The following is a list of some recently released books that have crossed our desks.

"LION OF JORDAN: THE LIFE OF KING HUSSEIN IN WAR AND PEACE," by Avi Shlaim, Alfred A. Knopf, with 16 pages of photographs and six maps, $35

This is the first major account of King Hussein's life, written with access to his official documents and with the cooperation (but not approval) of his family and staff, as well as extensive interviews with international policymakers.

"Lion of Jordan" illuminates the triumphs and disappointments, the qualities and character of King Hussein, and significantly rewrites the history of the Middle East over the past 50 years.

"BLINDNESS," by Jose Saramago, Harvest Paperback, 352 pages, $15

Re-released in paperback as a tie-in to the movie, "Blindness," which opened the Toronto Film Festival and released theatrically Friday in some markets, the story is about a city hit by an epidemic of "white blindness."

Authorities confine the blind to an empty mental hospital — where criminals hold everyone captive, stealing food and assaulting women. There is one eyewitness to this nightmare who guides seven strangers through the city's barren streets.

"THE THEORY OF CLOUDS," by Stephane Audeguy, Harvest Paperback, 272 pages, $14

Akira Kumo, a survivor of the Hiroshima bombing and now living in Paris, has amassed the world's largest collection of literature on clouds and meteorology. He hires Virginie Latour to catalog his collection, listen to his stories and go on a quest to London to find the only copy of a fabled book on clouds that has never been seen.

"THE SPANISH BOW," by Andromeda Romano-Lax, Harvest Paperback, 560 pages, $15

The accidental bequest of a cello bow from his dead father sets Feliu Delargo on the course of being a musician. He flees from his village of Catalonia to Barcelona, where his education in music, life and politics begins.

The book is set against half a century of Spanish history, from the tail end of the 19th century through the Spanish Civil War and World War II.

"LANDING," by Emma Donoghue, Harvest Paperback, 336 pages, $14

Sile is a citizen of the new Dublin, a veteran flight attendant who's traveled the world. Jude is a 25-year-old archivist, stubbornly attached to the tiny town of Ireland, Ontario, in which she was born and raised.

On her first plane trip, Jude and Sile's worlds touch and snag at Heathrow Airport, and their lives, and those of their friends and families, will be drawn together.

"SO HELP ME GOD: THE FOUNDING FATHERS AND THE FIRST GREAT BATTLE OVER CHURCH AND STATE," by Forrest Church, Harvest Paperback, 540 pages, $16

Forrest Church re-creates our first great culture war — a tumultuous, nearly forgotten conflict that raged from George Washington's presidency to James Monroe's.

Religion was the most divisive issue in the nation's early presidential elections. The religious political wars reached a vicious peak during the War of 1812; the American victory shaped our modern sense of church-state separation.

"GOD'S HARVARD: A CHRISTIAN COLLEGE ON A MISSION TO SAVE AMERICA," by Hanna Rosin, Harvest Paperback, 312 pages, $14

Tiny Patrick Henry College, a Christian school just outside the nation's capital, grooms ambitious young evangelicals into tomorrow's conservative elite. The future front lines of politics, entertainment and science will be commanded by these idealistic graduates, who plan to lead the battle in reclaiming a godless nation.

Lively and evenhanded, Rosin's account reveals the evangelical movement at a moment of crisis and climax, its future leaders struggling to resist the temptations of modern life even as they try to remake the world in their image.

"BEST NEW AMERICAN VOICES 2009," Mary Gaitskill, guest editor, John Kulka and Natalie Danford, series editors, Harvest Paperback Original, 368 pages, $14

Now in its ninth year, this series promotes short fiction by emerging writers. Its focus is the writing coming out of workshops around the United States and Canada.

This is an opportunity for the reader to discover a promising group of writers perhaps at the same time they are first encountered by agents, editors and publishers.

"THIRD TERM: WHY GEORGE W. BUSH (HEARTS) JOHN MCCAIN," by Paul Begala, Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, $15

"The biggest myth of campaign 2008 is that John McCain is fundamentally different from George W. Bush," says Paul Begala, former top aide to President Bill Clinton, campaign partner of James Carville and one of CNN's resident political experts.

Begala shows the many ways in which McCain supports, and in some ways surpasses, the Bush policies from which he pretends to distance himself.