May 11, 1998 12:00 PM

>CLOSED CHAMBERS Edward Lazarus A supremely chilling account of how partisanship affected key Supreme Court votes on the death penalty, affirmative action and abortion, by a former law clerk for Justice Harry A. Blackmun. (Times Books, $27.50)

A LETTER FOR DARIA Ekaterina Gordeeva Russian skater Gordeeva offers tender advice and recollections to her 4-year-old daughter, whose father, Gordeeva’s partner Sergei Grinkov, died in 1995. (Little, Brown, $12.95)

IN THE COUNTRY OF ILLNESS Robert Lipsyte Having survived testicular cancer and his ex-wife’s death from breast cancer, a New York Times columnist shares his experience in this witty, poignant travel guide to a place no one wants to visit. (Knopf, $24)

SHAPING A NATION Carter Wiseman A thoughtful look at top U.S. architects and their works, with a glance at such boo-boos as the wrecking of New York City’s Penn Station and the building of Home Depots and Wal-Marts. (Norton, $39.95)

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