978-1-59448-196-3 / 9781594481963

Our Inner Ape: A Leading Primatologist Explains Why We Are Who We Are


Publisher:Riverhead Trade



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About the book:

Power, sex, violence and kindness: these four broad-spectrum categories encompass much of human behavior, so it's only fitting that they're also the primary subject material for Frans de Waal's (The Ape and The Sushi Master) book Our Inner Ape. The few (but deeply detailed) chapters are a mesmerizing read that spans biology, child psychology, postmodern theorists and fundamental morality, using tales of stern chimps, and sexy bonobos to examine humans' place between them. In the process, he examines why we need to know our place in the world, how our body language communicates feelings, and where the roots of empathy lie in mammalian life.

De Waal's respect for both his readers and his research subjects come shining through in the simple clarity he uses when describing both the endless sex of bonobo apes and the heartrending violence occasionally present in chimp hierarchal structure. By illustrating his points with a mixture of straight-from-research experiences and jokes at the expense of modern politicians, he keeps his ideas compelling for anyone with a basic understanding of evolutionary science without drifting towards the academic drone that could be expected of by a researcher of his experience.

You won't find specific conclusions concerning human nature, but instead a gentle, almost rambling look at two primate species with vastly different social networks and how, perhaps, humanity can learn from each to our benefit. A few of de Waal's lovely duotone photos (My Family Album: 30 Years of Primate Photography grace the end of the book, featuring close-up shots of the folks he's been writing about--chimps like Yeroen, Nikkie and Mama, and bonobo Kuif and adopted daughter Roosje are downright thrilling to see after reading such interesting stories about their lives. Jill Lightner

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