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Vanity Fair's Proust Questionnaire: 101 Lunimaries Ponder Life, Death, Happiness, and the Meaning of Life | Edited by Graydon Carter | Illustrated by Risko | Rodale | 224 pages | $23.99

A tradition since 1993, Vanity Fair's monthly questionnaire (and complementary Robert Risko caricatures) is perhaps the celeb-obsessed political muckraking mag's greatest tool for probing icons from Karl Lagerfeld to Karl Rove. Inspired by its namesake French novelist and a 19th-century Parisian pastime, the Proust exercise pushes humanity's most revealing buttons. Such inquiries as "What is your greatest fear?" expose more about subjects than could a fleet of gossip hounds and paparazzi.

As Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter notes in his introduction, there is little consistency among responses. Several participants agree that Nelson Mandela is superlatively admirable, but otherwise the only commonality is that most stars are incapable of masking their megalomania. The collection packs select surprises (Jimmy Buffet most admires Walter Cronkite, Bill Blass identifies with Thomas Jefferson) as well as some more obvious revelations (Hugh Hefner considers himself "Happier than anyone deserves"). An ideal gift for everyone from society brats to celeb-crazed friends who crave more than what TMZ offers.

— Chris Faraone

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