Noteworthy Nonfiction

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)

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

Greenberg's first book provides a penetrating analysis of how the president's legacy has altered American politics. (Oct. 9)

THE DREAM, by Drew Hansen, Ecco, $23.95

Hansen brilliantly reconstructs that hot summer day in 1963 when 250,000 activists assembled in front of the Lincoln Memorial to hear Martin Luther King Jr. deliver a speech that has been used since to mean many things to many people. (July 10)

RIPPLES OF BATTLE, by Victor Hanson, Doubleday, $27.50

Hanson picks three battles that helped shape our world: the Battle of Okinawa, Shiloh, and the little-known Battle of Delium in Greece and reminds us that history is not a faceless story of economic and social progress, but one about the strength of individuals. (Sept. 11)

WINTER WORLD, by Bernd Heinrich, HarperCollins, $24.95

Come winter, cold in the wild is a constant. Heinrich takes readers into this world with lyrical yet scientifically precise firsthand accounts of animals' survival skills. (March 13)

BENJAMIN FRANKLIN, by Walter Isaacson, Simon & Schuster, $30

Most Americans think of Benjamin Franklin as a Founding Father who was also a printer and an inventor. This thoughtful biography shows that Franklin was a far more complex and interesting man who was central to the success of the American Revolution. (July 3)

MOUNTAINS BEYOND MOUNTAINS, by Tracy Kidder, Random House, $25.95

Shuttling between Haiti and the Boston hospital where he works part of the year, Dr. Paul Farmer dreams of ending the disparities that define the two worlds of poverty and privilege. (Sept. 4)


The story of Michelangelo's struggle to paint the Sistine Chapel ceiling is legendary. King points out that not everything you may have heard about this great achievement is true. The results are lively. (Jan. 16)

LOST WORLD, by Tom Koppel, Atria, $26

Did the Clovis walk over the land bridge, or did they evolve from an earlier Amerindian culture? Koppel lays into the "stubborn, hidebound" academic proponents of the land-bridge hypothesis with vigor. (June 26)

FASTER THAN THE SPEED OF LIGHT, by João Magueijo, Perseus, $26

Magueijo claims that the origin of the universe can be solved if we consider that light may have traveled much faster at the big bang than it does now. This strikingly candid book brings esoteric scientific concepts within reach of nonscientists. (Jan. 30)

THEY MARCHED INTO SUNLIGHT, by David Maraniss, Simon & Schuster, $29.95

Pulitzer Prize-winner David Maraniss has skillfully drawn together two events and their import - the ambush of a US Army battalion in South Vietnam and an antiwar demonstration at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. (Sept. 25)

JONATHAN EDWARDS, by George Marsden, Yale University, $35

In this conscientious and eloquent biography, pious Jonathan Edwards comes to unruly life with all his unresolved complexity intact. (March 6)

THE SINGULAR PILGRIM, by Rosemary Mahoney, Houghton Mifflin, $25

In her travels to Greece, Egypt, China, and Ireland, Mahoney caught incidental glimpses into religious pilgrimages. For all the spiritual probing of this book, it is also full of humor. (May 15)

A FIERCE DISCONTENT, by Michael McGerr, Free Press, $30

McGerr humanizes the progressive movement by telling its story through Theodore Roosevelt, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Baseball Hall of Famer Christy Mathewson. McGerr's book may prove to be the definitive text on the triumphs and downfall of the progressive movement. (Sept. 25)

THE BLACK HOLE AT THE CENTER OF OUR GALAXY, by Fulvio Melia, Princeton, $29.95

Melia casts light on these galactic drains by zeroing in on one point in space-time. (June 19)

ENOUGH, by Bill McKibben, Times Books, $25

McKibben believes new technologies could spell the end of humanity and prods us to ask crucial questions about our future. (May 1)

HALLOWED GROUND: A Walk At Gettysburg, by James McPherson, Crown, $16

A moving commentary about controversies and oddities connected with the Battle of Gettysburg. (June 5)

NEW WORLD COMING, by Nathan Miller, Scribner, $30

The 1920s, Nathan Miller argues, was the beginning of modern America. His book covers it all, starting with the failed idealism of Woodrow Wilson to Henry Ford's mass-production techniques. (Aug. 21)

SEA OF GLORY, by Nathaniel Philbrick, Viking, $27.95

Philbrick's narrative has elements of Ernest Shackleton, Ferdinand Magellan, and Sir Edmund Hillary rolled together. But it's fundamentally the tale of a tempest between a leader and his men. (Oct. 28)

MONSTER OF GOD, by David Quammen, W.W. Norton, $26.95

This elegantly crafted study of history, biology, sociology, anthropology, and adventure raises provocative questions about man-eating predators. (Sept. 18)

NO FIXED POINTS: Dance in the 20th Century, by Nancy Reynolds and Malcolm McCormick, Yale, $50

Reynolds and McCormick trace the development of ballet and modern dance through stories about seminal dancers and choreographers. (Nov. 4)

JARHEAD: A Marine's Chronicle, by Anthony Swofford, Scribner, $24

Swofford offers a boot's-eye view of the Gulf War, and takes a cynical look back at his time as a 20-year-old "jarhead," the self-deprecating way Marines describe themselves. (March 20)

THE NEW CHINESE EMPIRE, by Ross Terrill, Basic, $30

Terrill is one of the best writers to predict what will happen to China as it continues to modernize. (April 17)

FALLINGWATER RISING, by Franklin Toker, Knopf, $35

Architecture historian Toker describes the details of the planning and construction of Fallingwater. Toker debunks the myth that Wright designed Fallingwater quickly or without influence. (Oct. 16)

PAKISTAN, by Mary Anne Weaver, FSG, $24

Looking through Weaver's window, the war in Afghanistan is not over. Its guerrillas are just regrouping. Afghanistan may be prelude to a more volatile mix next door in Pakistan. (Jan. 23)

THE MEANING OF EVERYTHING, by Simon Winchester, Oxford, $25

Winchester describes the amazing process by which the editors of the Oxford English Dictionary's solicited help from ordinary readers all over the world. Winchester tells the story with great verve in an easygoing, anecdotal style that is delectably readable. (Sept. 18)

THE FUTURE OF FREEDOM, by Fareed Zakaria, W.W. Norton, $24.95

"Democracy has its dark sides," argues Zakaria. He makes his case compelling by examining political debacles from the fate of the French Revolution to the state of special-interest legislation in America today. (March 27)

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