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Noteworthy Nonfiction

November 25, 2003

WRAPPED IN RAINBOWS: Zora Neale Hurston, by Valerie Boyd, Scribner, $30

Boyd opens the door to Hurston's life through letters, fiction, and nonfiction. Her biography is a salute to a girl who chose to jump at the sun. (Feb. 6)

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THROUGH OUR ENEMIES' EYES, by Anonymous, Brassey's, $19.95

A sobering portrait of Osama bin Laden and a debate about how to identify and defeat the threat he poses. (May 29)

SUPPORT ANY FRIEND, by Warren Bass, Oxford, $30

Bass's book may leave readers with two thoughts: that enmities in the Middle East have cooled little 40 years hence; the second, that JFK, for the brevity of his time in office, really did make a tremendous difference in the world. (Aug. 21)

A SHORT HISTORY OF NEARLY EVERYTHING, by Bill Bryson, Broadway, $27.50

A roller-coaster ride from the big bang to the advent of man. (May 22)

CHARLIE WILSON'S WAR, by George Crile, Grove/Atlantic, $26

Who can resist a story about a law-breaking Texas congressman who wanted to bring the Soviet Union to its knees? A cross between Tom Clancy and Carl Hiaasen, but it's all true. (April 3)

PLUNDERING PARADISE, by Michael D'Orso, HarperCollins, $24.95

D'Orso's powerful storytelling draws us in to the unequal struggle between the fragile ecosystem of the Galápagos Islands and the humans bent on getting rich from it. (Jan. 30)

LANGUAGE IN DANGER, by Andrew Dalby, Columbia University, $27.95

Dalby laments that half of the 5,000 languages currently spoken will disappear in the 21st century. (April 17)

THE BIBLE IN ENGLISH, by David Daniell, Yale, $40

Daniell examines the persistent popularity of the Bible and how William Tyndale, a Protestant condemned as a heretic for translating the Bible into English, remains unparalleled in eloquence. (Sept. 25)

PRIME OBSESSION, by John Derbyshire, Joseph Henry, $27.95

The author, a trained mathematician with a day job as an investment banker, moonlights as a novelist. This remarkable constellation of interests results in a math book that reads like a mystery novel. (April 10)

CHOPIN'S FUNERAL, by Benita Eisler, Alfred A. Knopf, $23

Eisler's story offers a compelling account of the love affair between the Warsaw piano prodigy and George Sand, the most notorious woman of her time. (March 13)

BETTER THAN WELL, by Carl Elliott, Norton, $26.95

Elliott considers Americans' yearning for self- improvement and fulfillment in this quirky survey of modern medicine. (April 17)

ARMED STRUGGLE: The History of the IRA, by Richard English, Oxford, $35

This is, without doubt, a book that combines a readable and neutral history of the IRA with a muscular and unflinching analysis of its actions and its attempts at self-justification. (Sept. 18)

AFTER JIHAD, by Noah Feldman, FSG, $24

The consensus among many experts is that the Arab world and democracy are incompatible. Feldman argues this consensus is misinformed. (May 8)

A HUMAN BEING DIED THAT NIGHT, by Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela, Houghton Mifflin, $24

Forgiveness can heal wounded societies. Indeed, victims require forgiveness to become "rehumanized." Those are two of the powerful messages of Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela's moving meditations on her victim-centered work with South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission. (Feb. 27)

NIXON'S SHADOW, by David Greenberg, Norton, $26.95