Goodreads Review: A Primate’s Memoir

A Primate's Memoir: A Neuroscientist's Unconventional Life Among the BaboonsA Primate’s Memoir: A Neuroscientist’s Unconventional Life Among the Baboons by Robert M. Sapolsky
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book was recommended to me as an extra credit opportunity that I didn’t end up taking advantage of in my primate class. I’m a bit surprised by the commenters who wanted something more scientific because while his language is not what you’d see in a textbook he does chronicle the actual experience of field research.

His approach is rather irreverent but there’s a clear love for his work and I think what struck me most with this and his other books is that he wants to make his work accessible. Which of course accounts for the way he talks about the baboons. And as his research is in neuroscience the connection to every day living is a natural one that I think helps to demonstrate who his work is actually for in the long run.
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I’m still working on my review for Behave, hope to have it finished by the end of October. In the meantime I wanted to post my old review of a Primate’s Memoir. The thing is, the book changed my life on many levels. For a non-scientist who felt like science was out of bounds for anyone as interested in flighty creativity, Sapolsky never made me feel like an outsider. In college I studied scientific method and understand a lot of the philosophy and methodology but my training and interests took me away from that. Still, the whole world revolves around applied science and so, regardless of my own abilities, competencies or proficiencies it remains critical that scientists reach out to readers such as myself who may never totally understand established theories but still have some vague knowledge of them.

As an author, Sapolsky remains a scientist. He admits to  areas in which he is not an expert, he heavily cites references and he communicates effectively the largest challenge of science which is that although science (which is simply the actual truths underlying what is visible to us as humans) is provable it is not always comprehendible in the moment with the equipment or minds we have. A Primate’s Memoir is a great introduction to Sapolsky the man and the scientist. He’s a silly fellow and the book is like any good memoir.

After reading A Primate’s Memoir I read Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers which is a science book for a lay audience. Behave follows in that tradition.

Sapolsky’s lectures on Human Behavioral Biology are available on YouTube and you’ll find that his books have a similar tone to his lectures. He’s a delight and if you have any interest in neuroscience, human behavior or how to understand articles that delve into those topics Sapolsky is a great guide.

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