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A Primate's Memoir: A Neuroscientist's Unconventional Life among the Baboons

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A Primate's Memoir: A Neuroscientist's Unconventional Life among the Baboons Cover

 

Staff Pick

I never imagined that a book written by a primate behaviorologist would make me laugh out loud. Sapolsky is a born storyteller, and I found his experiences of twenty years in Africa studying baboons absolutely fascinating. You get to know the baboons, and feel sympathy for them as you would any character in the best of novels. You chuckle at the naiveté of the narrator as he describes his experiences with culture shock, and then wonder if you could have done any better. My favorite bit is his description of learning to tranquilize baboons with a blow gun. He gets so good at it he plots how to dart people coming into the movie theatre after he returns home — in order to stay in practice.
Recommended by Orin, Powells.com

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

In the tradition of Jane Goodall and Dian Fossey, Robert Sapolsky, a foremost science writer and recipient of a MacArthur Genius Grant, tells the mesmerizing story of his twenty-one years in remote Kenya with a troop of Savannah baboons.

“I had never planned to become a savanna baboon when I grew up; instead, I had always assumed I would become a mountain gorilla,” writes Robert Sapolsky in this witty and riveting chronicle of a scientist’s coming-of-age in remote Africa.

An exhilarating account of Sapolsky’s twenty-one-year study of a troop of rambunctious baboons in Kenya, A Primate’s Memoir interweaves serious scientific observations with wry commentary about the challenges and pleasures of living in the wilds of the Serengeti—for man and beast alike. Over two decades, Sapolsky survives culinary atrocities, gunpoint encounters, and a surreal kidnapping, while witnessing the encroachment of the tourist mentality on the farthest vestiges of unspoiled Africa. As he conducts unprecedented physiological research on wild primates, he becomes evermore enamored of his subjects—unique and compelling characters in their own right—and he returns to them summer after summer, until tragedy finally prevents him.

By turns hilarious and poignant, A Primate’s Memoir is a magnum opus from one of our foremost science writers.

Review:

"A witty concoction blending field biology, history, hilarious cross-cultural mishaps, and hair-raising adventure....brilliant." Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)

Review:

"As funny and irreverent as a good ol' boy regaling his friends with vacation-from-hell stories...filled with cyncisim and awe, passion and humor..." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)

Review:

"What you have in your hands is the reason to read books." Pete Dexter, author of Paris Trout and The Paperboy

Review:

"This engrossing account of Robert Sapolsky's life in science...is brilliantly informative...and heartbreakingly acute." Norman Rush, author of Mating

Review:

"Sapolsky is a soulful, generous, and deeply intelligent guide. Loved him, loved his insights about these strange and distant cultures..." Caroline Knapp, author of Pack of Two

About the Author

Robert M. Sapolsky is 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 and Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers. A regular contributor to Discover and a recipient of a MacArthur Foundation genius grant, Sapolsky lives in San Francisco.

Table of Contents

CONTENTS

Acknowledgments

Part 1. The Adolescent Years: When I First Joined the Troop

  1. The Baboons: The Generations of Israel

  2. Zebra Kabobs and a Life of Crime

  3. The Revenge of the Liberals

  4. The Masai Fundamentalist and My Debut as a Social Worker

  5. The Coca-Cola Devil

  6. Teaching Old Men About Maps

  7. Memories of Blood: The East African Wars

Part 2: The Subadult Years

  1. The Baboons: Saul in the Wilderness

  2. Samwelly Versus the Elephants

  3. The First Masai

  4. Zoology and National Security: A Shaggy Hyena Story

  5. The Coup

  6. Hearing Voices at the Wrong Time

  7. Sudan

Part 3: Tenuous Adulthood

  1. The Baboons: The Unstable Years

  2. Ol' Curly Toes and the King of Nubian-Judea

  3. The Penguins of Guyana

  4. When Baboons Were Falling Out of the Trees

  5. The Old White Man

  6. The Elevator

  7. The Mound Behind the 7-Eleven

Part 4: Adulthood

  1. The Baboons: Nick

  2. The Raid

  3. Ice

  4. Joseph

  5. The Wonders of Machines in a Land Where They Are Still Novel: The Blind Leading the Blind

  6. Who's on First, What's on Second

  7. The Last Warriors

  8. The Plague

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 3 comments:

Kukla, January 13, 2013 (view all comments by Kukla)
A Primate's Memoir is easily the best nonfiction book I have read this past year -- I can't wait to read it again! Sapolsky guides you through numerous African adventures with humor and ease, so vividly that they become your adventures too. The book is full of earnest, easy humor and pathos, and his baboons have an almost human character and life. I miss those baboons already. I will definitely be reading more of Sapolsky's books!
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
maylingkuo, January 1, 2010 (view all comments by maylingkuo)
For me, this book has it all. It's smart, witty, laugh-out-loud and surprising. You travel with Sapolsky and his adventures among the baboons, finding yourself lost in their relationships and tense during Sapolsky's moments traveling across Africa. I find myself recommending it to so many types of personalities from scientists to nature-lovers to the curious...what are you waiting for? You'll breeze through the pages, wanting to know what happens next!
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(2 of 4 readers found this comment helpful)
ashevillelibrarian, January 4, 2008 (view all comments by ashevillelibrarian)
Gosh, I loved this book. I kept coming across it and thinking I really should read it, as I'm a sucker for primate stories like Washoe's in Next of Kin. Had I known what fun and how full of surprises A Primate's Memoir would be, I would've picked it up much sooner. A scientist with gift for story and humor, such as Sapolsky has, is a fine combination.
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(7 of 9 readers found this comment helpful)
View all 3 comments

Product Details

ISBN:
9780743202411
Subtitle:
A Neuroscientist's Unconventional Life among the Baboons
Author:
Sapolsky, Robert M.
Author:
Sobel, Andrew C.
Publisher:
Scribner Book Company
Location:
New York
Subject:
Africa
Subject:
Scientists
Subject:
Apes & Monkeys
Subject:
Baboons
Subject:
Scientists - General
Subject:
General Biography
Subject:
Africa - General
Subject:
Animals - Primates
Subject:
Biography-Scientists
Copyright:
Edition Number:
1st Touchstone ed.
Edition Description:
B102
Series Volume:
[00-2]
Publication Date:
20020331
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
304
Dimensions:
8.08x5.92x.74 in. .61 lbs.

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Related Subjects

Biography » Science and Technology
Science and Mathematics » Nature Studies » General
Science and Mathematics » Nature Studies » Mammals » General
Science and Mathematics » Nature Studies » Mammals » Primates
Travel » Africa » General

A Primate's Memoir: A Neuroscientist's Unconventional Life among the Baboons New Trade Paper
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Product details 304 pages Scribner Book Company - English 9780743202411 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

I never imagined that a book written by a primate behaviorologist would make me laugh out loud. Sapolsky is a born storyteller, and I found his experiences of twenty years in Africa studying baboons absolutely fascinating. You get to know the baboons, and feel sympathy for them as you would any character in the best of novels. You chuckle at the naiveté of the narrator as he describes his experiences with culture shock, and then wonder if you could have done any better. My favorite bit is his description of learning to tranquilize baboons with a blow gun. He gets so good at it he plots how to dart people coming into the movie theatre after he returns home — in order to stay in practice.

"Review" by , "A witty concoction blending field biology, history, hilarious cross-cultural mishaps, and hair-raising adventure....brilliant."
"Review" by , "As funny and irreverent as a good ol' boy regaling his friends with vacation-from-hell stories...filled with cyncisim and awe, passion and humor..."
"Review" by , "What you have in your hands is the reason to read books."
"Review" by , "This engrossing account of Robert Sapolsky's life in science...is brilliantly informative...and heartbreakingly acute."
"Review" by , "Sapolsky is a soulful, generous, and deeply intelligent guide. Loved him, loved his insights about these strange and distant cultures..."
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