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What makes humans inventive?

The Origins of Creativity. By Edward Wilson. Liveright; 198 pages; $24.95. Allen Lane; £20. The Runaway Species. By Anthony Brandt and David Eagleman. Catapult; 287 pages; $28. Canongate; £20. DOES science spoil beauty? John Keats, an English Romantic poet, thought so. When Sir Isaac Newton separated white light into its …

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The scientific debates of the Vienna circle

Much discussed, little understood Exact Thinking in Demented Times: The Vienna Circle and the Epic Quest for the Foundation of Science. By Karl Sigmund. Basic Books; 449 pages; $32 and £25. ON OCTOBER 21st 1916 Friedrich Adler, a theoretical physicist turned socialist politician, went to a famous restaurant in Vienna …

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“The Perfect Nanny” exploits working mothers’ fears

The Perfect Nanny. By Leïla Slimani. Translated by Sam Taylor. Penguin; 240 pages; $16. Published in Britain as “Lullaby”. Faber and Faber; £12.99. LEÏLA SLIMANI is a young Moroccan-born journalist based in Paris. Her first novel, about a woman who becomes addicted to sex as relief from her stifling bourgeois …

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The dictators who ruined Africa

He never changed his spots Dictatorland: The Men Who Stole Africa. By Paul Kenyon. Head of Zeus; 480 pages; £25. To be published in America in autumn 2018. IF THERE is one thing Westerners remember about the Zaire of Mobutu Sese Seko, its longtime former dictator, it is the “Rumble in …

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How the written word shaped the written world

The Written World: How Literature Shaped History. By Martin Puchner. Random House; 448 pages; $32. Granta; £14.99. “IN THE beginning was the Word…” That stirring opening of the Gospel of St John could easily serve as the thesis of Martin Puchner’s “The Written World”, an episodic history of human civilisation …

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“Fire and Fury” confirms the dysfunction at the heart of the presidency

Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House. By Michael Wolff. Henry Holt; 336 pages; $14.99. Little, Brown; £20. TO THE many ironies of Donald Trump’s presidency can be added the fact that a man who does not read books has helped cause a publishing sensation. Four days after “Fire …

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“The Chi” examines the human cost of gun violence

LENA WAITHE did not squander her moment. “The things that make us different, those are our superpowers,” she told the audience in Los Angeles, as she became the first black woman to win an Emmy for comedy writing in September. Ms Waithe, a lesbian, went on to thank her “LGBTQIA …

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“The Vagina Monologues”, 20 years on

IN 1996, sitting on a high-backed stool in a tiny theatre in downtown New York, Eve Ensler declared that she was “worried about vaginas”. What followed was “The Vagina Monologues”, a fictional series of accounts based on more than 200 interviews the playwright had conducted with women of different races …

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A thoughtful dramatisation of life in the Calais “Jungle”

IT IS a rare play that starts before you’ve even walked into the theatre—but so it is with “The Jungle”. Every audience member is pre-assigned a “country” for the night, a section of the auditorium that corresponds to a nationality of the migrants cooped up at the camp in Calais …

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The benefits of a university education

A University Education. By David Willetts. Oxford University Press; 432 pages; $32.50 and £25. IN 1945 there were 500 universities across the globe. Today there are more than 10,000. As universities continue to displace apprenticeships and the armed forces as the main path to adulthood in the rich world, scrutiny …