A selection of summaries from The New York Times Book Review:

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Joumana Khatib
, New York Times

A selection of summaries from The New York Times Book Review:

SAPIENS: A Brief History of Humankind, by Yuval Noah Harari. (Harper Perennial, $22.99.) Harari, an Israeli historian, delves into humanity’s history, exploring why Homo sapiens — once just one human species among several — dominated. This sweeping account attempts to tell a genetic, cultural and social history, with a particular focus on the roles of cognition and agricultural and scientific advancements in our evolution.

MEN WITHOUT WOMEN: Stories, by Haruki Murakami. Translated by Philip Gabriel and Ted Goossen. (Vintage, $16.) In these seven tales, emotionally adrift men long for the women they love; one story compares the experience to “a pastel-colored Persian carpet.” Times reviewer Jay Fielden praised the “rainy Tokyo of unfaithful women, neat single malt, stray cats, cool cars and classic jazz played on hi-fi setups.”

WRESTLING WITH HIS ANGEL: The Political Life of Abraham Lincoln, Volume II, 1849-1856, by Sidney Blumenthal. (Simon & Schuster, $18.) By 1849, Lincoln’s only term as a representative comes to an undistinguished end. The second installment of this biography follows Lincoln as he clashed with his rival, Stephen A. Douglas, who advanced policies that helped expand slavery; eked out a political future; and aligned with the Republicans.

THE BURNING GIRL, by Claire Messud. (Norton, $15.95.) Julia and Cassie, two teenagers in Massachusetts, have been best friends since nursery school, but as they edge into adolescence the friendship begins to unravel. Messud is skilled at capturing the perils and rites of passage that come with being a teenage girl, along with the intimacies and heartbreak of female friendships. Ultimately, the book is “a story about stories — their power, necessity and inevitable artifice,” Times reviewer Laura Lippman wrote.

WHY WE SLEEP: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams, by Matthew Walker. (Scribner, $17.) Walker, who directs Berkeley’s Center for Human Sleep Science, sees our societal sleep deficit as “the greatest public health challenge we face in the 21st century.” The virtues of sleep, he says — everything from better memory retention to the ability to overcome negative feelings — can dramatically improve your life.

MY ABSOLUTE DARLING, by Gabriel Tallent. (Riverhead, $16.) Fourteen-year-old Turtle is growing up feral in Northern California, raised by her father to be a self-reliant survivalist. Her world is limited to school, where she’s an outcast, and home, where her father trains her and preys upon her. A romance offers an escape, and she must use the skills she learned from her father against him in a fight for her freedom.

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