Friday, December 23, 2011

Book Review: A Primate's Memoir: A Neuroscientist's Unconventional Life Among the Baboons by Robert M. Sapolsky

Dr Robert Sapolsky with a baboon
Dr. Sapolsky with one of his favorite baboons 

Easily, one of the best books I have ever read so far.

Dr.Sapolsky is a great writer, in addition to being an extraordinary primatologist and scientist. His book A Primate's Memoir: A Neuroscientist's Unconventional Life among the Baboons is a class act and should be read by any nature or animal lover. 

Even though Dr.Sapolsky has been a big fan of Mountain Gorillas since his childhood, his academic pursuits forced him to choose a different species as the subject of his studies.

The book chronicles not only his work on baboons, but also his cultural experiences in Africa. He has a sharp sense of humor and is quite liberal in using it while writing this book. The resulting work is one of the funniest books I have ever read. And to top it, one will never find this book in the humor section of any bookstore (online or otherwise).

Click on the link below to buy the book:

Dr. Sapolsky has been spending few months every year (for the past 3 decades) with a group of wild baboons in Africa study the sources of stress among the baboons. He discovered that baboons suffer similar psychological and social tumult created by their own species, very similar to humans.

A baboon's canines are bigger than those of a lion!
A baboon's canines are bigger than those of a lion!

But baboons are not the only ones to receive Sapolsky's attention. His assistants, Richard and Samwelly are only a few of the humans Dr. Sapolsky dwells on in great detail in this book.

There are numerous occasions on which the author comes close to getting killed, in his scientific pursuits. He hikes rides on Lorries, vans, jeeps among other types of land transportation and these journeys are some of the most amusing accounts of road trips put on paper. His descriptions of the various scams perpetrated by the corrupt officials on unsuspecting foreigners/tourists are by themselves worth the price of the book.

Finally, the book details the lives of the baboons as only the author can. As one of the world’s foremost authorities on baboons, Dr. Sapolsky’s book is an eye-opener for anyone who has not had the chance to appreciate the complex yet emotionally rich lives of these primates.

Some of Dr. Sapolsky’s favorite baboons include Saul, Joshua and Benjamin. The final scene in the book is that of Dr. Sapolsky, his wife and Joshua eating cookies and enjoying the beauty of nature. Truly a fitting end to a timeless masterpiece from a peerless writer.

Dr.Sapolsky and his work is also featured in the National Geographic Documentary Stress - Portrait of a Killer. Click here to visit the official website for the documentary.

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Image Sources: BeezelbarbZimbio

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  1. The author's expression is a bit- freaky- in that photo you shared!

  2. Just read this book! Totally agree, one of my all-time favorites! Funny and touching. Thanks for the links.