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Monkeyluv: And Other Essays on Our Lives as Animals Paperback – Oct 10 2006


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; 1 edition (Oct. 10 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743260163
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743260169
  • Product Dimensions: 21.3 x 14.2 x 1.4 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 227 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #111,150 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER 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.
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Format: Paperback
I really enjoyed reading Monkeyluv. It answers many questions that we may ask ourselves. The delivery time was a bit long but I did get the book in it's new form. So I am very satisfied with my purchase.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 31 reviews
63 of 67 people found the following review helpful
You dropped your hippocampus Dec 8 2005
By Justin Mclaughlin - Published on Amazon.com
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.
27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
Great book about your brain and your body in the world Aug. 27 2006
By Stacey M Jones - Published on Amazon.com
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.

Sapolsky's illustrations of his points are fascinating and enlightening (and often funny!). In "The Genetic War Between Men and Women," he writes about how the genes from the father of a species have one goal ("greater, faster, more expensive growth") while genes from the mother have another ("countering that exuberance"). The success comes in nature's ability to balance these goals: "The placenta is ... the scene of a pitched battle, with paternally derived genes pushing [the placenta] to invade more aggressively while maternally derived genes try to hold it back." He lists other examples of this balance in humans and other species. This view of nature and how reproduction is nurtured fascinated me and helped me to see things in a new way.

Sapolsky's topics are wide ranging, and the book reminded me a bit of Freakonomics in its tendency to turn its problem-solving focus on whatever issue crossed its path. For example, in the final section, he writes about the differences between the

religions of desert peoples and the religions of tropical peoples -- the former tend to have a single god with miltaristic iterations and few rights for women while the latter tend toward pantheism and matrilocal marital residence. "Most evidence suggests that the rain-forest mind-set is more of a hothouse attribute, less hardy when uprooted." I guess that's evident, but Sapolsky's writings on the topic, again, gave me a new way to look at something I hadn't considered before. In this book, he addresses game theory, gene mapping, musical tastes, gender-communication issues and neurogenesis with wit, clarity and insight.

I recommend this book if you're the least bit curious about your brain, your body, the natural world and the society in which you live.
41 of 45 people found the following review helpful
If you want someone to make you think..... Jan. 9 2006
By Dr. Richard G. Petty - Published on Amazon.com
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!
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Opens many new doors [while closing a few] March 25 2006
By Stephen A. Haines - Published on Amazon.com
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. That is what the public too often sees and the illusion needs expulsion from the collective public consciousness. He reminds us that many "genetic" drives are environmentally triggered. Whatever the rules are genes function under, they aren't rigid ones. Environment contributes, often in a major way.

In the second section, Sapolsky ranges over body-behaviour issues. From the "Twinky Defence" to definitions of dreaming, he explores how the body and brain relate to influence the mind. Emotions result from the cascades of hormones flowing through our bodies. The brain triggers many of these, but the body sends messages to the brain using that chemical medium. While all this may leave the impression that we are almost helpless observers of what these molecular signals drive us to do, the author reminds us that the "big" part of the brain, the frontal cortex, grants us a level of control denied most other animals.

Finally, we are treated to an overview of our relation to the departed. Why is there such an intense drive in humans to deal with the dead? That is most ardently expressed when the body is missing. There are bizarre cases noted here, not the least of which is story of the rituals imposed when the US Navy retrieved the bodies of drowned Japanese fishermen. Yet more intriguing are the cases of mothers finding ways to have their children hospitalised. Each time the mother visited a recovering child, there was a relapse.

That Sapolsky's style is brisk, even fervent at times, shouldn't obscure the fact that there's much in here most of us need to know. When you and your spouse argue, who concedes first? Why is this so? Daily life situations are biologically examined, without the rhetoric that might turn this into a campaign document. There is a message: that we need to learn more about what provides our emotional makeup, from domestic disputes to "over-mothering". Read this and find out what. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Variable Aug. 30 2008
By Peter McCluskey - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This collection of essays starts out by rehashing nature/nurture arguments that ought to be widely understood by now, but then becomes mostly entertaining and occasionally quite informative.
He mentions one interesting study (Cunningham and Russell, "Egg investment is influenced by male attractiveness in the mallard)) which questions sexual selection arguments put forward by Geoffrey Miller and others about animals selecting mates with better genes. The study shows that female Mallards produce stronger offspring after mating with more attractive males because they invest more resources in those eggs, rather than because of anything that seems connected to the genes provided by the males.
He helps explain the attraction of gambling by describing experiments which show larger dopamine releases due to rewards that are most uncertain (the subject thinks they have a 50% chance of happening) than is released when there's more certainty (e.g. either a 25% chance or a 75% chance) of the same reward.
One place where I was disappointed was when he described "repressive personalities", which he made seem quite similar to Aspergers, and made me wonder whether I fit his description. "dislike novelty"? My reaction to novelty is sufficiently context-dependent that any answer is plausible. "prefer structure and predictability"? Yes and usually. "poor at expressing emotions or at reading the nuances of emotions in other people"? That's me. "can tell you what they're having for dinner two weeks from Thursday"? I could probably predict 5 days in advance with 50% accuracy, so I'm probably closer than most people. So I Googled and found another description (mentioning the same researcher that Sapolsky mentioned) in the Sciences and find descriptions of "repressive personality" that seem wildly different from me ("a strong personal need for social conformity" and "agreement with statements framed as absolutes, statements loaded with the words never and always"). Who wrote this competing description? Wait, it's the same Sapolsky! It looks like his current description reuses a small piece of an older article with inadequate thought to whether it's complete enough.

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