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The Human Zoo: A Zoologist's Study of the Urban Animal Paperback – Mar 15 1996

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Kodansha Amer Inc; Reprint edition (March 15 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1568361041
  • ISBN-13: 978-1568361048
  • Product Dimensions: 21.3 x 2 x 14 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 318 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #377,454 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


"Compelling and absorbing...Morris is concerned with the tension between our biology and our culture, as it is expressed in power, sex, status and war games" New York Times "Having startled, amused, and in some cases infuriated his fellow-men by his bestseller The Naked Ape, Desmond Morris now proceeds to contemplate Homo sapiens as he has transformed his environment. He has offended some people with entrenched views, but he has made millions wonder about themselves. Exceedingly well written, with never a dull moment" Observer "I defy you to stop reading it" Liverpool Daily Post --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

Desmond Morris is the author of more than thirty books, including The Naked Ape, Intimate Behavior, and Human Animal. He lives in Oxford, England.

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Rick Woolsey on Feb. 25 2002
Format: Paperback
The Naked Ape (if you read it) clearly shows the beauty and brilliance of our fundamental nature, a nature still iron-locked to our basic, animal ancestry. The Naked Ape proves that there is no immediate escape from the stronghold our ancient mode of behaviour still plays on us, regardless of our newfound "human intelligence".
After first reading The Naked Ape (at age 25) my judgement on life simplified. Each chapter lifted burdens of heavy confusion and sadness off my shoulders. I read the book five times. Even now, at 37, I go back to it when I'm feeling angry or betrayed or confused. I'm familiar with every paragraph; I absorbing each page almost at once. And with every reading, the truth of The Naked Ape strengthens and clarifies my life.
At the end of the book, Desmond Morris's final message tops anything ever written about the solution to our current, misconstrued "advanced" lifestyle. I won't spoil it and quote him. You'll need to read the book and find out for yourself (or get the book and read the final chapter if you're into short-cuts). But do yourself a gigantic good turn and start fresh from the beginning.
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Format: Paperback
This book is phenomenally informative. It is organized into eight long chapters, so the good stuff keeps coming fast and furious, making the book hard to put down. The Naked Ape will teach you everything you've ever wanted to know about yourself, your fellow man, and society at large.
Morris deals briefly with the concept of religion, describing it as a manifestation of our need to fulfill our inbred biological primate urges. But his main intent is to describe humans in zoological terms as just another species, albeit a tremendously successful one. He jokingly compares our journey to the top of the food chain as a rags-to-riches story, and like all nouveaux riche, we are very sensitive about our background.
I wholeheartedly declare this book a must read, although it might be a bit unsettling to those who prefer not to think of humans as mere animals. Even still, it is definitely worth reading. It seems Morris, writing just a few years after the Cuban Missile Crisis, was not optimistic about humanity's long-term prospects, and wished to write a book for the time capsule. Reading it on the other side of the millennium which he doubted we'd see, I'd say he succeeded.
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Format: Paperback
Like Desmond Morris's _The Naked Ape_, this book is an old friend of mine. The second volume in his well-known trilogy (the third is _Intimate Behavior_), this one makes a compelling case that modern cities are less like "jungles" and more like zoos.
Other animals, Morris says, don't behave in the wild the way humans do in cities. But the sort of erratic violence and heightened self-stimulation in which we find modern humans engaging _does_ have a counterpart in the rest of the animal world: animals do act that way . . . in zoos.
Essentially, Morris's claim is that many millions of years of evolution have equipped us for life in small communities in which everybody knows everybody else and there's enough room for us to move around without klonking into each other all the time. We are not, in short, adapted to the modern metropolis, and that's why "city folk" are so danged weird. And our misattribution of our maladaptive behavior actually gives the jungle an undeserved bad name.
So what's a naked ape to do? I don't know that the intervening years since this book was first published have generated a whole lot of solutions. I guess that's, um, life in the big city.
But as with so many problems, just being aware of the problem is at least half the solution. As with Morris's other books (especially _The Naked Ape_), it's profoundly helpful to step back and see ourselves as one biological species among others (whether or not that's _all_ we are).
Okay, maybe that's not all we are; maybe the fact that we _can_ thus step back from ourselves is the single most important fact about our species. If so, that makes this book more valuable, not less.
So think of this book (and Morris's others) as a way to give your "I" a little distance on your "me," if you know what I mean. And yes, that does mean that I'm recommending a couple of books on evolutionary anthropology as helpful to your spirituality.
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Format: Paperback
I have fond memories of this book. It was first published in 1967 and I read it pretty young; I'd have to reckon it among the more powerful influences of my youth. Controversial or not, there's something profoundly liberating about stepping back and looking at humankind as one species among others.
And actually, it's still a darned good book. As Stephen Gaskin remarks somewhere in _This Season's People_, human beings are so intelligent and conscious that it's a matter of controversy whether we're the lowest of the angels or the highest of the primates. Well, the controversy hasn't dissipated since this book was written, but it's still every bit as important for us to recognize and accept the reality of our animal nature.
For we _do_ have such a nature, no matter what view of evolution and/or creation we buy into. Evolutionary anthropologist Desmond Morris tends to treat us as though we have _only_ such a nature, as though our being an advanced ape is automatically at odds with our also being a fallen angel. That may or may not be true; I have my opinions on the subject, and you probably have yours.
But we don't need to settle that issue in order to find this book immensely valuable. The most solid evidence we have continues to confirm that we have a close genetic kinship with the other primates and that, biologically, we are best treated as primates ourselves. Whatever else may be true of us, this much is about as close as anything in science ever comes to fully established fact.
We can disagree about the precise mechanisms of evolution as much as we like; we can disagree about how much of our nature is really accounted for by this or that theory of evolution; but the one fact we can't get around on _any_ account is that as a matter of biology, we _are_ naked apes.
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