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How Sex Works: Why We Look, Smell, Taste, Feel and Act the Way We Do Hardcover – April 28, 2009

27 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Birds do it, bees do it, but why do humans do it? In this wide-ranging look at the evolutionary reasons for sex, physiologist and evolutionary biologist Moalem says that it's all about shuffling the gene pool and getting rid of any unwelcome guests, such as viruses, that may have latched onto human DNA. But why is one particular person attracted to another? Moalem relays the latest research showing that smell plays a very important role in attraction, and that even our genes may influence one's smell, and thus a person's desirability, to others. Scientists have found that women tend to be attracted to different types of men at different points in their ovulation cycles (dark and handsome hunks at their height; sensitive, care-giving types at other times). Moalem (Survival of the Sickest) whizzes through his discussion of homosexuality, neglecting angles that would have added to the book, but readers will find thought-provoking material in his chapter on differences in sexual anatomy and on how chromosomes and body parts aren't always what we expect them to be. Moalem writes fluidly for the general reader, and when he necessarily goes into graphic detail, he does it gracefully. (May)
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Review

“Sharon Moalem’s new book goes far beyond the typical ‘birds and bees’ sex talk. The neurogeneticist delves deep into human sexuality, and comes to some surprising conclusions.” (Daily Beast)

“Packed with trivia about the evolutionary history, intricate mechanics, and nitty-gritty mysteries of sex, sexual organs, and desire, Sharon Moalem’s How Sex Works manages to inject science writing with the prurient thrill of a gossip rag.” (O magazine)

“Moalem makes evolution sexy and sex astonishing. If you’ve ever been surprised by either your body or your heart, this book will probably tell you why.” (Kinney Zalesne, coauthor of the New York Times bestseller Microtrends: The Small Forces Behind Tomorrow's Big Changes)

“Have you ever wondered HOW SEX WORKS? This book answers all of the questions you’ve ever wanted to know about how your body works sexually, but did not know where to find the answers. They are here!” (Dr. Beverly Whipple, coauthor of the New York Times bestseller The G Spot: And Other Discoveries About Human Sexuality and The Science of Orgasm.)

“An engaging synthesis of scientific research on why we humans experience our sexuality the way we do.” (Rachel P. Maines, PhD, Cornell University and author of The Technology of Orgasm: "Hysteria," the Vibrator, and Women's Sexual Satisfaction)

“Read this book and discover sex again, but from a scientific perspective, and see why it evolved. It’s almost as much fun, and needs less energy.” (Peter Macinnis, science writer and author of 100 Discoveries: The Greatest Breakthroughs in History and Mr Darwin's Incredible Shrinking World)

“HOW SEX WORKS is a must-buy for anyone interested in the ins and outs of why, psychologically and biologically, sex is about much, much more than the mere birds and bees.” (Nancy Redd, New York Times bestselling author of Body Drama)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 274 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins; 1st edition (April 28, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061479659
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061479656
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,019,560 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Sharon Moalem MD, PhD, is an award-winning scientist, physician, New York Times and international bestselling author of the books Survival of the Sickest and How Sex works. His much anticipated third book, Inheritance: How Our Genes Change Our Lives and Our Lives Change Our Genes, will be released in April 2014. Dr. Moalem's research and writing blends medicine, genetics, history and biology, to explain how the human body works in new and fascinating ways. His books have been translated into more than 30 languages.

Dr. Moalem's scientific work led to the discovery of Siderocillin, a novel antibiotic compound effective against multidrug resistant or 'superbug' microorganisms. He has also been awarded 20 patents for inventions related to biotechnology and human health, cofounded two biotechnology companies, and served as an associate editor for the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease.

Dr. Moalem and his research have been featured in The New York Times, TIME magazine, New Scientist, and on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Today, and CNN.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Rob Hardy HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on February 5, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Sex fascinates us; it makes or breaks marriages, ruins political careers, and is the backbone of the internet entertainment industry. And yet it is something hidden, as if we were ashamed at its fascination. In my work, I always ask people who come to see me what they do for fun. Of thousands of replies to this question over the years, I have had exactly one person list sex. Surely there are a lot more people than that who find sex something to do for fun. And besides being fun, sex is interesting. It is one of those universal activities that you can never learn everything about or participate in all its variants. There are many enthusiastic guides about how to have sex (the best of them is _The Guide to Getting It On!_), but if you are more interested in why we have sex and why people do the sexual things they do (including yourself), you are bound to gain insight from _How Sex Works: Why We Look, Smell, Taste, Feel, and Act the Way We Do_ (Harper) by Dr. Sharon Moalem. The author is a neurogeneticist, evolutionary biologist, and physiologist, but he is used to writing for a popular audience, and this book gives lots of facts, from trivial to essential, about a topic that is always interesting. If you had a good sex ed. class (bet you didn't), many of the subjects in Moalem's book may be familiar, but there is new research in many aspects of sex and new ways of understanding its evolutionary importance, and Moalem has incorporated much of it in a readable and amusing fashion.

Sex is pretty costly, and that isn't just because of the price of dinner and a movie. It takes energy, and putting two half-cells together to make a new starter cell for a new individual is enormously complicated and can go wrong in countless ways.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By arc on May 11, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Most books on sex focus on either the titillating or the medical - on relationships or the nasty little details of STI's. Moalem's book not only discusses both, but also manages to connect the medical and the psychological. I don't think anyone has quite done this since Desmond Morris wrote The Naked Ape. I found myself picking this book up frequently - no matter where I started reading, there was something compelling. Especially the chapter on homosexuality - who knew that this might be triggered by the same gene that causes women to like men - in other words, the gene that promotes heterosexuality in females? And the wide range of sexual behaviours in animals - that male big horn sheep culture is predominantly gay?? A lot of this is not fundamental knowledge, but it sure makes for interesting, fun reading.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Manyani on June 8, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I truly enjoyed reading this book. It was nice to be able to pick up a book on the subject of sex and actually learn something new. It made me think of sex in a new perspective. Information was referenced with numerous research studies and examples. I also appreciated the author's writing style, and found the chapter titles brilliant. Very engaging!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Book Review on July 17, 2009
Format: Hardcover
HOW SEX WORKS: WHY WE LOOK, SMELL, TASTE, FEEL, AND ACT THE WAY WE DO comes packed with a satisfying blend of anecdotes and insights into myths and scientific revolutions alike and provides a fine historical survey of medical research into sex. From how male virility is fueled by competition to why being in love encourages fidelity, chapters survey the excitement, idea and reality of sex in a lively manner perfect for both health and general-interest libraries.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Luis VINE VOICE on August 2, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This book has a great title. It has tons of great information, which I love. However, the book worries me because it is full of personal opinions and I spotted a few pieces of information that are wrong or misstated in order to favor the author's point of view. Also, the author uses Ms. Hellen Fisher as a reference and Ms. Fisher is a highly opinionated author that tends to twist scientific data to her ideas. So, be careful and cross-reference anything that you might find that you do not know. It is sad to see such a possible great book be tainted with wrong information and using personal opinions as facts. Anyway buy it read it and reseach it!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Derrick J. Roffman on January 27, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I like the data from this book. The opinion of the author made it annoying, but not so much that I couldn't take the book for what it was and learn a lot of information. I loved the information learned here. It will help me understand Sex from a broader perspective.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Shimrod on July 1, 2009
Format: Hardcover
A surprising elucidation of the latest findings on sex and evolution.

Get a handle on the evolutionary view behind some of the behaviors we see in the opposite gender. Moalem unfolds some interesting insights into why women (and men) will behave the way they do. The book doesn't necessarily advocate acting on our baser instinct but can come in handy in understanding the "why" behind certain behaviors.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By TandemCaptain on June 27, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A solid compilation of scientific evidence about the many mechanisms of sexuality. Some conclusions are the author's (labelled) speculation, based on scanty or conflicting studies. The range of topics is fairly broad.
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