Behave : The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst

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'Awe-inspiring ... the best scientific book written for non-specialists that I have ever read. You will learn more about human nature than in any other book I can think of, and you will be inspired' Henry Marsh, author of Do No Harm

A ground-breaking synthesis of the entire science of human behaviour by 'one of the best scientist-writers of our time' (Oliver Sacks) -- 'It's no exaggeration to say that Behave is one of the best nonfiction books I've ever read' Wall Street Journal

'They should put Behave in hotel rooms instead of the Bible: the world would be a much better, wiser place' Kate Fox, author of Watching the English

Why do we do what we do? Behave is at once a dazzling tour and a majestic synthesis of the whole science of human behaviour. Brought to life through simple language, engaging stories and irreverent wit, it offers the fullest picture yet of the origins of tribalism and xenophobia, hierarchy and competition, morality and free will, war and peace.

Robert Sapolsky's ingenious method is to move backwards in time from the moment at which a behaviour occurs, layer by layer through the myriad influences that led to it:

- We begin with the split-second reactions of the brain and nervous system...
- Then we consider our response to sight, sound and smell in the minutes and seconds beforehand...
- Next he explains the interactions of hormones, which prime our behaviour in the preceding hours and days...
- He proceeds through the experiences of adolescence, childhood and foetal development that shape us over our lifespans...
- And continues over centuries and millennia through the profound influences of genetic inheritance, cultural context and ultimately the evolutionary origins of our species.

Throughout, Sapolsky considers the most important question: what causes acts of aggression or compassion? What inspires us to terrible deeds and what might help foster our best behaviour?

Wise, humane, often very funny, Behave is a towering achievement, powerfully humanizing, that is unlikely to be surpassed for many years.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 800 pages
  • 162 x 240 x 50mm | 1,311g
  • Vintage Publishing
  • The Bodley Head Ltd
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 1847922163
  • 9781847922168
  • 2,568

About Robert M. Sapolsky

Robert M. Sapolsky holds degrees from Harvard and Rockefeller Universities and is currently a Professor of Biology and Neurology at Stanford University and a Research Associate with the Institute of Primate Research, National Museums of Kenya. He is the author of The Trouble with Testosterone, Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers (both finalists for the LA Times Book Award), and A Primate's Memoir. Sapolsky has contributed to Natural History, Discover, Men's Health, and Scientific American, and is a recipient of a MacArthur Foundation genius grant.
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Review quote

"Awe-inspiring ... This is the best scientific book written for non-specialists that I have ever read. You will learn more about human nature than in any other book I can think of, and you will be inspired" -- Henry Marsh, author of Do No Harm "It's no exaggeration to say that Behave is one of the best nonfiction books I've ever read" * Wall Street Journal * "Behave is the best detective story ever written, and the most important. If you've ever wondered why someone did something - good or bad, vicious or generous - you need to read this book. If you think you already know why people behave as they do, you need to read this book. In other words, everybody needs to read it. It should be available on prescription (side effects: chronic laughter; highly addictive). They should put Behave in hotel rooms instead of the Bible: the world would be a much better, wiser place" -- Kate Fox, author of Watching the English "Magisterial ... This extraordinary survey of the science of human behaviour takes the reader on an epic journey ... Sapolsky makes the book consistently entertaining, with an infectious excitement at the puzzles he explains ... a miraculous synthesis of scholarly domains" -- Steven Poole * Guardian * "Truly all-encompassing ... detailed, accessible, fascinating" * Telegraph * "Rarely does an almost 800-page book keep my attention from start to finish, but Behave is exceptional in its scale, scope, detail and writing style ... Sapolsky places what makes us special in the wider context of humans as animals with brains that are fundamentally similar to those of other species. It is the first book that does so comprehensively enough to qualify as a guide to human behaviour" -- Frans de Waal * Science * "A miraculous book, by far the best treatment of violence, aggression, and competition ever. Its depth and breadth of scholarship are amazing, building on Sapolsky's own research and his vast knowledge of the neurobiology, genetic, and behavioral literature. All this is done brilliantly with a light and funny touch that shows why Sapolsky is recognized as one of the greatest teachers in science today" -- Paul Ehrlich, author of Human Natures "A great writer and a superb guide to human nature, Sapolsky shows you how all the perspectives and systems connect, and he makes you laugh and marvel along the way. A beautifully crafted work about the biology of morality" -- Jonathan Haidt, author of The Righteous Mind "One of the best scientist-writers of our time" -- Oliver Sacks "Behave is like a great historical novel, with excellent prose and encylopedic detail. It traces the most important story that can ever be told" -- E O Wilson "As wide as it is deep, this book is colorful, electrifying, and moving. Sapolsky leverages his deep expertise to ask the most fundamental questions about being human" -- David Eagleman, author of Incognito "Marvellous. Behave gives us the knowledge of how to manifest more of our best selves and less of our worst, individually and as a society" -- Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit "One of the finest natural history writers around" * The New York Times * "Robert Sapolsky's students must love him ... witty, erudite and passionate about clear communication ... the implications of fascinating scientific findings are illuminated through topical stories ... then Sapolsky reaches for the big, synthetic pay-offs, examining how, together, these insights can enhance our understanding of the forces that lead to tribalism, violence, dehumanization and war - as well as tolerance, empathy and peace ... The analysis is arresting and the writing is often moving ... It is impossible not to deeply admire a project bold entire to ask an entire field to work to create a more just and peaceful world" * Nature * "Sapolsky's book shows in exquisite detail how culture, context and learning shape everything our genes, brains, hormones and neurons do" * Times Literary Supplement * "There has never been a better time for Robert Sapolsky's Behave: the Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst to appear. For those as perplexed and conflicted as me about such seismic political events as Brexit and the election of US President Donald Trump, the book helps not only to tease apart the factors that can lead people to behave in ways that seem to make no sense, but also to explain our own reaction. There is no part of the current craziness of the world this book does not touch, from terrorism and nationalism to nuclear posturing and ethnic cleansing... It is brilliant and insightful, lucid and conversational, authoritative, and fair to different points of view. It is the best guide I know of to the vicissitudes of human behaviour, an antidote to sensationalist easy answers... Behave is the antidote to all those pop psychology books that promise the secret of why we do what we do" -- Philip Ball * Lancet * "A wonderfully lucid, scholarly and witty account of the biological basis of human behavior... Once you have read it, you will see neither yourself nor your fellow humans in the same way as before" -- Henry Marsh * New Statesman * "A masterly cross-disciplinary scientific study of human behaviour." * New York Times Top Books of 2017 *
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Review Text

"A masterly cross-disciplinary scientific study of human behaviour."
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Rating details

1,434 ratings
4.41 out of 5 stars
5 58% (834)
4 29% (418)
3 9% (133)
2 3% (36)
1 1% (13)
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