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Monkeyluv: And Other Essays on Our Lives as Animals

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  1,028 Ratings  ·  107 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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Jan 14, 2013 rated it it was ok
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.
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
Javier Maldonado
Nov 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Tremendo, Sapolsky. Cuando grande quiero ser como tú.
Todd Martin
Jul 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
May 23, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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.
Dec 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A wonderfully readable collection of essays on a wide range of topics, from genetics to physiology to society and civilization.
Oct 26, 2015 rated it it was ok
Way meh.
Adrian Sergiusz
Aug 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Sapolsky in his masterclass educational, entertaining and eye opening way steps back and observes all the weird peculiarities of human behaviour as a scientist and integrates that with his observation of our various cultural practices around the world. In a collection of various essays, he muses about interesting aspects of evolution and it's effect on us as animals. He very excellently observes the importance of understanding what genes are and are not and how they impact the nature of our beha ...more
Dec 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
What was most enjoyable about this book was Sapolsky’s informal and friendly writing style. The essays in the book go into just the right amount of biology and technical information without making the topic seem dry or boring. The book covers a very wide range of topics covering human behaviours, traits, evolution, biology, psychology and many other fields of science to explain what makes humans so quirky. It was a surprisingly fun read and I chuckled out loud quite a few times.
Zimran Ahmed
Jul 22, 2017 rated it liked it
Hiina Shiota
Jul 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I think that this book was very unique. I liked the way how each of the essays were all organized very well, and how they all talked about the people and animals within these essays. The essays were very clear and understandable as well. I thought that by reading this book, I get to know how animals are related to humans, and why they are acting the same way as humans. Also, by reading these essays, I get to learn more about the animals, and their own actions, such as why they do these actions i ...more
Erma Talamante
Mar 03, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: edx, 2015, nonfiction
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
Sandy D.
Oct 15, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
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
Mar 01, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: reviewed
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
Jan 08, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Dec 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Robert Raymond
Feb 12, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Dec 07, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Dec 14, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: kindle-ebooks
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
Apr 24, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Oct 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
Fantastic book that is a collection of articles done by Stanford neuroscientist/surgeon/professor. He writes with humor about nature vs. nurture, our relationships defined by science, and whatnot. But what I love is his writing. Though the thought of reading about science (dna, pysychology, etc) can be intimidating, he writes so that any layman can understand and form personal opinions. Matt and I read this together (me reading aloud), and each time that we stopped, our conversations continued o ...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
Mar 06, 2010 rated it liked it
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
Nov 24, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Jun 23, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Marik Casmon
Jun 07, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Bruce Sanders
Nov 30, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Jul 10, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
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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. 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
More about Robert M. Sapolsky...
“El problema no era su trabajo, que me parecía magnífico, sino su gusto musical. (...) Del walkman salía a todo volumen una música horrenda de cualquiera de esos grupos que los veinteañeros suelen escuchar. Mientras que pudiera probarse científicamente que su música era inferior a lo que escuchábamos los de mi generación, todo estaba bien (...) Sonic Youth durante horas, y, de repente, el Beethoven tardío. Después, Grand Ole Opry, catos gregrorianos, Shostakovich, John Coltrane. (...) Estaba dedicándose a gastarse los primeros cheques de su vida en una exploración metódica de nuevos tipos de música, escuchándolos con atención, formándose distintas opiniones sobre ellos, odiando algunos y disfrutando de todo el proceso.

Era así en todos los demás aspectos de su vida. Tenía barba y pelo medio largo, y un día sin ningún miramiento, se lo afeitó todo y apareció calvo: "Pensé que sería interesante probar este aspecto algún tiempo, ver si la forma en la que la gente interactúa conmigo cambia". Era irritante lo abierto que estaba a todo y lo dispuesto a probar cualquier novedad; además, era deprimente porque me hacía darme cuenta de mi propia cerrazón mental.”
“¿Cómo he llegado a esto? ¿Cuándo se volvió tan importante para mí el hecho de pisar terreno sólido y familiar? ¿Cómo he llegado a convertirme en uno de esos tipos que compran antologías tipo "lo mejor de" que anuncia en la televisión a altas horas de la noche?” 0 likes
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