Book Report: Behave!

It feels like it took me forever to read the 2017 best-selling nonfiction book, Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst, by Robert M. Sapolsky. It’s not that I didn’t find the book absolutely fascinating, because I sure did! It’s just those sneaky book club books and the book about restoring old houses kept slowing me down. And it is a BIG book.

It’s a very thick book. Held up well through three months of traveling with me.

It’s close to 800 pages long, so there’s a lot to read. Luckily the main part of Behave! is “only” 675 or so pages of small print with even smaller print footnotes (that you have to read, because some of them are really funny). Since the book covers a lot of neuroanatomy, chemistry, biology, and brain structure, it was kind of Sapolsky to include three pretty clear (considering the subject matter) appendices to introduce readers who didn’t happen to major in any of these disciplines with some background.

There are lots and lots of footnotes, too. Get out your magnifying glasses.

Hey, now, don’t quit reading just because it’s a long book with a bunch of science talk in it. It’s also a book with lots of interesting insights about humans and other animals, funny stories, and answers to plenty of age-old questions. Really, this is one of the most interesting science books I ever read, which should be obvious since I got it in January but kept picking it back up to slog through more of it when the distractions were over.

Here are some of the topics covered, at least in the first half of the book.

Sapolsky makes understanding how our brain processes external stimuli to come up with a reaction, how different parts of our brain lead us to feeling and acting in certain ways, and how darned fast it all works. Toward the end of the book he gets into my favorite topics: why we humans are so Us versus Them oriented and whether we have “free will” or not. Oooh, it’s pretty deep.

We get to meet all sorts of scientists and philosophers who have worked to figure out how human activities work, plus we learn about all kinds of animals that do or don’t share characteristics with us. Sapolsky knows a LOT about baboons, that’s for sure.

Tiny flowers on a dock plant.

I’m gonna recommend this book to any of you who enjoy reading about science and have at least a little more than a lay-person’s understanding of chemistry, biology, and neuroscience. If you aren’t a science type, the appendixes will prepare you for the rest of the book. And even if your mind starts to glaze over at all the names of chemicals and regions of the brain, you will still enjoy the stories and descriptions of research.

Horsenettle sure is purple.

Some of us have a lot of time on our hands (while others of us are even busier than usual, so I’m not referring to you), so it might be a good time to lose yourself in a book that provides a LOT of insight into how we ended up in the divided society we’re in now. It’s fascinating.

PS: I just thought you’d enjoy a couple of wildflowers from the ranch. That’s because nature helps us keep calm. I’m reading about that in my NEXT book!

Author: Sue Ann (Suna) Kendall

The person behind The Hermits' Rest blog and many others. I'm a certified Texas Master Naturalist and love the nature of Milam County. I manage technical writers in Austin, help with Hearts Homes and Hands, a personal assistance service, in Cameron, and serve on three nonprofit boards. You may know me from La Leche League, knitting, iNaturalist, or Facebook. I'm interested in ALL of you!

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