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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner (October 10, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743260163
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743260169
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.6 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #123,767 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. There are many things one might expect to find within the covers of a collection of essays by a Stanford professor of biology and neurology: a rich understanding of the complexities of human and animal life; a sensitivity to the relationship between our biological nature and our environmental context; a humility in the face of still-to-be-understood facets of the human condition. All these are in Sapolsky's new collection, along with something one might not expect: wry, witty prose that reads like the unexpected love child of a merger between Popular Science and GQ, written by an author who could be as much at home holding court at the local pub as he is in a university lab. In this collection (the majority of pieces ran in Discover, others in Men's Health, the New Yorker and Scientific American), Sapolsky ranges wherever his formidable curiosity leads, from genetic determinism as seen through the eyes of People magazine's "50 Most Beautiful People" to the reasons why crotchety old people are neurologically disinclined to like whatever passes for music among young people nowadays. Each essay brings its own unexpected delight, brief enough that you can dip a toe in, yet insightful enough to encourage you to pursue the topic further (and Sapolsky helpfully appends to each essay a list of suggested further readings). (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"A hit . . . Sapolsky lets his obsessive curiosity wander amiably. . . . Most compelling when the animal behavior he is reckoning with is our own." -- The New York Times Book Review

"One of the best scientist-writers of our time." -- Oliver Sacks

"The author [is] a luminary among that rare breed -- the funny scientist." -- Los Angeles Times

"Sapolsky writes in a jocular, entertaining style without ever pandering to the presumed ignorance of his readers." -- The Guardian (London)

"Delightful in a way that science writing rarely is." -- The Denver Post

More About the Author

Robert M. Sapolsky is the author of several works of nonfiction, including A Primate's Memoir, The Trouble with Testosterone, and Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers. He is a professor of biology and neurology at Stanford University and the recipient of a MacArthur Foundation genius grant. He lives in San Francisco.

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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Sapolsky does an excellent job of writing to the lay person.
N. Paulson
Yes, you will learn a lot about genes, but he covers far more than that in this book that creates more questions than there ever will be answers.
Jim Altfeld
Once you get the picture on genes, there are some other really interesting reasons to read this book.
Justin Mclaughlin

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

63 of 67 people found the following review helpful By Justin Mclaughlin on December 8, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Monkeyluv is worth reading for seven reasons. The first (1) is that you will finally understand how genes work. The first third of the book is all about dispelling the nature vs nurture debate. It's their interaction, stupid! Once you get the picture on genes, there are some other really interesting reasons to read this book. Reasons two through seven: (2) the articles are on subjects as vast and interesting as Münchhausen by Proxy (where a mother intentionally makes her child ill, like the Sixth Sense), aging, and brain controlling parasites. (3) All the articles appeared before in general-reader publications, like Discovery Magazine, so a non-scientist can understand the ideas. (4) The author does a superb job of applying his neurobiology lens (biology of human brains) to a variety of interesting topics. (5) The reader can zip through this book over a weekend and pick up some wow-I-didn't-know-thats to impress his or her friends, neighbors, and colleagues. (6) The essays are concise and (7) sprinkled with popular humor, which remain from their magazine days.
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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Stacey M Jones on August 27, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I absolutely LOVED this book! I read it very quickly and had trouble putting it down. It is fascinating, educational, funny, enjoyable and well written about complex issues.

Sapolsky, who is the author of A Primate's Memoir, The Trouble with Testosterone and Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers, is a professor of biology and neurology at Stanford and a recipient of a MacArthur "genius" grant. I found his genius not only to be in his insight and ability to frame questions and pursue their answers, but also to be able to write about it in a way that is accessible to a "nongenius."

This book is a collection of previously published essays that are updated for this edition (the updates include notes for further reading and on source materials). Sapolsky divides the book into three parts ("Genes and Who We Are," "Our Bodies and Who We Are" and "Society and Who We Are") and introduces each section with cogent current thinking on the issues addressed. For example, to introduce the first section, Sapolsky writes about how the nature-nurture argument is a red herring; genes contribute to personality/behavior when the environment interacts with them in ways conducive to gene-induced behavior! For example, in "Of Mice and (Hu)men Genes," Sapolsky writes about genes that may indicate a proclivity for depression, but only in certain environments, and summarizes that the reader should be wary of simple expanations. (And, he asserts, as humans we may have more responsibility to create positive environments that interact benignly with risky genes than to understand which genes cause what.) In the second section's "Why are Dreams Dreamlike?" Sapolsky illustrates how answering some questions about how the brain and psyche function just brings up other, deeper questions.
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41 of 45 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Richard G. Petty on January 9, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Like most people, I am inundated with new books and papers that need my attention.

But I always make the time to read anything that Sapolsky writes. This book is a collection of essays that show once again, that we have an extraordinarily brilliant iconoclast in our midst. Time and again he demonstrates that he is not afraid to say when he does not know something, but that he also uncommonly good at coming up with new questions and new solutions.

I suggest reading this at the rate of a chapter a day, and meditating on what you have learned: you will not regret it!

The whole thing is witty, unconventional and brilliant!
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAME on March 25, 2006
Format: Hardcover
It's easy to tack the disparaging label "pop science" to this book. That would be misleading and counterproductive. What, after all, is "popular science" but science for non-scientists. From a broader perspective this book is informative, enlightening and ably suited for its intended task. Among other virtues, this book is a well-written account of what too many of us believe is valid science. It then discloses where we are mistaken in that belief and provides corrections. In his vividly rendered chapters, Sapolsky offers numerous challenges to "established" thinking. The challenges are often raw and forceful, but they must be understood fully.

A primate researcher, the author has spent many years studying baboon behaviour. Those who fear comparison with other primates may be uncomfortable with Sapolsky's conclusions. The material he draws upon for support, however, shows how universal many of our own behaviours are among our close relatives. In this book, he takes up three themes - why searching for "a gene for" any specific behaviour or illness is doomed to failure; what the body contributes to our personality; and what society contributes in determining our "selves". Each section is preceded by an introductory essay, explaining the significance of the topics discussed.

In the first section he severely condemns those who want to lock behaviour to genetics. That's an admirable end, but the selections weighed in his judgement are nearly all media accounts. Simplifying human behaviour issues sells magazines and newspapers, and his references to "those scientists" who appear to have advocated "nature over nurture" vapourise when you look for them in the text. Still, the elmination of "gene centrism" is an admirable ambition.
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