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    It Never Hurts to Ask

    Curiosity helped drive human evolution: seeking information led to mastering fire, which in turn led to more nutritious food and bigger brains. Matthew Hutson reviews “Why? What Makes Us Curious” by Mario Livio.

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    The Red Cross and the Holocaust

    As early as 1933, the Red Cross received letters from Dachau, including one pleading: ‘I beg you again in the name of the prisoners—Help! Help!.’ Samuel Moyn reviews “Humanitarians at War” by Gerald Steinacher.

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    Unlocking the Airwaves

    In regulating radio, the FCC enacted rules nominally in the public interest, but which actually enriched specific interest groups.

  • What Makes Humans Exceptional and Other Books to Read

    How human creativity evolved; traveling the world with Lowell Thomas; Claude Shannon’s information age; the novels of Ngugi wa Thiong’o; ladies who lunched; Hitler in the dock; Shakespeare’s Rome; and more

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    Thoreau at 200

    Henry David Thoreau was a man of many passions, a chronicler of beauty in the natural world and an advocate of the enslaved and impoverished. Was his worldview a product of a systematic philosophy or was it more psychologically complicated? Randall Fuller reviews “Henry David Thoreau” by Laura Dassow Walls.

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    The Coming War for Cyberspace

    A leading cyber security expert warns that the Web could one day darken due to international conflict, turning a boon to mankind into a tool for political and ideological control and domination. Stephen Budiansky reviews “The Darkening Web” by Alexander Klimburg.

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    The Book Your Kids Should Read This Summer

    Meghan Cox Gurdon on Arthur Ransome’s “Swallows and Amazons.”

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    Young Man With a Horn

    Bix Beiderbecke was one of the foremost cornetists of early jazz. John Check reviews “Finding Bix” by Brendan Wolfe.

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    Finding Love in London

    As bombs rained down on England, two matchmakers arranged marriages for would-be lovers. Caroline Moorehead reviews “The Marriage Bureau” by Penrose Halson.

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    Michael Connelly’s New Heroine

    Tom Nolan reviews “The Late Show.”

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    Sam Sacks on the Best New Fiction

    Debuts from Zinzi Clemmons, Sally Rooney and Rachel Khong.

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    Five Best: Henry Hemming

    The author, most recently, of “Agent M” on spies.

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    Daphne du Maurier in Her Prime

    “Rebecca” is derivative and full of clichés. It doesn’t matter. The novel is still compellingly alive. Allan Massie reviews “Manderley Forever” by Tatiana de Rosnay.

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    The Dangers of First Impressions

    At a young age we’re told not to judge a book by its cover or form judgments about people based on their appearance. Our brain disagrees: It takes about 35 thousandths of a second for someone’s face to make a first impression on us. Nicholas Wade reviews “Face Value” by Alexander Todorov.

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    How Improvisation Happens

    A new book asks: When an artist loses himself in a “creative flow state,” what exactly is happening? John Kaag reviews “The Evolution of Imagination” by Stephen T. Asma.

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    A Jane for Every Reader

    For 200 years Austen has proved adaptable to the changing sensibilities of her avid audience.

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    Earth’s Mass Extinctions

    Earth has five times experienced a “mass extinction” event. But unlike the dinosaurs, humans can try to prevent a sixth. Richard Conniff reviews ‘The Ends of the World’ by Peter Brannen.

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    Barton Swaim on Political Books

    Two short treatises distill a key question for the left: Is the populist surge driven by culture or economics? Barton Swaim reviews “The Road to Somewhere” by David Goodhart and “The Populist Explosion” by John B. Judis.

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    The Great Nadar

    Gaspard-Félix Tournachon was among Paris’s foremost polymaths. In addition to perfecting the art of aerial photography, he was also an accomplished cartoonist and entrepreneur. Tobias Grey reviews ‘The Great Nadar’ by Adam Begley.

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    The Scourge of Rome

    Hannibal devoted his life to the defeat of the Roman Empire. What drove him? James Romm reviews “Hannibal” by Patrick N. Hunt.

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    The Best New Fiction

    Sam Sacks on “Bed-Stuy Is Burning” by Brian Platzer and “Moving Kings” by Joshua Cohen.

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    The Best New Children’s Books

    Meghan Cox Gurdon on Karen English’s “It All Comes Down to This” and Pamela Dalton’s “Under the Silver Moon.”

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    Before the Fab Four

    After a postwar musical lull, British artists began playing skiffle—a jazz-influenced genre of music that would give way to rock ’n’ roll. Tony Fletcher reviews “Roots, Radicals and Rockers” by Billy Bragg.

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    Cures for Hunger

    From pastrami and corned beef to artisanal charcuterie, a celebration of American meats. Max Watman reviews “Salted and Cured” by Jeffrey P. Roberts.

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    Lost in Old New York

    Francis Spufford’s “Golden Hill” is a delightful colonial picaresque.

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    Game Theories

    Any coach or philosopher will tell you that the rules of sport mirror those of life (and vice versa). Michael Shermer reviews “Knowing the Score” by David Papineau.

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    Five Best: Scott Spencer

    The author of the novel “River Under the Road” on novels about work.

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    When Women Took the Wheel

    A reflection on the place of women in Hollywood through the lens of a breakthrough feminist film.

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    The World’s Hottest Gadget

    Apple’s iPhone—a 21st-century American icon—could not exist without the labors of Bolivian miners and Chinese factory workers.

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    Jefferson in the Flesh

    Judging the “architect of American liberty,” not by today’s standards but by those of his time. William Anthony Hay reviews “Jefferson” by John B. Boles.

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    Baseball’s Iron Men

    Lou Gehrig and Cal Ripken Jr. used hustle and intelligence to compete with more physically gifted men. Jonathan Eig reviews “The Streak” by John Eisenberg.

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    Five Best: Ray Moseley

    The author of “Reporting War: How Foreign Correspondents Risked Capture, Torture and Death to Cover World War II” on World War II correspondents.

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    Mundane Wonders

    From toasters to touch screens, the tech you take for granted explained at last. Steven Poole reviews “The Physics of Everyday Things” by James Kakalios.

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    Yesterday in Tahrir Square

    A powerful, panoramic novel of Cairo evokes the brave, young hope of the Arab Spring uprising. Toby Lichtig reviews “The City Always Wins” by Omar Robert Hamilton.

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    The Best New Mysteries

    A recently widowed cop battles drugs, burglary and murder in rural Pennsylvania. Tom Nolan reviews “Fateful Mornings” by Tom Bouman.

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    The Best New Fiction

    Sam Sacks on novels by Donal Ryan, Rosecrans Baldwin and Yuri Herrera.

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    The Best Children’s Books

    Meghan Cox Gurdon reviews “The Song From Somewhere Else” by A.F. Harrold, “Overboard!” by Terry Lynn Johnson, “Tasso” by William Papas and “The Paper-Flower Tree” by Jacqueline Ayer.

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    Loving Mr. Rochester

    Why did Charlotte Brontë go to such great lengths to conceal her authorship of a romantic masterpiece? Elizabeth Lowry reviews “The Secret History of Jane Eyre” by John Pfordresher.

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    Behind the Brooklyn Bridge

    The father who designed the bridge, the son who built it—and the wire rope that made it all possible. Allen C. Guelzo reviews “Chief Engineer” by Erica Wagner.

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