Lust for learning - and love. Brilliant Alma Whittaker, 19th-century Philadelphia heiress and scientist, finds that her study of botany isn't enough to fulfill her deepest longings in The Signature of All Things (Viking), memoirist Elizabeth Gilbert's return to fiction. Enter artist Ambrose Pike to awaken passion. To buy: $28.95 at local bookstores or online.

- Michael D. Schaffer