What do we make of the millennium? As the year 2000 approaches, historians are looking back, prognosticators are looking forward, and everybody is looking for a party. Can't decide how to ring in the new age? You can never go wrong by cozying up with a good book . . .

Century is a book worth waiting 1000 years for, though it only covers the last 100. This enormous tome presents about ten powerful photos per year that reveal some of the most historically significant events since 1899. By letting each image stand alone on a page, accompanied by only short, simple, straightforward cut-lines, editor Bruce Bernard truly lets the pictures speak for themselves. Footnotes at the end of each 15-year section provide further historical context for scenes that are so graphic they feel voyeuristic a lynching in Nebraska (1919), a death by firing line in Poland (1940), a baby killed in the U.S bombing of Libya (1986). Be warned. Though there are some bright images Laurel and Hardy at play, for instance many of the photos present humankind at its most violent. In his preface, Bernard explains that pictures of man's inhumanity are often strongest and push others aside. After reading this book, you want to say, Oh, that's how it was. But when you arrive at the most modern image two teenagers embracing after the Columbine High School shooting you are forced to realize, this is how it is. Century is very disturbing. And that's fine with Bernard. He writes, I hope that this book . . . will encourage younger people to despise as well as hate and fear war and violence.

Life magazine, known for its fabulous pictures, has bound together a fantastic selection of lavish images that celebrate the diversity of the American experience at home and abroad. If it was beautiful, horrible, entertaining, or inspiring, you'll find it in Life: Our Century in Pictures (Bullfinch Press, $65, 0821226339). This sleek book presents some of the most famous photos in the world the assassination of JFK, Princess Diana's wedding, The Federal building in Oklahoma after it was bombed. These icons of our age lose not an ounce of impact by being familiar. All the events covered are put into context with wonderful essays written by experts in each field.

Concise yet comprehensive, National Geographic: Eyewitness to the 20th Century  stays true to the magazine's long tradition of educating and enlightening. Trends and trivia remind readers of the things we've loved and hated, lost and gained. First-person narratives join stunning photographs to illustrate intimately the people, places, philosophy, politics, and culture that defined the past ten decades.

Pictures may paint a thousand words, but the words reprinted in Letters of the Century: America 1900-1999, paint vivid pictures. Through the correspondence of folks both famous and unknown, we are privy to the personal thoughts of people who shaped or merely survived this century's pivotal moments. Magnificent in its breadth, this collection put together by Lisa Grunwald and Stephen J. Adler shares a gamut of voices, from the sharp wit of Mark Twain to the demented passion of John Hinckley, Jr. There are surprises at every turn, like the guilty letter from the forever-partying singer Janis Joplin to her worried parents. One of the most breathtaking is the letter from a soldier to his mother saying that, in spite of the loss of his two brothers in Korea, he must fight on.

For a quick reference source detailing who did what and when over the past ten centuries, 1000 Makers of the Millennium  can't be beat. Vivid illustrations are kid-friendly and adult-enticing. Feature boxes give brief synopses of the key events that shaped or were influenced by these movers, shakers, and rainmakers.

Speaking of rain, people have been consulting their Old Farmer's Almanac  since 1792 to see if the skies would be cloudy or bright. For 2000, a special Millennium Collector's edition contains all the periodical's beloved regular features gardening advice, weather charts, and tide tables plus a fun salute to the future that highlights what's just over the horizon. Good news for the Almanac: According to its own Tastes and Trends section, nostalgia is in!

Book lovers nostalgic for the Guinness Book of World Records that they loved as a kid have reason to cheer. Norris McWhirter's Book of Millennium Records, put together by the Guinness Book's founder/editor, contains all the facts and tidbits that trivia buffs adore. Laid out by topics that are relevant to world history, this delightful guide won't enlighten you on who ate the most hot dogs or rolled the biggest ball of twine, but it will enlighten you about the first methods used to brush teeth, the first recorded time for the 100 meter sprint, and the first magnetic compass ever to direct seafarers north. This big, slick book presents the milestones in science, war, art, sports, and every conceivable human endeavor that has shaped our world.

The folks behind the facts are presented in all their glory in People of the Century: One Hundred Men and Women Who Shaped the Last One Hundred Years. News-makers in every field, chosen by the people behind Time magazine and CBS News, are profiled by men and women who are stars in their own right: Salman Rushdie, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Elie Wiesel, for example. By limiting the selection to 100, the book inevitably leaves out some important characters. But there is no doubt that those chosen are, as Dan Rather writes in his introduction, the faces, voices, gestures, and personalities that came to define our age. The variety is tremendous (from Albert Einstein to Bart Simpson!), and the mix of fascinating subjects and superb writing makes for an extraordinarily good read.

The ultimate A-list weighed in with their thoughts for Predictions for the Next Millennium, compiled by David Kristoff and Todd W. Nickerson. Scientists, writers, comedians, artists, performers and athletes are all well-represented with diverse ideas of the future. Brigadier General Chuck Yeager believes, " Men and Women will set foot on many of our planets." Comedienne Joan Rivers is only sure that, "interest rates will be higher and my breasts will be lower."

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