Tears of the Desert
by Halima Bashir and Damien Lewis (One World, $25)
This courageous book offers “terrible insight” into the conflict in Darfur, said The Economist. Much of it recounts a “relatively happy” rural childhood in which only the racism Halima Bashir endured on the playground foreshadowed horrors to come. When Bashir became a doctor, she treated dozens of battered schoolgirls who’d been raped by Janjaweed soldiers and then paid dearly for reporting the crimes. Her account of her own kidnapping and gang rape is “harrowing.”

Nothing to Be Frightened Of
by Julian Barnes (Knopf, $25)
There is nothing “falsely consoling” about Julian Barnes’ new meditation on mortality, said Michael Dirda in The Washington Post. The “witty and melancholy” British novelist shares e-mail exchanges with his philosopher brother; “turns for guidance” to Montaigne, Stendhal, and Jules Renard; and uses an unsparing portrait of his parents’ final years to weigh how dead the dead are. An agnostic who “misses God,” Barnes offers no answers. He “simply converses with us about our most universal fear.”

The First Billion Is the Hardest
by T. Boone Pickens (Crown, $27)
Blunt-spoken energy magnate T. Boone Pickens is “often entertaining” when recounting his late-career comeback from a late-1990s fall, said Robert Bradley Jr. in The Wall Street Journal. But this best-seller is in part a pitch for government support of a massive wind-power project that would free up natural gas to run America’s cars and make Pickens richer still. The plan is “sketchy at best, dangerous at worst,” and heretical for a man who spent a long career preaching the gospel of the free market.

by Anne Roiphe (HarperCollins, $25)
Writer Anne Roiphe showed admirable resilience when she took up Internet dating in her late 60s shortly after her husband died of
a heart attack, said Maggie Scarf in The New York Times. But her “raw, painful, and yet occasionally comic” memoir turns out to be less the story of a widow remaking her life than “the moving, immeasurably sad story of the aftermath of an irreplaceable relationship.”