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Monkeyluv: And Other Essays on Our Lives as Animals

4.11 of 5 stars 4.11  ·  rating details  ·  797 ratings  ·  90 reviews
How do imperceptibly small differences in the environment change one's behavior? What is the anatomy of a bad mood? Does stress shrink our brains? What does People magazine's list of America's "50 Most Beautiful People" teach us about nature and nurture? What makes one organism sexy to another? What makes one orgasm different from another? Who will be the winner in the gen ...more
Paperback, 209 pages
Published October 10th 2006 by Scribner (first published August 19th 2005)
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The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca SklootThe Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales by Oliver SacksOutliers by Malcolm GladwellMusicophilia by Oliver SacksThe Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell
Radiolab Suggested Readings
41st out of 179 books — 186 voters
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca SklootMusicophilia by Oliver SacksA Primate's Memoir by Robert M. SapolskyBrain Bugs by Dean BuonomanoThinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
Radiolab Bookshelf
34th out of 95 books — 14 voters

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Community Reviews

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After reading the first couple of essays, I was disappointed; I thought it would be more information-heavy, educational, with fewer jokes about how "I'm a scientist, pop culture is weird to me".

I love RS's lectures online. He's obviously brilliant and entertaining, I just wish he had packed more about neurology, neurochemistry, etc. in this piece.
Todd Martin
Monkeyluv is a collection of essays (previously published elsewhere) grouped around 3 broad themes:

Genes and their influence on behavior.
This is the old nature/nurture debate. Are we the way we are because of our genes or the environment in which we are raised? Scientists figured out some time ago that it’s a combination of both, but identifying the source of specific behaviors is complicated.

Our body’s influence on behavior.
It should come as no surprise (except perhaps to extreme mind/body du
E.  Talamante
I love reading science essays. No really, I do! And I really enjoy when the essay is written well. A little humor on the subject goes a long way here, too.

Sapolsky knows his topics. As he states in his footnotes to "Bugs in the Brain", he will "get crazed about some topic, read endlessly on it," and "eventually write something, getting it out of my system, thereby freeing me to fixate on a next topic." He does his research. And how!

Each essay is a mini-study on a different topic, although some
I discovered Monkeyluv while listening to Radiolab on NPR while driving in the car. There was a hysterically funny interview with author Sapolsky explaining the physical differences that men and women experience when arguing. I had to pull over and write down Sapolsky’s name and the name of the book. When I got home, I found Radiolab and listened to the entire program (Season 2 / Episode 4 - also highly recommended). In the interview and in the book, Sapolsky talks about the differences between ...more
One of the best science writers out there! I found myself chuckling out loud about things like parasitic bacteria. Dr. Sapolsky is great at bringing biology down to earth as well as warding us away from stereotypical ideas that can develop from popular coverage. With his cleverness and cynical humor, he doesn't have to resort to hype to make his topics interesting.
A wonderfully readable collection of essays on a wide range of topics, from genetics to physiology to society and civilization.
Robert Sapolsky is not your average nerdy neurobiologist. He is a nerdy neurobiologist with an insatiable curiosity and a quirky sense of humor. If you aren't interested in science, skip this book. But if you're the cat curiosity nearly killed, this might be the book for you. Sapolsky enlightens while debunking some of our most dearly held beliefs about how we think, socialize, and exist. We are dumber than rabies and Toxoplasma gondii, as reproductively competitive as fruit flies, and not mere ...more
Sandy D.
This was a fantastic, educational, funny, well-written book. Sapolsky is a neurolbiologist at Stanford who studies stress hormones and their effect on health. He does field work with baboons in east Africa.

In this collection of essays, originally written for magazines like Natural History, Discover, and Men's Health, he writes about our genes and how they interact with our environment. He explains things like why people who think nature always trumps nuture are wrong (or don't know how genes wor
3.5 stars.

A collection of essays (18 total) which were published in magazines like Discover, Natural History, The Sciences, etc. by Robert Sapolsky, a biologist at Stanford. The book is divided into three parts: Genes and Who We Are, Our Bodies and Who We Are, and Society and Who We Are, with each having 6 essays. I found the first section just okay (a bit too basic I think) but enjoyed the second and third sections more. Given the broad range of topics—everything from genetic differences betwee
I love this guy (see my review for A Primate's Memoir). And by far the best thing about this book is the insight into theoretical science based in biology: he'll provide a correlation between X and Y, provide strong evidence for causation from X to Y, then step back and provide evidence for causation from Y to X, then evidence for a non-causal correlation, and then he'll finally discuss experiments that have turned everything on its head and argued that Z causes X and Y.

However, the majority of
This is another great book of what nature via nurture really means, driving many coffin nails through genetic determinism, including practitioners of Pop Evolutionary Psychology (with capital letters, as a philosophical mindset) who remain more genetic determinists than they let on while claiming to preach "nature via nurture."

Sapolsky is the real deal on "nature via nurture" - indeed, it should be noted that, with the exception of a totally genetically determined thing like Huntington's disease
Jan 08, 2011 Robert rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2011
I found this collection of essays on neurobilogy and primatology to range from great to merely OK; I enjoyed them all, a breezy read,. What will I want to remember?

The essay on corpses -- why is it that we will go to great lengths to retrieve a body from a sunken ship if it sunk recently enough, but would consider it desecration to pull up the skeletons from the Titanic? And some day I want to find out more about those 20,000 noses that the Japenese sliced off of Koreans in 1597.

The essay on di
I loved A Primate's Memoir: A Neuroscientist's Unconventional Life Among the Baboons, so I was really looking forward to this. And I was disappointed. Not as engaging, not as charming.
Robert Raymond
Sapolsky is a great science 'popularizer'. Way more witty than Dawkins--of the same caliber as Gould, perhaps. This book is basically a collection of articles published over the last few years in various popular magazines, but they are all tied together. Sapolsky discusses lots of wide ranging and interesting topics and relates them all to gene-environment interactions. I guess the take-away message of this book is that genes are hardly the determinant factors of our behavior and morphology that ...more
Monkeyluv was an enjoyable collection of essays on evolution, society, biology, psychology, a slew of other -ologys & how try all come together to help give us a better understanding of ourselves. It was an enjoyable read on some extremely fascinating topics. That point leads me to the books largest deficiency: some of the essays are too short. The author did put notes after each essay to expand on the topic & suggest further reading; but sometimes he didn't cover everything I wanted to ...more
This is a book of essays that have been published elsewhere previously. Sapolsky reminds me of a top. He gets wound up and then it's just fun to watch his mind go. In this book Sapolsky takes a series of subjects and explores them mostly through relatively popular science sources. He then draws conclusions that feel relevant to how we live our lives and think about the world. The one complaint I have is that the topics don't feel obscure enough to me. Perhaps because of my background I'd at hear ...more
Marik Casmon
This book, which I got for a buck at Maui Friends of the Library, is a group of essays about the intersection of genetics and sociology, addressing the debate between those who think nature is more important in developing human character and those who think nurture is the boss.

When I read science books, I usually choose physics, so this book, essentially biology, is something new for me. I recommend it very highly, as the essays are well-written and clear. More important, they're funny. Sapolsky
A biologist explores questions like "Why are dreams dreamlike?" and "How come most senior citizens aren't avid fans of Rage Against the Machine?" (The answer to the second one is that, for most of us, the music that was popular when we were about 20 is the music we prefer to listen to for the rest of our lives.)

Tucked away in an endnote is something that I thought was the most interesting part of the book. I knew that the first cloned sheep was named Dolly, but I didn't know that she was sickly
I read this book of essays for my bookclub. I'll add more thoughts after tomorrow's discussion.

My bookclub discussed this title last month. Overall members enjoyed Sapolsky's humorous, informal writing style. His essays discuss a variety of topics ranging from the very lighthearted (People Magazine's 50 Most Beautiful People) to the most serious (Munchausen by Proxy syndrome, a horrible phenomenon in which parents harm otherwise healthy children in order to receive medical and em
Jul 19, 2007 Calafia rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Neuroscience geeks, people who enjoy a little humor with their science
Any book that starts out by describing Britney Spears as "neurobiology's greatest teaching tool for demonstrating that the frontal cortex of the brain does not fully come online until around age thirty" is a-ok with me. From there, RS gets funny.

If you're into brain chemistry or enjoy primates, you should love RS. I loved this book, it brought back my old neuroscience classes and added to what I had learned in them. And of course, it reinforced things I encounter in everyday experiences with bot
Dr. Sapolsky's incisive essays suggest a Chuck Klosterman with a Ph.d in neurobiology. Both writers are masters of the ten-page essay, and their concerns--how the big questions of Human Existence (like, religion) are surprisingly refracted in and by the quotidian details of human existence (like, foraging and hunting)--are strikingly similar. Each has a penchant for taking an unexpected analytical tool--say, the film Road House or Munchausen's by Proxy (Road House would be Klosterman, MBP Sapols ...more
Man Ching
I really liked this book. Sapolsky writes well in a breezy, conversational style that's suited for discussing science with laymen. He makes an effort to expand on scientific findings; rather than focusing on the punchline, he does discuss the methods as well. Not only that, he even brings up contrary findings and dutifully cites the literature in his notes section. I find that it quite a talent to distill rather nuanced and involved details into easily digestible bits. At the same time, the comp ...more
I enjoyed reading this book quite a bit. It is a sharp and entertaining read that summarizes the current thinking about several aspects of human (and primate) behaviour. He does meander, and while this is no rigorous treatment of the subject (and neither is it meant to be) he makes it a point to quote his sources and gives you an extensive to-read-more list at the end of each chapter. If you've watched videos of Sapolsky's Stanford lectures you'll realize that he seems to write pretty much the s ...more
I loved this book! Sapolsky is able to effectively filter and translate scientific findings and publications into a language everyone can understand and even enjoy. And if the reader's curiosity is sufficiently sparked, Sapolsky also kindly provides references at the end of each essay for further exploration on the various subjects.

His style of writing is not only engaging but personal. Often ideas presented in the book are related to his own experiences and perceptions, and he is not above occa
I think I have a little bit of a crush on Robert Sapolsky. Which is kinda weird, considering he's a wild-haired field biologist approximately my dad's age. It's not mating kinda thing, he just makes me laugh so much, and is so smart, it's ridiculous. This collection of articles from mostly pop-science mags is fascinating, entertaining and rapidly consumable. (I ate them mostly on airplanes, etc. when going to visit my mom in San Diego for four days.) Oh, for content - they are mostly about the b ...more
Bruce Sanders
Robert Sapolsky is one of the best natural science essayists around. This work does not disappoint. In the first section he does an outstanding job of addressing the nature vs. nurture controversy. He puts to rest the simplistic misunderstandings most people have with regards to this issue. These were my favorite essays in the book, but all of them were informative and written in a readable style. Sapolsky has a fine sense of humor too. You'll come away from this book understanding the world a l ...more
This book is an annotated collection of essays that have been previously published. Sapolsky touches on a variety of aspects of the Human Condition--moods, sexuality, genetics, death, food preferences, and genetics. Several of his essays deal with the "nature vs nurture" part of genetics and I found it very interesting.
While you may not agree with everything he writes, his writing is lively, entertaining, and informative, and more than once you'll come away seeing things in a way you've never th
noisy penguin
I grabbed it because I thought the cover was cute. I had no idea it was science essays until I looked at it again. It was actually really interesting. I'm sure he over-generalizes some concepts to make them more accessible to the masses, but I'm okay with that. It's a pop science book for general reading, if I wanted super detailed technical information, I'd go to a textbook or a science journal or something. He does a good job of relating theories to real-world scenarios. And his self-deprecati ...more
Sep 08, 2007 Schottsy rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone who likes to understand how things work
From wondering about why we prefer the anticipation of reward more than the reward itself and as well as the biochemical underpinnings of our most basic interactions and emotions. A great read. Also helps clarify that pesky nature/nurture conundrum

Favorite point: The vast (prefrontal) cortex creates symphonies an calculus and philosophy, while the atypically numerous interconnections between the brain and limbic system allow for that dreadful human attribute, the ability to think oneself into de
This was another essay compilation book by my favorite scientist author. I think this one (especially in the first several essays) was much more scientific than his other essay compilation book. I can't say I liked this one more or less than the other, but some of the essays were really great. I especially liked the one on Munchausen's by proxy since that illness really interests me.

I recommend to anyone who is interested in genetics, or human nature from a brain point of view!
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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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