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Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers

4.18  ·  Rating details ·  9,683 ratings  ·  846 reviews
Now in a third edition, Robert M. Sapolsky's acclaimed and successful Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers features new chapters on how stress affects sleep and addiction, as well as new insights into anxiety and personality disorder and the impact of spirituality on managing stress.

As Sapolsky explains, most of us do not lie awake at night worrying about whether we have leprosy or
Paperback, Third Edition, 560 pages
Published September 15th 2004 by Holt Paperbacks (first published 1993)
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Always Pouting
Jun 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I just really love Robert Sapolsky. I was familiar with a lot of stuff covered in the book but I still really enjoyed reading through it. Personally feel like he's a very good science communicator and makes things digestible in a way that's accessible for everyone without really losing much of the nuance. I really don't know what else to write, usually when I write long reviews its because I have a lot of pent up irritation to vent but when I love things I'm just like guys this is good totally w ...more
Jun 10, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science, non-fiction
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
Jul 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Selections from the Filmography of James O. Incandenza.

“It could be your glucocorticoids.” - Year of the Ectopic Heartbeat Dubstep Frequency Crowd Dispersal Device (?) Sex Panther Entertainment Unlimited/X-Ray and Infrared Photography by Marvin McGroin’s Medicinal Anthrax Soft Shell Tacos Incorporated, Amarillo, TX. The Ultimate Warrior (John Brian “Jim” Hellwig), Robert Sapolsky (Bill Sapolsky), Jennifer (Jen), Jim (Jim Cornette), George “The Animal” Steele (The Animal Himself), Lucious Malfoy
A very interesting book, but probably not one to read during a pandemic. Yeah, I know; you would think it would help. But somehow, talking about stress response, cortisol and anxiety during a time of world-wide physical and psychological stress response is actually a bit stressful.

It's somewhat technical, but readable. It walks the reader through different aspects of the body and normal physiological response. Although he relies on the extreme examples ("ancestors confronting lions"), the infor
John Kaess
The author spends 22 chapters beating us to death with hundreds of studies about how and why stress is bad for us. He focuses strongly on the chemistry and physiology of stress in animals and humans. He then spends 1 chapter on things we can do about it. Basically: don't be born poor, don't have a bad marriage, exercise and be religious. There. Now you don't have to read the book. ...more
Sep 21, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

In the face of strong winds, let me be a blade of grass.
In the face of strong walls, let me be a gale of wind.
Dec 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Chung Chin
Feb 09, 2013 rated it liked it
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
janille n g

“The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.” – Paradise Lost, John Milton

I have always loved this quote from Paradise Lost. I have it written down in several notebooks, typed out on a sticky note on my laptop that I frequently scroll over, and even had it framed on the wall of my room when I lived with my parents. From the time I first read it, back in second year university, it became a sort of mantra for me, providing me with comfort and rea
Feb 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing
this book is hi-la-ri-ous.

not only does sapolsky brilliantly explain the science in an easily digestible way, he does it with flair and humor. had to read this for a class about stress and coping, and i found myself looking forward to each assignment.
Brendan Monroe
I'm a major stresser.

I stress over big things, over little things, over all things. Because I'm a stresser, I'm all too often a stressor (i.e. a person or thing that causes stress) for the people around me.

It sucks, really. I don't like stressing, something that all those who are constantly telling me to "calm down," "chill out," "relax!" just don't seem to get.

It's not like I can just flip a switch here.

If only!

It worries me, because of course, along with stressing, I'm also anxious. Yes, an
A brilliant and incredibly well-written book.

Every time I read something by Sapolsky I get amazed with how prodigious he is. No matter what he's talking about, everything he says is interesting and engaging. That summarises my feelings with this book. I don't find the stress subject very interesting, just because I often suffer from it, therefore I prefer to act like it doesn't exist, but unexpectedly, this helped me realize that I've been doing the entirely wrong thing (want to know why? read t
Nick Weeks
Jan 07, 2010 rated it liked it
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
Jul 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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. ...more
Troy Blackford
Feb 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Dr. Sapolsky is everything you could want from an author on a serious topic like stress: a world-class leader in the field of research, a clear and perceptive writer, and equal parts hilarious and profound. Learning about the physiology and psychology of stress would be interesting either way, but learning about it through his book is at least doubly so. Highly recommended.
Morgan Blackledge
Feb 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Sapolsky is god. He's a great writer. But he is an immortal lecturer. Youtube his Stanford classes and behold! Pure genius. ...more
I've been wanting to read this ever since I saw a documentary on stress that included Sapolsky's research.

In the meantime, I've also become fairly interested in the human microbiome. So, this kinda played right into all of that... so as far as books, this was pretty much my introduction to the field of stress research, as well as how human digestion works and where hormones and neurotransmitters come from and what they can do, etc... that said, I did this one as an audiobook, which might not hav
Sep 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This manifestation of stress is going to my 'books to give friends as a gift' list. The topic is morbid but written in a way that makes it a must read for anyone interested in managing their own well being and avoiding brain shrinkage. ...more
Chris Herdt
May 05, 2010 rated it really liked it
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).

Sep 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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). ...more
Feb 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book is fantastic and I’ve been telling everyone who listens about it. It explains the mechanics of how stress works on a biological level, not holding back on naming names when it comes to hormones and glands and all that. The author managed to make the book accessible while simultaneously being in-depth, which I really appreciate. I recommend it for anyone who’s ever stressed (which is everyone) and wants to understand why this happens and what is going on in your body.
May 01, 2016 rated it liked it
I enjoyed this book but think for most people this book will not be more than a 3.5* hence the rating. My bias is simply that I and am a big fan of Dr Sapolsky after attending his course on Human Behavioral Biology. He covers the driest of things with humor and charm. I would recommend the first four lectures to everyone.

Our body is designed to respond to stressful situations. We are, just like the zebra, wired to temporarily alter our physiology when a lion shows up during our leisurely aftern
Paul Barnes
Feb 20, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: psychology
I read this on the recommendation of an Ezra Klein podcast.

Unlike zebras, we get stressed because we're constantly worrying about the future.

Takeaways included: sleep is really valuable and waking up for hours in the middle of the night is a classic symptom of depression; prolonged depression elevates risk of heart disease three- to four-fold; abusive parenting lifts the risk of adult depression; the role of learned helplessness; feeling chronically time-pressured is a function of a chronic need
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
Feb 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This book is simply exquisite. Sapolsky is a fantastic scientist as well as a wonderful writer. In this book, he will help you understand the evolutionary purpose of the stress response and elucidate why we differ so much from other animals. We humans have a useful stress response but use it in very unuseful ways.

If you read this book, you will be treated to the wonderful and unexpected story of J.M. Barrie, author of Peter Pan. What does his life have to do with the neuroscience of stress? Rea
Dec 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
I finished it at last!
I did like it but the journey was such a pain. It was the first science-y book I read and the beginning was tough. But I do think I’ve learnt a lot, and hopefully it will stick for my exam haha.
Alexandra Ricu
Mar 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
An amazing science communicator. Just read it. Reviews are boring.
Aniket Samant
Feb 05, 2021 rated it really liked it
A highly informative book about stress and its biology across multiple species, with an emphasis on humans - and how it manifests in harmful ways in our bodily systems mainly through abnormal glucocorticoid secretion. A lot of the points apart from the main content are worth pondering upon more in depth (for instance, even if something's statistically likely it shouldn't be taken as universally applicable - a simple idea, but something made oblivious by cognitive biases) - but leave the reader w ...more
Doris Jean
This is an excellent book, I don't know why I had such a hard time beginning it, I kept starting and stopping it for several years. Maybe this was because the writer has a somewhat rambling and loose style. Finally, I forced myself to get through the first few pages and the book got better and better once I relaxed into the writer's way of thinking.

It's an unusual book because it explains deep medical concepts for everyone, and it is a relaxed read considering the subject matter. It's a good rev
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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

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