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Finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize
From the man who Oliver Sacks hailed as “one of the best scientist/writers of our time,” a collection of sharply observed, uproariously funny essays on the biology of human culture and behavior.
In the tradition of Stephen Jay Gould and Oliver Sacks, Robert Sapolsky offers a sparkling and erudite collection of essays about science, the world, and our relation to both. “The Trouble with Testosterone” explores the influence of that notorious hormone on male aggression. “Curious George’s Pharmacy” reexamines recent exciting claims that wild primates know how to medicate themselves with forest plants. “Junk Food Monkeys” relates the adventures of a troop of baboons who stumble upon a tourist garbage dump. And “Circling the Blanket for God” examines the neurobiological roots underlying religious belief.
Drawing on his career as an evolutionary biologist and neurobiologist, Robert Sapolsky writes about the natural world vividly and insightfully. With candor, humor, and rich observations, these essays marry cutting-edge science with humanity, illuminating the interconnectedness of the world’s inhabitants with skill and flair.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful.
Sapolsky may be the best neuroscience writer alive
By Interested Learner
Sapolsky may be the best neuroscience writer alive, with the demise of O. Sacks. Sapolsky's magnum opus is "Why Zebras Don't get Ulcers," dealing with stress/anxiety in the Keekorok baboon troop that he and his grad students have studied in the Masai Mara for almost 3 decades. But that entertaining book may be a little long and one can get the basics in Chapters 10, 13, and 15. In the 21st century is "flight-or-fight" the correct ANS response from our evolutionary ancestors - or is "tend and befriend" a better, cooperative strategy to resolve differences? Although some politicians think otherwise, cooperation is the new competition. The "T. with Testosterone" book is one of short essays/reports, more digestible for the YouTube/TED generation, better IMHO than Sapolsky's columns in the WSJournal. The book allows us to learn from a longitudinal study of baboons, whose life-span is 25 years. The "The Graying of the Troop" chapter will be of particular interest to those seniors who were in upper administration. Have we advanced beyond baboons in terms of how we treat seniors?
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful.
Great book! Lots of interesting essays
Robert Sapolsky have a unique way to explain very difficult concepts in a simple and interesting way.
This book have a collection of highly interesting essays about behavior, how the brain works and neuroscience.
He makes you have another perspective. Read it and see for yourself what I mean!
48 of 48 people found the following review helpful.
A great collection of essays by a brilliant writer
By Amazon Customer
Is it possible for a man who has won a MacArthur genius grant to be underappreciated? Reading this set of essays I have to wonder why Sapolsky is not as widely read and commented on as Dawkins, Sacks, Gleick and those other few at the absolute pinnacle of popular science writing.
The tales here cover his familiar subjects: the mind and emotions (one is tempted to say the soul), stress and our reactions, and how brain chemistry effects us every day. He also relates anecdotes from his baboon observations, and in the most touching essay talks about his father's life and death. The essays are gathered from several years and several magazines and each stands on its own...there is no particular theme beyond the aforementioned subject matter. The best is probably about how we sometimes take on the identity of another: illustrated by an anecdote where he watched Stephen Hawking give a lecture "through" the voice and body of a vigorous young graduate student, and Sapolsky's own odd reaction to his father's death. It is interesting, mildly disturbing and raises some ideas about individuality I certainly had never considered. In another essay, Sapolsky describes why so many illnesses have the same symptoms (its because it is our own immune systems that make us feel so crummy). Elsewhere he draws parallels betweens kids going off to college and male baboons switching tribes, and in yet another essay compares aging in baboons and humans.
So, should you read this book?
"Yes", if you have read other Sapolsky books and are looking for more.
"Yes", if you have heard about Sapolsky and want an introduction before diving into one of the larger works (though I still think 'A Primate's Memoir' is the best place to start).
"Yes", if you are interested in the brain and/or like good science writing.
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