At the start of the new year, while many Americans are watching football on television, others will settle into a favorite chair to read a good book. And 2003 was full of them.

Whether dishing the dirt, recalling tragic times or inciting people to line up for hours on end, books had the power to move and inspire.

Two books that didn't exactly get a stamp of approval from the families they depict were hot topics for the dirt they dished.

In "The Kennedy Curse: Why Tragedy Has Haunted America's First Family for 150 Years," (search) (St. Martin's Press) author Edward Klein brought the late John F. Kennedy Jr. and his wife Carolyn Bessette back into the spotlight when it was published in July, four years after they died in a plane crash.

According to the book, the marriage had crumbled before their deaths, Carolyn abused drugs and she was physically abusive towards her husband. The controversial look at the marriage of America's prince received criticism for its use of unnamed sources.

A tell-all memoir by Princess Diana's former butler Paul Burrell also got tongues wagging.

"A Royal Duty" (search) (Putnam) claims that Diana feared a plot to harm her in a car accident, and that her father-in-law, Prince Philip, disapproved of Prince Charles' affair with Camilla Parker Bowles but thought Diana's behavior might have helped drive him to it.

A letter from Diana's brother, Earl Spencer, showed he was worried about her mental state.

Burrell insisted the book was meant as "a loving tribute" rather than an act of revenge. Yet in a slew of interviews, Burrell also conceded that he remains angry at what he feels were royal snubs and wrote at least in part to give his side of the story.

Diana's sons, William, 21, and Harry, 19, called the book a "cold and overt betrayal." Diana died in 1997 when the car she was riding in crashed in a Paris tunnel.

One person who surely didn't betray her adoring fans this year was author J.K. Rowling (search). Dressed in sorcerer costumes and waiting in line for hours, thousands of fans emerged from bookstores in June thrilled to be clutching "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" (search ) (Scholastic).

More than 11 million copies have been sold in the U.S. as of December 2003, according to the Los Angeles Times.

"Even within the popular series, this book is record-setting," said Bill Carr, Amazon.com's director of books, music, videos and DVDs. "We think it will be the biggest new product release in the history of e-commerce."

Several excruciating experiences were retold through the eyes of those closest to them.

In "A Mighty Heart: The Brave Life and Death of My Husband Danny Pearl," (search) (Scribner) Mariane Pearl meticulously recounts the frustrating search for her husband who was abducted by terrorists while conducting an interview.

The memoir ranges from touching moments between the couple to her thoughts on carrying their child to the rage and frustration she felt trying to find her husband and bring his killers to justice.

During the summer of 2002, Elizabeth Smart was abducted from her bedroom, and her case was followed fervently by the public. Nine months later she was found alive.

Her parents, Ed and Lois Smart, wrote "Bringing Elizabeth Home: A Journey of Faith and Hope," (search) (Doubleday) released Oct. 28, which reveals the fear and horror they endured after their daughter was kidnapped and the joy they felt when she was returned to them.

Two famous women's life stories had bookstores buzzing in 2003 as emotional moments behind their regal facades were finally revealed in print.

Sen. and former first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton was paid $8 million to write "Living History" (search ) (Simon & Schuster ) which had Americans lining up to buy the book and meet the writer in person during her popular 2003 tour.

In the book, she revisits the public and private wreckage from her husband's affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. She concludes that what her husband did was morally wrong, but not a betrayal of the public. The memoir sold more than 2.25 million worldwide.

A. Scott Berg said that writing a memoir about 20 years of candid conversations with Katharine Hepburn was a breeze -- until the end. When Hepburn died, Berg wrote the final portion, and G.P. Putnam's Sons published 530,000 copies of "Kate Remembered" (search ) in a week. The book was released July 11, less than two weeks after her death.

The major portion of Berg's memoir -- which Hepburn insisted not be published until after her death -- was completed, edited, set in type and locked away two years ago. Much of the book is devoted to Hepburn's affair with Spencer Tracy, revealed not always as romantic as it seemed.

Jessica Lynch went from being a supply clerk to American war hero to earning a $1 million book advance in 2003. Lynch sustained broken bones and other injuries when her 507th Maintenance Company was ambushed in Nasiriyah, Iraq, on March 23. Her rescue from an Iraqi hospital on April 1 made her an instant celebrity.

"Clearly, people are responding to her story," said Paul Bogaards, executive director of publicity at Alfred A. Knopf which released "I Am a Soldier, Too" (search ) on Veteran's Day, with first-week sales around 50,000.

Former New York Times reporter Rick Bragg wrote the book with Lynch's help, and it debuted on the Times list when it came out Nov. 30.

Finally, as the presidential campaign kicked into high gear, the urge to write apparently struck many Democratic candidates.

Sen. Joseph Lieberman kicked off the year with the release of his book "Going to the People" (search) (Simon & Schuster), published in January. Wesley Clark's  "Winning Modern Wars: Iraq, Terrorism, and the American Empire" (search) (PublicAffairs) hit the shelves in October 2003, as did Sen. John Kerry's  "A Call to Service: My Vision for a Better America" (search ) (Viking Penguin).

In November, Rep. Dennis Kucinich's "A Prayer for America" (search) (Avalon Publishing Group) was released. And wrapping up the year were Howard Dean's"Winning Back America: The Grassroots Campaign to Restore Our American Community" (search) (Simon & Schuster) and Sen. John Edwards' "Four Trials" (search) (Simon & Schuster), both published in December. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.