Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Trouble with Testosterone and Other Essays on the Biology of the Human Predicament” as Want to Read:
The Trouble with Testosterone and Other Essays on the Biology of the Human Predicament
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Trouble with Testosterone and Other Essays on the Biology of the Human Predicament

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  1,306 ratings  ·  99 reviews
As a professor of biology and neuroscience at Stanford and a recipient of a MacArthur Foundation "genius grant," Robert Sapolsky carries impressive credentials. Best of all, he's a gifted writer who possesses a delightfully devilish sense of humor. In these essays, which range widely but mostly focus on the relationships between biology and human behavior, hard and intrica ...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published April 24th 1998 by Scribner (first published 1997)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

Popular Answered Questions
Michael Which topic? Have you read the book? Science has plenty to say, and many details have been added, but this book isn't a litany of scientific findings.…moreWhich topic? Have you read the book? Science has plenty to say, and many details have been added, but this book isn't a litany of scientific findings. It's structured around first-person narratives and a general synthesis of science and everyday life.(less)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.12  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,306 ratings  ·  99 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The Trouble with Testosterone and Other Essays on the Biology of the Human Predicament
Sep 29, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: misc-non-fic
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
Elizabeth Atwood
May 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing
WOW! Dr. Sapolsky did not disappoint...he definitely has a spot on my top five favorite authors of all time. Not only are his stories eloquent and humorous, they are packed with facts and loads of interesting information on the brain, behavior, biology, environment, emotion, and his personal anecdotes sprinkled in here and there. And they can be understood by pretty much anyone who can read. Among my favorite essays in this book is "How big is yours", which explains the plight of individuals lik ...more
Steve Loh
Aug 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Some of the finest essays I've read. On par with David Foster Wallace with the difference that it is applied to biology.
Todd Martin
May 18, 2015 rated it liked it
The Trouble with Testosterone is a collection of essays on the subject of biology by Robert M. Sapolsky a professor at Stanford University. More specifically Sapolsky examines some of the ways in which our biology influences behavior … topics such as: the influence of testosterone on aggression, the onset of puberty and an animal’s position in the social hierarchy, the evolutionary advantages of risk taking, the effects of stress on hormone concentrations in the body, the effects of a Westernize ...more
Nov 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: learners
Fantastic writing and believable science-based articles about human physiology and about animals used to infer human physiology.
Sep 26, 2014 rated it really liked it
I want so badly to write like Sapolsky. Academic and casual. Fact-based and personally reflective. Smart and witty but not pompous.
He is a gem of a science communicator.
Sylvia So
Sep 14, 2019 rated it liked it
As someone with no background in science whatsoever, I found this book at times difficult to read. There were essays that were fantastic, and others that were written a bit too pompously for my liking. I like when things are accessible, and at times this didn't feel so. I enjoyed reading something outside my comfort zone for once but it's not a book I would recommend to others like myself.
Kirina Van Der Bijl
May 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
I just love learning about behaviour. And I love everything about Sapolsky's writing style. There were some repeated stories that also appeared in his other books so I skimmed over those. But, there was less repetition than I expected.
Sayeeda Pearl
Oct 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
Author:Robert Sapolsky, renowned neruroendocrninolgist/ anthropologist
Genere :Science non- fiction
Collection of interesting scientific essays written with the insight of a learned behavioural biologist,explaining the fine inter play between the nut and bolts of neurochemistry,genetics and environment in moulding the behaviour which makes one a healthy individual or otherwise with our potential and constraints.
In Measures of life we get a glimpse how emergence of firing squads and injecting le
Jenny Preston
Nov 01, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfic
I found this collection of essays about the world and the human experience to be mostly interesting, if slightly disjointed. It is a collection - there isn't one unifying thought that ties the whole book together. The writing style is only ok due to some jumpiness and the other's clearly high opinion of himself. But mixed into that I found some fascinating stories, such as the culture of the apes he studied in South Africa and how they relate to human culture.

My worldview is about as opposite as
Qamar A Ghani
Dec 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
It is a masterpiece. I liked most of all the Third of March. I alwayes asked my self what is the wrong with the soldiers, why they are impulsive , why humans kill eachother?. It is really awesome. Moreover , There is a huge argument about the Theory of Father abscence. At some point i am into it , but on the other hand, it is a satistical conclusion.
Jul 19, 2007 rated it really liked it
a wonderful book of essays on biology and human nature. the last chapter, on ocd and religion, was extraordinarily interesting.
Ben Smitthimedhin
Oct 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
"Being healthy, it has been said, really consists of having the same disease as everyone else."

Robert M. Sapolsky's The Trouble with Testosterone wrestles with the question of what makes humans who/what they are; where is the line which distinguishes who a person is from his biology? Are we just a product of different chemical reactions? Can we really be held responsible for the crimes we commit from a biological standpoint? What if all the traits we thought were only personal to us are "nothing
May 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
4.2 stars. Some great insights in here. Among the different topics discussed in these essays:

- The moral dilemma of choosing to attribute negative behavior to genetics and "nature".
- The effects of our environment on the onset of puberty
- How and why monkeys change tribes once they've grown.
- On how males and females (in general) view friendships throughout the years, and why old monkeys go through the harsh process of changing tribes.
- Why some diseases/disorders like schizophrenia survive thro
Feb 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Sapolsky had me with this gem of an introduction: "We all have encountered Reinhold Niebuhr's serenity prayer at some point: 'God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.' Behavioral biology is often the scientific pursuit of that prayer. Which of our less commendable ways of behaving, asks the behavioral biologist, can we hope to change (and how) and which are we stuck with? Asked in a harsher way-- as ou ...more
Dec 04, 2017 rated it liked it
A thought-provoking read; it would be good to have strong evidence to back up the links that he makes, particularly when making a jump from animal to human behavior based simply on similar neurobiology. Additionally, it seems that much of his assumptions are largely rooted in Western constructions of normality, with little consideration for non-Western behaviors. Ultimately, I found this book to contain much to make me think, and little to make me believe, despite the given facts. Perhaps that i ...more
Ben Zimmerman
Sep 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
The essays in The Trouble with Testosterone are a delight to read. Sapolsky deftly translates a lot of his primate research to much deeper topics about morality and society. Are humans special? How do we define responsibility? What do we owe to each other and world? Sapolsky is clear that science doesn’t answer the questions he is highlighting – in fact, a lot of the moral problems that we wrestle with in the book are caused by scientific discovery, not resolved by it.
Mary Newcomer
Jan 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
Mr. Sapolsky is one of my favorite professors. I watched one series of his lectures at Stanford on Youtube and learned so much. I have a literary background, but he explains everything so clearly
and in such an engaging manner. He's so much fun to read!
He has changed my viewpoint on so many subjects and I can only thank him for clarifying so many
misconceptions. As you can see, I highly recommend this book to all.
You will learn a lot.
Miri Niedrauer
Jun 14, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: science
Most of the essays in this book represent barely-coherent ramblings with occasionally mildly interesting facts about biology and human/animal tendencies. Although a scientist by profession, his writing does not come off scientifically-based at all. Additionally, it is nearly impossible to even deduce what subject the author is rambling about for much of the beginning of each chapter, leading to a difficult and confusing read.
Aug 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Bravo! Robert Sapolsky and neurobiology (/neuroscience) is a goddamned gift to humanity - like the methaphorical apple from the three of knowledge in Garden of Eden.

I can't wait for the future to unravel more psycho stuff from the studies of brain biology - I'm very optimistic that we can find out some long awaited secrets and treatments of mental illnesses in the years ahead.
Jan 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great book

I have read Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers as well and again Saplosky writes amazing science I did feel like a couple things were repeated but everything was more in depth really good read
Tien Manh
May 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Excellent collection of essays on...biology of the human predicament (as the title suggests). Schizophrenia, dementia, violence, stress, fear of death, aging, "zoopharmacognosy"...

Some philosophy involved.
Jun 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Read in college. Junk Food Monkeys was very interesting.
Brad Hayes
Nov 30, 2017 rated it liked it
Although Sapolsky is responsible for one of my all-time favorite works of nonfiction ("A Primate's Memoir," 2001), this earlier anthology was hit-or-miss for me.
Marta Kazic
Mar 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biology
beautifully written, clear and concise, quite challenging concepts when considered on a global social/ethical scale.
Saul Nonato
Dec 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
my favorite book is really fantastic
May 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Extremely interesting with clear writing and big ideas. Contrarian, sensational and unorthodox views and facts about our bodies and society at play here - Highly recommended.
Peter Banachowski
Jun 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
One of the funniest and most thoughtful writers to breathe life into nonfiction work

I recommend everything he writes
Pranky reads
Aug 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: life-skills
I enjoyed in the beginning then it becomes repetitive and then slowly I lost interest somehow, though it's a good book
Jeffrey Diritto
Nov 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Funny but intellectually stimulating. Dr. Sapolsky has a way with words.
« previous 1 3 4 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Paltroxt Reviews 1 1 Nov 22, 2018 11:49PM  
Zuratex: Improvements Testosterone Powers 1 1 May 01, 2018 11:36PM  
Give Attention To Eating Carbohydrates That Are Full Of Fiber: vegetables 1 2 Nov 04, 2016 10:29PM  
Book review 1 7 May 11, 2013 01:05PM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • Yes to Life: In Spite of Everything
  • Tegen verkiezingen
  • Quantum Computing Since Democritus
  • Reconcilable Differences
  • Quick Reference to Critical Care
  • I Prayed for You
  • Plumb's Veterinary Drug Handbook: Pocket
  • SUMMARY: The Body Keeps The Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma: By Bessel van der Kolk | The MW Summary Guide
  • The Singularity is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology
  • The Good Soldier Švejk
  • Bella Germania
  • 18 Tiny Deaths: The Untold Story of Frances Glessner Lee and the Invention of Modern Forensics
  • Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life
  • The Mystery of the Exploding Teeth and Other Curiosities from the History of Medicine
  • Możesz odejść bo cię kocham. O śmierci, pożegnaniach i nowym życiu
  • Good Economics for Hard Times: Better Answers to Our Biggest Problems
  • The Bonobo and the Atheist: In Search of Humanism Among the Primates
  • Mama's Last Hug: Animal Emotions and What They Tell Us about Ourselves
See similar books…
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. In addition, he is a research associate at the National Museums of Kenya.

Sapolsky has received numerous honors and awards for his work, including the prestigious MacArthur Fellowship genius grant i

Related Articles

For more than a decade, Neil deGrasse Tyson, the world-renowned astrophysicist and host of the popular radio and Emmy-nominated...
74 likes · 13 comments
“I am not worried if scientists go and explain everything. This is for a very simple reason: an impala sprinting across the Savannah can be reduced to biomechanics, and Bach can be reduced to counterpoint, yet that does not decrease one iota our ability to shiver as we experience impalas leaping or Bach thundering. We can only gain and grow with each discovery that there is structure underlying the most accessible levels of things that fill us with awe.

But there is an even stronger reason why I am not afraid that scientists will inadvertently go and explain everything--it will never happen. While in certain realms, it may prove to be the case that science can explain anything, it will never explain everything. As should be obvious after all these pages, as part of the scientific process, for every question answered, a dozen newer ones are generated. And they are usually far more puzzling, more challenging than than the prior problems. This was stated wonderfully in a quote by a geneticist named Haldane earlier in the century: "Life is not only stranger than we imagine, it is stranger than we can imagine." We will never have our flames extinguished by knowledge. The purpose of science is not to cure us of our sense of mystery and wonder, but to constantly reinvent and reinvigorate it.”
“Part of the reason for the evolutionary success of primates, human or otherwise, is that we are a pretty smart collection of animals. What’s more, our thumbs work in particularly fancy and advantageous ways, and we’re more flexible about food than most. But our primate essence is more than just abstract reasoning, dexterous thumbs, and omnivorous diets. Another key to our success must have something to do with this voluntary transfer process, this primate legacy of feeling an itch around adolescence.” 2 likes
More quotes…