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How Sex Works

3.74  ·  Rating details ·  727 Ratings  ·  103 Reviews
“Read this book and discover sex again, but from a scientific perspective, and see why it evolved. It’s almost as much fun, and needs less energy.”
— Peter Macinnis, author of 100 Discoveries: The Greatest Breakthroughs in History

"How Sex Works manages to inject science writing with the prurient thrill of a gossip rag."
O magazine

Medical maverick and New York Times bests
Published April 28th 2009 by HarperAudio (first published January 1st 2009)
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Great book about sex. Moalem brings a nice balance to the discussion. Using a lot of traditional ideas about sex (e.g. sperm is plentiful and eggs are rarer) as well as more updated ideas (e.g. human males' large balls serve as refrigerators for sperm that are ready to compete), Moalem wrote the book about sex I have been searching for.

Usually books about sex involve what Gould calls "just so stories" in which evolutionary psych people go to extraordinary lengths to hold onto outdated ideas tha
How Sex Works takes us on a tour of sex – its biological costs and benefits, its anatomy, why we’re attracted to the people we’re attracted to, homosexuality, and the genetic disorders that result in ambiguously sexed individuals. Reading this was like being allowed to smell your favorite food – there’s just enough to tantalize you, but not enough to satisfy your interest/craving. Dr. Moalem’s narrative is easy to follow and very readable, but he just doesn’t delve into things. A lot of what he ...more
Aug 25, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
This is a well-written, interesting book. If you read science articles frequently, most of what you read is not new. I still ended up learning how female ejaculation is still a mystery to many doctors. Warning: while most of the book is not graphic, a couple passages gave me pause. I learned that while I am not a homophobe, homosexual duck necrophilia really, really grosses me out.
Lola White
Feb 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

كتاب يتحدث عن الجنس بطريقة علمية, اختلافات جنسية بين الذكر و الانثى, سبب انجذابنا لاشخاص معينين بفترات معينة, و هناك فصول تشرح عن الامراض الجنسية و طرق الوقاية منها.
اي شخص يقرأ كثيراً من المقالات العلمية سيجد كثيراً من المعلومات المألوفة, الكتاب بشكل عام مفيد و ممتع.
May 25, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting read. Sex, attraction, monogamy, puberty, etc. are all approached from a purely clinical and research based perspective.
Oct 29, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
An author can't go wrong, I'd guess, by including the word "sex" in his or her book's title. It helps if said author's bio mentions appearances on CNN and The Daily Show. It helps if some of the blurbs on the cover are by the authors of books whose own titles include The G Spot and The Technology of Orgasm.

Still and all, by the time you finish How Sex Works: Why We Look, Smell, Taste, Feel, and Act the Way We Do, you may be left wondering: what the heck kind of book did I just read?

Consider the
Nate C.
Aug 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent book summarizing our current understanding of sexual behavior, reproductive biology, among other things. Different chapters covered female orgasm (and ejaculation), birth control, and the connection between pheromones and the immune system. Although I'd learned many of these facts in previous classes, the author did a good job of both explaining and summarizing the research in an understandable fashion.
Aug 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Still don't get it.
C.D. Woods
Nov 24, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Generally Curious, Social Anthropology Enthusiast, Psychology - Chemistry - Biology Enthusiast
In one word: “fascinating”.
First of all, this book is not a text book but it could easily serve as a primer to any undergrad: Introduction to Evolutionary Human Sexuality.
Secondly, Dr Moalem is an accomplished MD, PhD, and award winning Neurogenetiscist who harbors an intense passion for his field of study; and this factor shines brilliantly in this creation.
And lastly, my personal opinion is: the author is truly a master of finding the subject’s marrow; stripping the clinical down to its most
Mar 25, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Okay, so I thought: should I post this title or shouldn't I?

I liked this book! I tend to be medically/scientifically-minded in my approach to things, so when I read this title, I knew it would be up my alley. Yes, the first chapter was a drag as he leaned heavily on evolution, but after I put that into context in my mind, I found his medical explanations for things very enlightening. I liked how he was tasteful in his commentary (Moalem has is PhD in something or other to do with the topic...I
May 20, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
I won this in a "First Reads" giveaway, and am so excited to dig into it soon!

So I finished this and I really enjoyed reading it! It definitely gave me quite a bit of food for thought.

Many topics related to human sexual activity and reproduction were covered here, and at times it felt unfocused. I think the biggest underlying theme related back to the evolutionary purpose of everything we do sexually, but that covered quite a bit of territory! I might have preferred this book if it were more nar
Megan Jones
This book was somewhat informative. It would have helped greatly to have diagrams to accompany some of the descriptions. As a woman trying to better understand my body on a scientific level, I would have loved to have something to look at while reading that could show me exactly where the parts he was discussing were located. After reading Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality , I would say these two book pair nicely together. Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sex ...more
Mar 06, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013
Who knew I was doing so many things wrong???

No, actually this isn't quite that sort of book. It's a scientific discussion of many different things related to sex, including the dispelling of many myths that I have heard (and sometimes believed) through my life. While much of the information was not entirely new to me, there were definitely things I had not known before, and even for the things that I did feel I knew, the confirmation of my information was nice. And I only occasionaly felt squeam
Jun 26, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
This is one of those occasions where I wish I could give half stars, because I really enjoyed the book more than 3 stars.

How Sex Works was a First Reads that delving into a foray that I don't typically read. If I was well versed in the science of sex, I may not have been as impressed. But I truly believe that it would be hard to make the subject boring and How Sex Works is definitely not that.

The book covers a range of facts and curiosities, starting with Health class basics and later hitting o
Sep 26, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
How could I not read a book with that sort of title? Much of the information was a repeat from other books I’ve read, but Moalem also covered a lot that I appreciated, such as a chapter on homosexuality. My main grudge with books like these is that they’re so focused on reproduction that they tend to ignore the fact that desire doesn’t necessarily always follow reproduction, even if we’re biologically hardwired to be a certain way. I just don’t buy all that stuff, and Moalem writes about studies ...more
Jose Luis
May 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ciencia
Buen libro para iniciarse en la ciencia de la sexualidad, ameno y entretendio y bien documentado.

Recoge los principales avances en los estudios sobre sexualidad humana de los últimos años. Una revisión de referencias constatan la consulta de la mayoría de trabajos en biología y medicina realizados sobre la evolución del sexo.

Empieza con un repaso a las cuestiones del volumen de los senos femeninos y del tamaño del pene. Continua con la neurobiología de la atracción, la elección de pareja y las
+ Sharon Moalem. How Sex Works: Why We Look, Smell, Taste, Feel and Act the Way We Do I give this one 4 stars. Moalem is a neurogeneticist whose writing about sex is almost as fun to read as the genuine article is itself! In nine chapters, he presents an evolutionary history of human sexuality that is engaging and written in an easily readable style. Some readers may think it too lightweight and lacking in depth. It is, undoubtedly, a work of summary, giving an overview of the latest thinkin ...more
Traci Nigon
It's like a sex-ed class for adults. Lots of info you'd probably already know, but also some really interesting fun facts for you to throw out at parties ("Hey, Steve, did you know that babies can lactate?"). Also, it felt kind of jumpy, and a few areas I would have found interesting were sort of glossed over, like the fact that in rare cases babies have developed entirely outside of the uterus and still been delivered (via C-section). As a woman who has never been pregnant, I would like to know ...more
Miriam Pia
Dec 22, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
OK, I liked this because it reviewed some of what I had learned as a kid in sex education - glad to be part of the comprehensive sex education through the school [health class, fyi] as well as through the church AYS [that's AYS & OWL if you happen to need a program] and The Joy of Sex etc..mixed together with stuff I actually didn't already know. Its nice to learn new stuff and the occasional review really does help prevent 'forgetting what we've learned'.

Now, please understand that I was a
Jun 26, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
So, I really enjoyed the first half of this book. While the author is no Malcolm Gladwell, he does a good job recounting the results of some very interesting recent studies. In particular, I found the sections on sexual orientation and attraction very interesting. Unfortunately, the second half of the book read a bit like the syllabus of a high school health teacher. There were still some interesting bits even in this section, but it wasn't nearly as interesting. Then again, if you haven't learn ...more
Apr 15, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'd give this book 3.5 stars if I could. I found it really enjoyable and interesting, but if you've read any of a number of other books on the topic, you've pretty much learned everything already. I mean, there's only so much you discuss in a book on sex. A whole chapter dedicated to the G spot just felt overwrought at this point. However, Dr. Moalem does have a way of taking complicated concepts and making them accessible to lay people. I really loved the chapter on the power of smell. I think ...more
As the two stars indicates, this book was ok. Probably my fault but I wanted something more pithy and up to date and got a 2009 book that is out of date. The author does quote recent studies but not enough and did not review the vast literature available on sex research. He really likes the idea of female ejaculation and tangled gender genetics but I really didnt learn anything new from the book. Reading it made me realize how often authors about human behavior invoke our millions of years as hu ...more
Nov 02, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A smart and seemingly credible book that didn't piss me off at all, surprisingly. Most interesting theory presented was: how being on hormonal birth control makes your body think you're pregnant which also changes your sense of smell to crave the pheromones that are similar to your own, as opposed to dissimilar when you're not pregnant, and therefore you could potentially end up with someone who under ordinary circumstances you wouldn't (and it kind of makes sense as one of my friends tried to g ...more
Jul 24, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Moalem takes the time to scientifically debunk a few myths; confirm a few others; and also leaves the reader room to pursue their own positions by presenting arguments on both sides of the discussion. The chapters and the content are all well organized and the material is accessible for the non science buff. Although I felt--a few times--the author's style reached for the lowest common denominator of comprehension; I think Natalie Angiers writing style is the standard to which I am comparing thi ...more
Jul 15, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I just read a book covering similar material (Bonk by Mary Roach), so unfortunately for me, there was a lot of overlap. This book was more of a serious, straightforward read than the other which tried to be more humorous. One of the sections that really jumped out at me was the one that looked at homosexuality, specifically if it is genetic or not. The author did a good job of putting complex or complicated concepts into plain English. Overall, I thought it was a good book but I would just warn ...more
Dec 18, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reference
This was an informative read, although much of the information would have been learned already in a high school Health class. There's an overview of contraception methods through history, and I appreciated the comparison of birth control pills. I found the section on the mechanics of sexual attraction and intercourse, how our senses come into play, the most interesting and I was looking for more of that when I picked up this book. An informative and educational read for anyone who wants an overv ...more
Wendy Hall
After having read extensively on this topic over the years, I figured it would be good to read about it from a scientific perspective rather than a social/emotional/spiritual view. This book didn't do it for me, though, as it is SO evolutionary -driven. It constantly explains sexual aspects only in the way that it relates to animals or in how it carries humans to a higher level in the evolutionary process. I was able to glean some interesting truths from it, but certainly wouldn't recommend it t ...more
May 23, 2014 marked it as want-to-want-to-read  ·  review of another edition
Reading the explicit title of this book gave me a 'first' among personal experiences. My immediate reaction was to wonder if it would be better for me not to have this knowledge, in case 'eating of the Tree of Knowledge' (of sex, in this case) would spoil something important. It poses an interesting dilemma for me, as I have always been thirsty for knowledge, understanding and wisdom. I wonder if I am starting to believe in magic or if I am simply getting lazy. For now, I'll simply enjoy the que ...more
Lee Leslie
An interesting book about the mostly unnoticed science that drive us physically, the history of those discoveries, and how our understanding of them has changed over time. I love big-picture science books (and sex), so this was a very pleasant way to spend some times (save for the a couple of chapters that deal rather frankly with the history of genital mutilation and sexually transmitted diseases).
I definitely learned things from this book, an overview of the science behind sex, and I feel like that's one of the main indicators of a popular science book. Learning, and also whether or not it was easy to read. For the most part, this was, even though I read it on a plane and then supremely jet-lagged. I generally prefer pop sci books with more of a narrative/more case studies, but the bite-sized facts of this one were good too.
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Sharon Moalem MD, PhD, is an award winning neurogeneticist and evolutionary biologist. His work brings evolution, genetics, biology and medicine together to explain how the body works in new and fascinating ways. As a college student he was given as a gift to the King of Thailand to work in an orphanage for HIV positive children. Since then Dr. Moalem went on to cofound a biotech company and devel ...more
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