Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers
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Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers

4.13 of 5 stars 4.13  ·  rating details  ·  2,547 ratings  ·  274 reviews
An Updated Guide To Stress, Stress Related Diseases, and Coping

This delightful, empowering book encourages readers to understand stress, to laugh about it, and then to bring it under control. 20 illustrations.
Perfect Paperback, 434 pages
Published April 15th 1998 by W. H. Freeman (first published 1993)
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John
Sep 21, 2007 John rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone
Shelves: non-fiction
I encountered a link to a speech by Sapolsky on Pharyngula, I think, and was immediately engaged by his speaking style. His books, or this one at least, is similarly easy to get into, and manages to discuss topics of fair complexity in an incredibly approachable way. He's clearly aware that his book might be read by a wide range of audiences, and strives to provide something for everyone. I'll definitely be working my way through the rest of his catalog.

The book is fascinating, too, although as...more
Punk
Non-Fiction. Twelve chapters on how stress is going to kill you, followed by six chapters on why stress is stressful, when it's not, and what we can do about it.

If you're a worrier, this may not be the book for you. I won't lie, it upset me in the beginning. There are so many ways that stress can affect your health, your memory, the way you age, how you deal with stressors, and even how your children deal with stressors. The book can become a source of stress itself, one that far outweighs the f...more
Chung Chin
This is a book packed full of information on how stress can cause our body to go haywire. You will find explanation for how stress affects your weight, sleep, and health in general.
Although there are still lots of jargon and terms in the book that you will find alien, the explanation is given in the most simple way possible, making it an accessible material in general.

However, after reading through all the chapters on how stress can wreak havoc to our body, you don't actually get a lot of materi...more
Ron
Sapolsky's primer on neuroendocrinology benefits greatly from a new edition in that the metaphors are more topical and a great deal of old theory has been validated by modern research, showing that psychological stress does indeed ultimately have a physiological component (organ stress due to wildly fluctuating hormone levels). The upshot is that we all need to find our own unique ways of coping with stress based on our personality types and numerous other factors in order to live long and healt...more
Nick Weeks
Well researched book. Sapolsky, who I am a big fan of, explains why certain types of stresses like long work days end up having more serious negative effects on your physiology than do other types of stress such as a lion chasing after you. Sure the lion stresses you out then and there but a week from now your bodily functions won't still be affected by it.

My one beef with this book is that it doesn't give you much in the way of how to handle stress. I felt somewhat more stressed after reading...more
Rosalía
Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. Mr. Sapolsky attacks a very scientific subject with wit and charm. If you're a biologist or anthropologist or like me, just a reader who's interested in finding out more about our bodies and about my disease, multiple sclerosis, you will greatly enjoy this book. I took it in chunks and that was probably the best thing to do but I do recommend it for anyone who's curious about how chronic stress affects the human body.
susan
This is hands down the best medical book I have ever read. In a series of memorable and highly amusing stories and anecdotes Sapolsky explains the complex biology behind why well known principles of psychology, religion, new age philosophy and even voodoo curses work.

The central story of the book is how the fight or flight response – the most powerful force that has shaped vertebrate evolution for hundreds of millions of years - is now being turned against modern humans through chronic stress a...more
Chris Herdt
This book is a good introduction to stress and its effects on physiology and psychology (Nicola's area of expertise). Although it is written for a lay audience, I often got the feeling it was written for a lay audience of primarily MDs.

By the end of the book, you will feel like you and epinephrine, norepinephrine, and glucocorticoids are all old friends--but in spite of the terminology, it is really an easy read and full of good humor and interesting anecdotes (e.g. hyenas are very peculiar).

Her...more
Terence
I like to throw a little nonfiction onto my night stand every now and then to help broaden my horizons and to learn a little more about new subject areas. And this was the perfect book for just that. The author writes in a lucid style infused with a sense of personal familiarty and playfulness that helps ameliorate some of the denser concepts. And though I didn't take notes as I was reading there is a little part of me that regrets that I didn't. Even so I come away from this with a much great a...more
Nick
A brilliantly written analysis of stress. The basics are simple and well understood, but Sapolsky gets into the details and they are fascinating. For example, if a child suffers extreme stress, he/she can simply stop growing. In a Victorian example, a family with two sons suffered the death of the older child from one of those dread Victorian diseases. The mother took to her bed and refused to recognize the younger son for the rest of her life, instead greeting him as the ghost of her dead son w...more
Bob Klein
Sapolsky is an amazing writer and Primate's Memoir ranks as one of my favorite books. That said, the title, cover, and prior experience with Primate's Memoir led me to have unrealistic expectations of this book. It is thorough and well-written, but approaches the topic of stress from a phsyiological perspective that doesn't spare any of the details. As such, it often calmed my stress by putting me to sleep. The subtitle's promise of a section on "coping" with stress didn't pan out, and amounted...more
Valerie
To summarize: Adrenaline is a DEATH drug. It's designed to keep you alive for the next 15 seconds, or to ease your death. As such, it's necessarily thriftless. If you can survive to the 16th second only by losing a limb, it's worthwhile to sacrifice the limb. Otherwise, it's wasteful and disabling.

Zebras don't get ulcers because they (mostly) only release stress hormones 'in the event of an actual emergency'. Humans deliberately evoke stress on an everyday basis, and the reckless decisions the b...more
Katie
This is a pretty good book on stress, in animals as well as humans. I like his scientific style (though as with most academics, his prose style could be improved). He has a straight-forward way of presenting complex information without dumbing it down too much (I've been comparing it to an actual endocrinology textbook).
The end of the book also provides a much-needed element of perspective on what it really means to be poor in America, discussing why universal health care won't make a huge diff...more
Carol
I became a fan of Sapolsky when I discovered his lectures on youtube. He is a very careful and thourough scientist and at the same time funny and able to make links between a wide range of fields. For me the first 12 chapters of the book were more detailed than I needed, it was easier to take in his Standford University lectures than to follow the written word. Chapter 13 on are topics that he didn't cover so much in his Standford class, and were the most interesting to me. The first 12 chapters...more
kyle
First off, Sapolsky is a delightful writer. For a rather depressing book on all the scientifically understood harmful effects of stress, this book is often laugh out loud funny. But beyond that, Sapolsky is brilliant. He makes complex topics seem simple, but doesn't simplify to the point of losing the complexity. Quite a feat. If you are ever curious about examining what stress really is, and what effect it has on your body, this book is a must-read (especially useful I think for yoga teachers).
Tyler
Let's be clear this is not light-reading. It is funny fairly often but it is long and fairly tough going. This is not because the author is a bad writer, he is a great writer. I wouldn't want to read this by any other author. This is not a medical textbook but this is not your normal pop-science book. You will learn a ton about your body and how it functions. I still need to re-read the chapters explaining immune system functioning, heart disease and a few others to really get those.
Charles Gallagher
In Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers, acclaimed biologist Robert Sapolsky combines humor and science to deliver fascinating information about stress and the many diseases caused by stress.
As far as nonfiction goes, this was the most entertaining and informative book I have read. This book would be great for anyone interested in learning the science behind stress and it's effects on the body while enjoying themselves.
Jahed
Should be compulsory reading for every high school biology student. A thorough dismantling of the reductionist cell biology mindset of the 20th century, Sapolsky shows you how very complex and intricate the interaction is between organism and environment, and how 'genes' may be overrated in a lot of ways.
Ken
Most of the book describes the physiology of what happens in your body, under stress, and explanations as to why it happens. It is a whole catalog of all the different kinds of stressors and how it can be downward spiral, if not kept in check. Suggestions as to what to do to keep stress in check come near the end, and aren't really that new. Exercise, meditate, use healthy outlets for frustration and find social support. His examples of what stress does to a person come from scientific research...more
Astrid
Most scientific books are dry and overly technical. Not so with Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers. This book is laugh-out-loud funny.
Jenny
Enlightening and full of humor. Complex pathways of stress mechanisms are untangled and presented in a simple yet captivating way.
Layla
Aug 28, 2008 Layla rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in stress
Shelves: neuroscience
This book is beautifully written and very informative. Sapolsky is one of the greatest science writers of our time.
Melissa Hefferlin
I discovered this scientist on a National Geographic film about stress, Silent Killer or something like that. The film I highly recommend. So I sought out the books on the topic. For me, the material is a few clicks higher on the scientifically-detailed chart that I enjoy for recreational reading, but it is an excellent book. I enjoyed it in small chunks. It is highly informative, and displays the author's passion for the research. The effects of stress are truly fascinating, and current knowled...more
Stephen
Let's start with the title. Why don't zebras get ulcers? The answer is that zebras don't sweat the small stuff. When a lion comes to attack a zebra, its body stresses out to the max...salivary glands stop working (you don't need them), food processing and waste control shuts down (again, not required) and all bodily functions are maxed out to assist in one thing: Run like the wind. We humans possess the same capacity. Should you ever find yourself hunted by a lion, your body will probably react...more
Stephanie
This was my text for my Health Psychology class. The only complaint I have about this book is that sometimes it is hard to follow because there are no bolded words or explanations on the side, like ANY other book relating to science would have.
But it is very funny, very interesting, very well-researched, and very thought-provoking. Sapolsky has a way of explaining complicated concepts in an approachable way. You will learn how to be aware of, be knowledgable about, and better attack the stress i...more
Steven Vandenburg
Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers explores stress and the physiological, psychological, and societal causes and implications of stress. Sapolsky paints a bleak picture of the impact of stress on the unborn and the young. Sapolsky suggests several methods for minimizing stress including such as: having outlets for frustration, a strong social support system, some degree of predictability, a flexible locus of control, and your perception of your place in your perceived hierarchy. Other factors Sapolsky...more
Meg
Everyone should read this book! A highly readable (and very funny) exploration of how stress affects human health. The book is a little long (as it covers a lot of ground) but it reads quickly, and the science descriptions were extremely lucid and easy to follow. I appreciated that the author repeated frequently that the mind-body connection can never be reduced to either "It's all genes" or "It's all in your mind", and refused to buy into either extreme. I felt he had a very sane approach to th...more
Theresa Truax-Gischler
I read this book several years ago, and still go back to it periodically. If you ever thought that stress was not a killer, that we are not heavily influenced by our environment and by our responses to it, think again and read this book. Sapolsky’s meticulously detailed research and literature survey on stress is a lovely biology science background to implementing Acceptance and Commitment Therapy approaches to your own life.

The structure of our brain, our metabolism, our hormones, our immune s...more
Erin
Aug 10, 2011 Erin rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to Erin by: PZ Myers
Shelves: non-fiction, science
Robert Sapolsky is one of my favorite science writers. I generally find his work engaging, informative, and conversational, and “Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers” is no exception. This book is dense! It is jam packed with information on how your body reacts to and copes with stress. By the end of it, I found my self wondering if there was anything that glucocorticoids couldn't screw up. Though parts of it did drag a bit (for me), on the whole I found the chapters in this book to be interesting and fu...more
Jeremy
Right, I finished it maybe a month and a half ago, and never got around to writing a review. I'm going to correct that since this book deserves one.

The book starts out describing what stress is. In a nutshell, the body's stress-reponse is what the body does when there is a physical emergency (a lion, for the zebra). In this context the stress-response makes sense. Repairing damage, fighting diseases, digesting food, all of that can wait until the lion is no longer a threat. Then the response can...more
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Robert Maurice Sapolsky is the John A. and Cynthia Fry Gunn Professor of Biological Sciences, and Professor of Neurology and Neurological Sciences, and by courtesy, Neurosurgery, at Stanford University.
More about Robert M. Sapolsky...
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