University press bestsellers may be rare, but books like On Bullshitand Edmund Morgan's Benjamin Franklin are reminders that a scholar's work—if it's the right idea at the right time—can capture the public imagination. And it's not just the brand-name presses, like Princeton or Yale, that can achieve substantial sales; even a small, fairly new press like Trinity can hope to make a splash with a book like Barry Lopez's unique dictionary, Home Ground. Here are six fall UP books with national appeal that could help set the political agenda in an election year or turn up on history buffs' holiday gift lists.

The Great Risk Shift:Why American Jobs, Families, Health Care and Retirement Aren't Secure—And How We Can Fight Back
by Jacob S. Hacker
Oxford Univ., Sept; $28; 100,000 printing

Medicare, welfare, health insurance, Social Security: with these keystones of social policy mired in controversy in an election year, Jacob Jacker's look at how economic risk is being shifted increasingly onto workers and families, and the social safety net pulled out from under them, could hit a nerve or two. Oxford says a 150-copy bound manuscript mailing to booksellers and "big mouths," along with Hacker's appearance on a BEA panel, have helped create buzz. At press time, several national magazines were considering excerpting the book, and Hacker, a political scientist at Yale, is a regular commentator on NPR, PBS and CNN; he'll be doing a six-city author tour and 20-city satellite radio tour. Harvard Book Store's Carole Horne says, "I think this could be a surprisingly strong title, and is one of my bigger buys for the fall. It's a strong political topic in a season that should be quite political."

Home Ground: Language for an American Landscape
Edited with an introductory essay byBarry Lopez

Trinity Univ. (PGW, dist.), Oct. 4; $29.95; 17,000 printing

What's a kissiron? A cowbelly? A looking-glass prairie? Barry Lopez, author of the National Book Award—winning Arctic Dreamsand other books, didn't know the meanings of these land-related words. So he asked 45 noted writers, including Charles Frazier, Jon Krakauer, Barbara Kingsolver and Bill McKibben, to provide mini-essay definitions. It's a unique and appealing idea. Dorothy Massey, of Collected Works in Santa Fe, N.Mex., which is having Barry Lopez give a reading at the Museum of Fine Arts, says this will be perfect for "anybody who likes words, anybody who enjoys landscapes, anybody who really likes beautifully presented books." Goldberg McDuffie is handling the publicity, which will include a 20-city author tour.

Historical Atlas of the United States
by Derek Hayes
Univ. of California, Oct.; $39.95; 15,000 printing

This is a booksellers' pick, favored by independent bookstore buyers from East Coast to West. And as a beautiful book with 535 color illustrations, it has strong media interest for holiday roundups. The publisher describes it as "the first [book] to tell the story of America's past from a unique geographical perspective." University of California Press, which is co-publishing this with Douglas & McIntyre, has a fine track record with atlases. Deb Morris, a buyer at Politics & Prose in Washington, D.C., says this has big sales potential. Lauren Dolce of Baker & Taylor calls the book "awesome," and the Tattered Cover's Cathy Langer says, "It's beautiful, just a fun book for readers from ages 10 to 90."

How to Spend $50 Billion toMake the World a Better Place
by Bjorn Lomborg
Cambridge Univ., June 30; $12.99 paper; 40,000 printing

Lomborg is a contrarian with a sales track record: his 2001 The Skeptical Environmentalist sold 135,000 copies worldwide (with most sales in the U.S.) for Cambridge, and this new one, which offers Lomborg's ordering of global priorities, has been launched with events at the U.N. bookshop in New York City and at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. The latter was a conference at which several U.N. ambassadors, including John Bolton, listed their own world priorities. A press conference announcing the results was televised on C-SPAN, and Lomborg will be featured in the Wall Street Journaland on Fareed Zakaria's PBS show, Foreign Exchange.

Caesar: Life of a Colossus
by Adrian Goldsworthy
Yale Univ., Sept.; $35; 20,000 printing

Yale brings a wealth of experience in publishing trade biography—they've had commercial and critical success with Edmund Morgan's Benjamin Franklinand George Marsden's Jonathan Edwards—and booksellers agree the press has another promising bio here. Author John Keegan calls Goldsworthy "one of our most prominent young military historians," and this major new biography is receiving rave reviews in the U.K.: the Independentcalled it "definitive and entertaining," the Literary Reviewcalled it "a superb achievement" and it appeared on Macleans' bestseller list in Canada. The Tattered Cover's Langer says this could be "huge.... We have a very big history audience, and this will be a really big holiday title."

Mao's Last Revolution
by Roderick MacFarquhar andMichael Schoenhals
Harvard/Belknap, Aug.; $35; 15,000 printing

Is there room for another big book on Mao after last fall's bio by Jung Chang and Jon Halliday? Politics & Prose's Deb Morris thinks so, and has an author event planned, and Langer at Tattered Cover agrees: "There's an ever-growing interest in China and to understand its past is to help you understand its present." PW gave the book a star, and reviews are planned in the Nation, the New Republic and the New York Times Book Review. MacFarquhar's reputation will give the book standing: according to Harvard, he's considered the West's leading authority on China's Cultural Revolution.