WHY ZEBRAS DON'T GET ULCERS

A GUIDE TO STRESS, STRESS-RELATED DISEASE, AND COPING

Entertaining explanation of how stress affects the body and what we can do to counteract its effects. Sapolsky (a MacArthur Fellow who divides his time between teaching biological sciences and neuroscience at Stanford and conducting stress research on baboons in Kenya) makes a much- discussed topic seem fresh and new. Using humor, unexpected analogies, and offbeat examples (to illustrate how the brain sends messages to other parts of the body, he slips in a steamy passage from Lady Chatterley's Lover), Sapolsky covers how the stress response affects the cardiovascular, digestive, reproductive, and immune systems; the body's perception of pain; growth; and the aging process. He concludes with some words on how to cope with psychological stress—the type of stress that humans (unlike zebras) experience most often. He also cautions against the oversimplification of stress-reduction manuals, asserting that many suggested strategies—such as developing a sense of control, finding an outlet for your frustrations, and building a system of social support—can backfire. As a first line of defense against stress-related disease, Sapolsky recommends prevention—learning to recognize the signs of the stress response and to identify the situations that trigger it. His lucid text and not-to-be-overlooked footnotes are filled with delightful twists and turns, personal anecdotes, and nuggets of odd information—for instance, on voodoo death, Peter Pan, and the hunting skills of hyenas. Possessed of a lively intelligence, wide-ranging curiosity, and love of science, Sapolsky writes as though his readers share these traits. First-rate science for the nonscientist that's certain to reduce stress—at least during the time spent reading it. (Forty- two illustrations—not seen)

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 1993

ISBN: 0-7167-2391-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1993

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

The Stoics did much better with the much shorter Enchiridion.

THE LAWS OF HUMAN NATURE

A follow-on to the author’s garbled but popular 48 Laws of Power, promising that readers will learn how to win friends and influence people, to say nothing of outfoxing all those “toxic types” out in the world.

Greene (Mastery, 2012, etc.) begins with a big sell, averring that his book “is designed to immerse you in all aspects of human behavior and illuminate its root causes.” To gauge by this fat compendium, human behavior is mostly rotten, a presumption that fits with the author’s neo-Machiavellian program of self-validation and eventual strategic supremacy. The author works to formula: First, state a “law,” such as “confront your dark side” or “know your limits,” the latter of which seems pale compared to the Delphic oracle’s “nothing in excess.” Next, elaborate on that law with what might seem to be as plain as day: “Losing contact with reality, we make irrational decisions. That is why our success often does not last.” One imagines there might be other reasons for the evanescence of glory, but there you go. Finally, spin out a long tutelary yarn, seemingly the longer the better, to shore up the truism—in this case, the cometary rise and fall of one-time Disney CEO Michael Eisner, with the warning, “his fate could easily be yours, albeit most likely on a smaller scale,” which ranks right up there with the fortuneteller’s “I sense that someone you know has died" in orders of probability. It’s enough to inspire a new law: Beware of those who spend too much time telling you what you already know, even when it’s dressed up in fresh-sounding terms. “Continually mix the visceral with the analytic” is the language of a consultant’s report, more important-sounding than “go with your gut but use your head, too.”

The Stoics did much better with the much shorter Enchiridion.

Pub Date: Oct. 23, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-42814-5

Page Count: 580

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 31, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Readers unfamiliar with the anecdotal material Greene presents may find interesting avenues to pursue, but they should...

MASTERY

Greene (The 33 Strategies of War, 2007, etc.) believes that genius can be learned if we pay attention and reject social conformity.

The author suggests that our emergence as a species with stereoscopic, frontal vision and sophisticated hand-eye coordination gave us an advantage over earlier humans and primates because it allowed us to contemplate a situation and ponder alternatives for action. This, along with the advantages conferred by mirror neurons, which allow us to intuit what others may be thinking, contributed to our ability to learn, pass on inventions to future generations and improve our problem-solving ability. Throughout most of human history, we were hunter-gatherers, and our brains are engineered accordingly. The author has a jaundiced view of our modern technological society, which, he writes, encourages quick, rash judgments. We fail to spend the time needed to develop thorough mastery of a subject. Greene writes that every human is “born unique,” with specific potential that we can develop if we listen to our inner voice. He offers many interesting but tendentious examples to illustrate his theory, including Einstein, Darwin, Mozart and Temple Grandin. In the case of Darwin, Greene ignores the formative intellectual influences that shaped his thought, including the discovery of geological evolution with which he was familiar before his famous voyage. The author uses Grandin's struggle to overcome autistic social handicaps as a model for the necessity for everyone to create a deceptive social mask.

Readers unfamiliar with the anecdotal material Greene presents may find interesting avenues to pursue, but they should beware of the author's quirky, sometimes misleading brush-stroke characterizations.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-670-02496-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Sept. 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2012

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more