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'The Star Machine'

By Jeanine Basinger

Knopf, $35

Personally, I can't get enough of the Golden Age of filmmaking; the studio system has always held a fascination for me. How did such a structured world of business turn out so many great movies? And how did they develop such enduring stars?

Both questions are addressed with depth and joy by Basinger in her latest examination of moviedom. But she's not interested in the megastars here; they've been written about enough, she says. She goes down the list a bit to the A-minus and B stars. Never mind Cary Grant or Bette Davis; look for Jean Arthur and Tyrone Power and Betty Hutton and Abbott & Costello (she says she never really "got" them).

Fascinating, informative, dishy, nearly 600 pages with more than 200 photos — and clearly written by someone who loves movies.

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'James Bond Encyclopedia'

By John Cork and Collin Stutz

DK, $40

There are other 007 encyclopedias out there, but this is the latest, taking us up through Daniel Craig's first stab at the beloved fictional superspy in "Casino Royale."

Unlike Steven Jay Rubin's 1990 Bond encyclopedia, this one isn't strictly alphabetical but rather it is alphabetical within categories: "Bond Women," "Weapons & Equipment," etc. Then it wraps up with a chronological film-by-film look at credits, synopses, etc.

Filled with minutiae and breezily written, this is great fun for the Bondphile. There probably isn't much new, but it's well-organized and will make you want to pull the movies off the shelf again.

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'24: The Ultimate Guide'

By Michael Goldman

DK, $24.99

This is strictly for die-hard fans of the TV show, as it's a rundown of various elements in the "24" world. Don't expect anything about the actors or show-runners; this is about Jack Bauer, his family, his colleagues and his enemies. (I'd include friends, but does Jack really have any friends?)

The book is oversize, hardback, loaded with color photos and meticulous in its deconstruction of the popular program, with bios of all the primary characters as if they're real people.

And since the writer's strike is dragging on and will interrupt our annual January "24" fix, this may be as good as it gets.