The Ayatollah Begs
The Paradox of Modern Iran
By Hooman Majd
In the "best book yet written on the contradictions of contemporary Iran," according to our reviewer, Majd dissects a paradox of a country both ancient and modern, Persian and Islamic, morally lax in private and supremely puritanical in public.
The Bin Ladens
An Arabian Family
in the American Century
By Steve Coll
While the name "Bin Laden" stirs up but one image in people's minds, Coll's stirring history centers on the wealth, prestige and power that Osama's family wields and its deep interaction and shared strict interpretation of Islam with Saudi Arabia's Al-Saud family.
By Honor Moore
Moore tries to reconcile the public image of her father, a devoted family man and once Episcopal bishop of the Diocese of New York, with her discovery that he led a secret existence as a gay man. In the end, she realized "that to me his living of his passion was heroic."
Claim of Privilege
A Mysterious Plane Crash,
a Landmark Supreme Court Case, and the Rise of State Secrets
By Barry Siegel
The Pulitzer Prize-winning former Times reporter shows the vast implications of a 1953 Supreme Court case that ushered in the legal state secret. The decision enshrined the ability of the executive branch to refuse to turn over evidence to those suing the government simply by asserting that national security would be threatened.
A Journey Through Grief
By Ann Hood
Hood rejects the concept of "closure" after the sudden death of her 5-year-old daughter from a virulent form of strep. She does not miss her daughter any less as time goes by, though the heart must stretch to accommodate new love.
The Eaves of Heaven
A Life in Three Wars
By Andrew X. Pham
Pham's story of his father's fleeing occupation and war after a childhood of privilege in Vietnam is one of devastation and radiance, highlighting the history of a benighted land.
The Forever War
By Dexter Filkins
Alfred A. Knopf
In the witness tradition of combat journalism, Filkins' meticulously constructed vignettes don't claim to form a narrative but illuminate and humanize the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan.
An American Family
By Annette Gordon-Reed
Starting with Thomas Jefferson and his slave and mistress Sally Hemings, Gordon-Reed explores master-slave relations in Virginia and the dichotomy of slavery's presence in a society claiming to be based on freedom.
How Fiction Works
By James Wood
Farrar, Straus & Giroux
Wood is our Edmund Wilson, unafraid to approach criticism with the seriousness and intention of art. Here, he looks at fiction's mechanics and aesthetics, arguing in favor of literary realism.
The Biography of a Writer
By Fred Kaplan
Abraham Lincoln was, Kaplan tells us, "the Twain of politics." In this charming and unexpected biography, he frames a part of the 16th president's greatness in his having a "personality and a career forged in the crucible of language."
and the Shaping of American Children's Literature
By Leonard S. Marcus
In this enlightening, vivid history, Marcus unravels many of the myths about children's literature. Children's books, he writes, are "messages forged at the crossroads of commerce and culture."
The Saga of the Wild Horse in the American West
By Deanne Stillman
Inspired by the 1998 killing of 34 mustangs near Reno, Stillman's tale of wild horses becomes a saga of the American West that blurs boundaries between essay and reporting, history and literature.
The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America
By Rick Perlstein
Richard Nixon, Perlstein tells us, worked on the resentments of the so-called Silent Majority to achieve his power, thus helping facilitate a culture war that we're still fighting in which what separates us, rather than what unites us, defines who we are.
The Burning and Banning
of John Steinbeck's "The Grapes of Wrath"
By Rick Wartzman
In 1939, the board of supervisors of Kern County banned John Steinbeck's "The Grapes of Wrath." A former Times editor and columnist uses that story as a lens on California labor history.
A Personal History
By Gustavo Arellano
Arellano, a contributing editor to The Times' Op-Ed pages, grew up in Orange County and describes it as home to "Rep. Robert Dornan and Mickey Mouse, Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker and extraterrestrial basketballer Dennis Rodman, not to mention the largest community of Vietnamese outside of Vietnam."
Five Movies and the Birth
of the New Hollywood
By Mark Harris
Harris uses the five Academy Award nominees for best picture of 1967 as a window on a revolutionary moment in Hollywood, when the focus of the studios shifted, and film became more gritty and political.
A Personal Biography
By Stanley Plumly