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9 New Books We Recommend This Week

THE PERFECT WEAPON: War, Sabotage, and Fear in the Cyber Age, by David E. Sanger. (Crown, $28.) This encyclopedic account by a Times correspondent traces the rapid rise of cyberwarfare capabilities and warns that ideas about how to control them are only beginning to emerge. Our reviewer, the retired C.I.A. officer Paul Pillar, says it is “useful as a one-stop reference for citizens who want to think intelligently about all issues of public policy having a cyber dimension.”

AMERICAN EDEN: David Hosack, Botany and Medicine in the Garden of the Early Republic, by Victoria Johnson. (Liveright, $29.95.) The doctor to the infamous Hamilton-Burr duel also created a legendary botanical garden for early America, now buried far beneath Rockefeller Center. “Johnson’s lyrical prose breathes life into the New York City of 200 years ago,” Marta McDowell writes in her review, and “her ambitious and entertaining book … connects past to present.”

DAMNATION ISLAND: Poor, Sick, Mad & Criminal in 19th-Century New York, by Stacy Horn. (Algonquin, $27.95.) A detailed consideration of the appalling history of the East River penitentiaries and asylums where the city once held its undesirables in forcible exile. Reviewing it, Patrick McGrath calls it a “fine new book” written “lucidly and not without indignation.”

ELASTIC: Flexible Thinking in a Time of Change, by Leonard Mlodinow. (Pantheon, $28.95.) “Elastic thinking” is the ability to stretch beyond the bounds of our preconceptions and other deeply held beliefs. Mlodinow tries to understand how this happens in the brain, what it takes to arrive at human creativity, innovation and independent thought. Our reviewer, Lisa Feldman Barrett, says he “tells an absorbing story” that “skillfully weaves scientific findings with stories of people, events, and the natural world, using clever analogies and metaphors. … His depiction of the brain as an ant colony, with individual neurons as ants, is a true gem.”

SEARCHING FOR STARS ON AN ISLAND IN MAINE, by Alan Lightman. (Pantheon, $24.95.) In tightly composed essays, a noted astrophysicist and novelist argues that science need not be in conflict with spirituality. “Science needs its poets,” Michael Shermer writes in his review, and this book is “an elegant and moving paean to our spiritual quest for meaning in an age of science.”

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