Sex At Dawn: How We Mate, Why We Stray, And What It Means For Modern Relationships
by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha
Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha convincingly argue that our current sexual practices — pair bonding in marriage, monogamy (which historically we've imposed only on women) and even the nuclear family — are by no means hard-wired into us by our evolutionary history. Using evidence from anthropology, comparative zoology, and evolutionary biology, Ryan and Jetha argue that we are evolved to be highly sexualized creatures, who use sex as a form of social communication and bonding. And that in our natural state, females enjoy and exercise as much sexual freedom as males, if not more. What makes the book so captivating — beyond its good humor, sharp writing and its remarkable asides on issues such as "female copulatory vocalization" — is the way it casually and effectively demolishes a Solomon's Temple worth of conventional wisdom.
432 pages, $15.99, HarperPerennial
Origins: How The Nine Months Before Birth Shape The Rest Of Our Lives
by Annie Murphy Paul
While reflecting on her own second pregnancy, science writer Annie Murphy Paul explores an emerging body of research demonstrating that our health and well-being are influenced by our time in the womb. The prenatal period, which one scientist calls the staging ground for well-being and disease in later life, may hold the origins of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and other conditions, as well as possibilities for preventing them before birth. Drawing on current research and interviews with experts, Paul looks at the effects of diet and nutrition, stress, environmental toxins, exercise and alcohol. Ultimately, she writes, her immersion in fetal origins research made her "less anxious about being pregnant, not more. It made me see pregnancy in a new light: as a scientific frontier, and an opportunity to improve the health and well-being of the next generation."
320 pages, $15, Free Press
The Longest War: The Enduring Conflict Between America And Al-Qaeda
by Peter L. Bergen
In The Longest War, CNN national security analyst Peter L. Bergen gives a comprehensive account of the development of al-Qaida and the U.S. response to the terrorist organization and addresses the strategic missteps made by both sides. Bergen says he believes the single most important battle in the conflict came in December 2001, when bin Laden and al-Qaida fled from their bases in Afghanistan to their mountain retreat in Tora Bora. Could something have been done at the Battle of Tora Bora that would have turned it into a decisive victory for the U.S.? Bergen thinks it's possible. Yet he acknowledges the ongoing debate within the national security community about whether, with bin Laden on the run and now dead, al-Qaida is basically a spent force or has remained a potent threat in its new form as a network of semi-autonomous killers.
496 pages, $16, Free Press
A Privilege To Die: Inside Hezbollah's Legions And Their Endless War Against Israel
by Thanassis Cambanis
In A Privilege to Die, journalist Thanassis Cambanis traces the growth of Hezbollah and its ideology-based militancy across the Middle East. He explains that Hezbollah has thrived because of a complete vacuum of Arab leadership in the region. "That's why it's had tremendous influence in regions way beyond its context," he says. "Though it's a small Shia group, its leader, Hassan Nasrallah, is the most popular leader in the entire Arab world. ... That frankly speaks to a region that has been stripped of meaningful discourse and is really open, receptive or vulnerable — depending on your perspective — to this kind of ideology." In Cambanis' view, Hezbollah has two goals: to construct an Islamic resistance society and to continue a perpetual war against Israel. But Cambanis says it's unlikely that other military forces in the Middle East will join Hezbollah in attacking Israel — at least, for the time being.
336 pages, $15, Free Press
Charlotte Abbott edits "New in Paperback." A contributing editor for Publishers Weekly, she also leads a weekly chat on books and reading in the digital age every Friday from 4-5 p.m. ET on Twitter. Follow her at @charabbott or check out the #followreader hashtag .