Biography/Autobiography Iris: The Life of Iris Murdoch, by Peter J. Conradi (Norton, $19.95). A comprehensive take on the life and work of the English philosopher-novelist whose final days, in the crushing grip of Alzheimer's, were so publicly chronicled by her husband, John Bayley, in Elegy for Iris. Conradi, a scholar-critic who was a friend and admirer of Murdoch's as well as a student of her writings, comments that "she played two opposite and heroic parts: a Colette de nos jours, hard-headed, hard-working, ardent and sometimes humiliated, presiding over her own emotional life and so a role-model for other women; the second other-centred to the degree that she lost much sense, in the service of her conjecture about the 'Good,' of who she was."

My Country Versus Me: The First-Hand Account by the Los Alamos Scientist Who Was Falsely Accused of Being a Spy, by Wen Ho Lee with Helen Zia (Hyperion, $14.95). What it felt like "to be branded a spy and an enemy agent -- a disloyal, lying traitor, one of the most base and awful labels imaginable. I can tell you this, because I know."

Atatu{dier}rk: The Biography of the Modern Founder of Turkey, by Andrew Mango (Overlook, $19.95). "Thanks to Andrew Mango's new biography, the best in the English language, a man both demonized and idolized now appears before us in three dimensions," Michael Doran wrote in a review for Book World in 2000. "Mango is fluent in Turkish, understands the politics of the country, and conveys his knowledge of this complex land clearly. The book is dense but rewarding. Based on Turkish sources, Atatu{dier}rk places before the English-speaking reader a wealth of new information. Mango . . . provides us with a de-mythologized, yet sympathetic, account of the Turkish leader's life; and he narrates the political history of the late Ottoman and early Republican periods in a manner that highlights the connections between them."

N.C. Wyeth: A Biography, by David Michaelis (HarperPerennial, $24.95). "In N.C. Wyeth's pictures, fantastic things happen, extraordinary figures appear, but the atmosphere, the setting, feels normal," writes David Michaelis in this tale of the artist-illustrator and his storied clan. "His folk heroes enter our own backyards. The skies in The Black Arrow, The Boy's King Arthur, and Robin Hood are not English. They are the mid-Atlantic skies over Chadds Ford. The trees of Sherwood Forest are not the ancient oaks of England but the silver beeches of the Brandywine. The sandy lee of Robinson Crusoe's island is the New Jersey shore. The colors of Camelot are those of Pennsylvania crops."

Not Guilty: Twelve Black Men Speak Out on Law, Justice, and Life, edited by Jabari Asim (Amistad, $13.95). In the wake of the killing of Amadou Diallo and the acquittal of the four New York City policemen who shot him, Book World senior editor Jabari Asim invited a group of contributors to enter into what he calls a "cultural exchange, the considered offerings of twelve thoughtful men" -- including E. Lynn Harris, Brian Gilmore, RM Johnson, Fred McKissack Jr. and Mark Anthony Neal. Asim writes in his introduction, "Twelve Moods for Justice," that "these essays help expose two frustratingly durable fallacies: the monolithic black experience and the singular black perspective." As contributor David Dante Troutt says at the end of his essay, "No life is cheap. Tell your stories."

A River Running West: The Life of John Wesley Powell, by Donald Worster (Oxford Univ., $18.95). On May 24, 1869, the Colorado River Exploring Expedition launched its boats under the leadership of 35-year-old John Wesley Powell, a Civil War veteran who'd lost his right arm at Shiloh. In this thorough biography of "one of the most admired explorers of the [19th] century," historian Donald Worster writes that Powell's expedition "brought back vital knowledge of the hidden Southwest -- its rivers, mountains, natural resources, and, not least, the Grand Canyon." After helping to open the West, Powell became its advocate, "an influential voice on its land and water issues as well as its treatment of indigenous peoples, a voice often contesting that of the railroad promoter" -- and a wilderness proponent who could argue in favor of damming wild rivers. "Like a great river in floodtide, America in the nineteenth century flowed across the continent with more power and force, much of it destructive, than any river of nature. Powell was part of that flow."

-- Jennifer Howard