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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.)
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"A combination of Oliver Sacks and David Foster Wallace. . . . Sapolsky is that professor whose classes were impossible to get into, the courses where the students had an infuriatingly good time while they were learning, the ones where the students were inspired to become scientists." (Los Angeles Times)
"A hit. . . . Sapolsky lets his obsessive curiosity wander amiably . . . Chases after answers to such puzzles with jovial abandon." (New York Times Book Review)
"The prose is perfectly pitched: Sapolsky writes in a jocular, entertaining style without ever pandering to the presumed ignorance of his readers. " (The Guardian (London))
"Sapolsky ranges wherever his formidable curiosity leads . . . Each essay brings its own unexpected delight . . ." (Publisher's Weekly (starred review))