Sapolsky, Robert M. "Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst" - 2017
This was probably the toughest book I ever read even compared to "Ulysses" or "The Odyssey" and some other heavy and long classics). I guess anyone who read this and can repeat all of that deserves at least a master's degree.
I was never good at any science subject in school. Mainly because I wasn't interested in it. My teachers did not succeed in getting me enthusiastic about the subjects. If I had had a teacher like Robert Sapolsky, that might have been a different matter.
It still doesn't mean that I'd ever become an expert. There was far too much to-ing and fro-ing to my liking. That was just above my head.
The author says it himself in one of his last chapters:
"If you had to boil this book down to a single phrase, it would be 'It's complicated.' Indeed it is. But it is a complicated subject and I'm glad I read the book."
And one final quote:
"The opposite of hate is not love, its opposite is indifference." Elie Wiesel whose book "Night" is a publication everyone should read.
This was our extra book club read in May 2021.
- The book is massive and we agreed, that it lacks structure. Or at least, none of us found a helpful structure.
- Indeed, this was a tough read. The author could have taken more care about structure. I took 14 pages of hand written notes and I think, I needed them.
- Sapolsky organizes a huge amount of technical neuroscience into a logical and memorable structure, so that the context and significance of all that info is clear. He emphasizes the interplay of various factors. Then he discusses the personal, social, political and legal consequences of that information, forming a coherent view of humanity. Brilliant! 717 pages
- The chapter outline indicates the structure of the book and that helped me to maintain my orientation while reading.
- We plan to set up another meeting and discuss parts of the book to make up for the missing structure. If we discuss the whole book in just one hour with several people it may get a bit chaotic.
- We might then post questions for maybe one chapter at a time.
From the back cover:
"Why do human beings behave as they do?
We are capable of savage acts of violence but also spectacular feats of kindness: is one side of our nature destined to win out over the other?
Every act of human behaviour has multiple layers of causation, spiralling back seconds, minutes, hours, days, months, years, even centuries, right back to the dawn of time and the origins of our species.
In the epic sweep of history, how does our biology affect the arc of war and peace, justice and persecution? How have our brains evolved alongside our cultures?
This is the exhilarating story of human morality and the science underpinning the biggest question of all: what makes us human?"
For those of you who think, this might be a little too heavy but are still interested in "science for beginners", start with one of these:
Bryson, Bill "A Short History of Nearly Everything" - 2003
- "The Body. A Guide for Occupants" - 2019
Harari, Yuval Noah "Sapiens. A Brief History of Mankind" (Hebrew: קיצור תולדות האנושות/Ḳizur Toldot Ha-Enoshut) - 2014
- Noah "Homo Deus. A Brief History of Tomorrow"- 2016