Acclaimed novelist Nahid Rachlin was born in Iran during the shah’s rule. In her frank, vivid memoir, “Persian Girls” (Tarcher Penguin, 288 pp., $14.95), she recounts her life there and her close relationship with her sister Pari.

When still an infant, Rachlin was given to her aunt, Maryam, a devout Muslim and childless widow. For nine years, Rachlin lived a happy childhood, showered with love by Maryam. But her father abruptly took her back to live with the family she barely knew. Slowly, she and Pari formed a bond, longing to escape their repressive father and the lack of opportunity for women in their country.

Then their stories diverge: Pari went into two abusive marriages, a bitter divorce, estrangement from her son and sudden death under questionable circumstances. Rachlin left for college in the United States, where her culture and religion made her feel isolated during a long period of adjustment. She eventually married and joined the faculty of Yale.

The stark differences between their lives, as well as Rachlin’s conflicting feelings about the United States – land of freedom but also of parochialism – make this account both riveting and heartbreaking.

• “The Shakespeare Wars,” by Ron Rosenbaum (Random House, 550 pp.), $18

With humor and passion, Rosenbaum explores the controversies, old and new, of how Shakespeare should be printed and performed, and, in so doing, illuminates the sheer joy of language. The author of the acclaimed 1998 book “Explaining Hitler” remains in top form, said Steve Weinberg in The Plain Dealer of Cleveland, and “is certainly a worthy chronicler of Shakespearean debates.”

• “Crybaby Ranch,” by Tina Welling (NAL Accent, 307 pp.), $14

Wyoming author Welling’s winning debut novel follows the path of Suzannah, who abandons her crumbling marriage and moves west to live in a rundown cabin in the shadow of the Tetons. There she meets “Marlboro Man” Bo Garrett, who brings both excitement and doubts into her new life. Welling writes with wit and sympathy about life’s curveballs and choices.

• “What I Know for Sure,” by Tavis Smiley (Anchor, 255 pp.), $13.95

In this national best seller, the popular talk-show host and entrepreneur discusses his life and rise to success, beginning with his difficult childhood in an Indiana trailer park, one of 10 members of a religiously strict family. Publishers Weekly criticized the book for being self-aggrandizing but said that “young adult readers may be reassured by the angst in Smiley’s life before he hits the big time.”

• “Internal Combustion,” by Edwin Black (St. Martin’s Griffin, 318 pp.), $14.95

Subtitled “How Corporations and Governments Addicted the World to Oil and Derailed the Alternatives,” Black’s compelling look at the history of our dependence on fossil fuels raises many questions and poses provocative solutions. He counsels abandonment of corn ethanol as a substitute fuel and a switch to geothermal, solar and wind energy. The Miami Herald called it relentless and meticulous.

• “Travels in the Scriptorium,” by Paul Auster (Picador, 145 pp.), $12

The protagonist in this enigmatic novel is an old man, known only as Mr. Blank, who awakes one day in an unfamiliar room with no memory of who he is or what has happened in his life. As the day passes, he receives visitors who offer clues but no answers. In The Plain Dealer, Daniel Dyer called it “a spare, sometimes puzzling allegory of the mind of a novelist.”


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