Synopses & Reviews
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.
"A witty concoction blending field biology, history, hilarious cross-cultural mishaps, and hair-raising adventure....brilliant." Kirkus Reviews (Starred 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)
"What you have in your hands is the reason to read books." Pete Dexter, author of Paris Trout and The Paperboy
"This engrossing account of Robert Sapolsky's life in science...is brilliantly informative...and heartbreakingly acute." Norman Rush, author of Mating
"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
Rob Nixon The New York Times Book Review A Primate's Memoir is the closest the baboon is likely to come...to having its own Iliad.
Susan Salter Reynolds Los Angeles Times Sapolsky has a huge appetite for life...He writes exactly as if he's telling stories around a fire in the bush.
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
Part 1. The Adolescent Years: When I First Joined the Troop
- The Baboons: The Generations of Israel
- Zebra Kabobs and a Life of Crime
- The Revenge of the Liberals
- The Masai Fundamentalist and My Debut as a Social Worker
- The Coca-Cola Devil
- Teaching Old Men About Maps
- Memories of Blood: The East African Wars
Part 2: The Subadult Years
- The Baboons: Saul in the Wilderness
- Samwelly Versus the Elephants
- The First Masai
- Zoology and National Security: A Shaggy Hyena Story
- The Coup
- Hearing Voices at the Wrong Time
Part 3: Tenuous Adulthood
- The Baboons: The Unstable Years
- Ol' Curly Toes and the King of Nubian-Judea
- The Penguins of Guyana
- When Baboons Were Falling Out of the Trees
- The Old White Man
- The Elevator
- The Mound Behind the 7-Eleven
Part 4: Adulthood
- The Baboons: Nick
- The Raid
- The Wonders of Machines in a Land Where They Are Still Novel: The Blind Leading the Blind
- Who's on First, What's on Second
- The Last Warriors
- The Plague