Shindler and Karen Berk. (Zagat Survey: $10.95)

2. THE RULES: Time-Tested Secrets for Capturing the Heart of Mr. Right by Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider. (Warner: $14.95)

3. SIX DEGREES OF KEVIN BACON by Craig Fass, Brian Turtle and Mike Ginelli; with an introduction by Kevin Bacon. (Plume: $7.95)

4. CONVERSATIONS WITH GOD by Neale D. Walsch. (Hampton Roads: $11.95)

5. LONGITUDE by Dava Sobel. (Penguin: $10.95)

Rankings based on Times' poll of local bookstores. National hardcover rankings (in parentheses) are those of Publishers Weekly. Asterisk (*) indicates book also available on audio (source: Sound Audio Books Distributing, Agoura Hills).

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