Book Reviews (in order of appearance)


  1. The Economist
  2. Bookforum (Edward Dolnick)
  3. New Scientist (Marc Bekoff)
  4. Nature (Michael Tomasello)
  5. The Atlantic (Max Fisher)
  6. Toronto Star (Debra Black)
  7. Los Angeles Times (Sara Lippincott)
  8. The Wall Street Journal (Robert L Hotz)
  9. Seed (Eric M Johnson)
  10. Globe & Mail (Jeff Warren)
  11. Winnipeg Free Press (Bonnie Hallman)
  12. Slate (Christine Kenneally)
  13. NRC Handelsblad (Dick Swaab, Dutch)
  14. Dangerous Intersection (Erich Vieth)
  15. Open Parachute science blog (Ken Perrott)
  16. Kijk (Jean-Paul Keulen, Dutch)
  17. Baltimore Chronicle (Gary Olson)
  18. Times (UK) Online (Ben Macintyre)
  19. Recommended book Scientific American
  20. PsychologyToday blog (Ray Williams)
  21. (Herbert Gintis)
  22. Englewood Review of Books (Marilyn Matevia)
  23. NRC Handelsblad (Jannetje Koelewijn/Hendrik Spiering, Dutch)
  24. Best Non-Fiction of 2009, January Magazine
  25. Le Monde (French)
  26. Danièle Boone Blog (French)
  27. American Scientist (Joan Silk)
  28. The Guardian/The Observer (Robin McKie)
  29. Tacoma Retired Men's Club (Ron Boothe)
  30. The Independent, UK (Marek Kohn)



Publisher's Weekly:

De Waal (Chimpanzee Politics), a renowned primatologist, culls an astounding volume of research that deflates the human assumption that animals lack the characteristics often referred to as “humane.” He cites recent animal behavior studies that challenge the “primacy of human logic” and put animals on a closer behavioral footing with humans. Based on the studies of mammals, from primates to mice, de Waal proposes that empathy is an instinctual behavior exhibited by both lab rats and elephants. But de Waal's aim isn't merely to show that apes are transactional creatures with a basic understanding of reciprocity—but to reveal that the idea that humans are naturally calculating, competitive and violent is grounded in a falsehood willfully and selfishly perpetuated. Throughout the book, de Waal illustrates how behaving more like our wild mammalian cousins may just save humanity. His contention, colored by philosophical musings and fascinating anecdotes of observed emotional connections between animals, argues persuasively that humans are not greedy or belligerent because animals are; such traits are far from organic or inevitable but patently manmade. (Sept.)

Kirkus Reviews:

What other primates can teach us about human nature. Addressing the question of whether it is possible to “combine a thriving economy with a humane society,” zoologist de Waal (Psychology/Emory Univ.; Our Inner Ape, 2005, etc.) answers with a resounding yes, turning the tables on economists like Milton Friedman, who justify cutthroat competition based on the notion of survival-of-the-fittest. The author also suggests that the central metaphor in Richard Dawkins’s The Selfish Gene (1976) has been taken too literally. The contagion of phenomena such as laughter, yawning, stretching and stampedes in the face of danger are evidences of herd behavior that we share with other species. A new field of research, “embodied” cognition, explores how empathy emerges as we and other primates “involuntarily enter the bodies of those around us so that their movements and emotions echo within us as if they’re our own.” In 1992, researchers found a mechanism for this behavior, observing “mirror neutrons” firing in a monkey’s brain whether they themselves were eating a peanut or watching an experimenter do so. While not denying the existence of aggression and competition in nature, de Waal provides many charming examples of how empathy—especially when it is coupled with the higher-order cognitive abilities of primates, whales, dolphins and humans, which all have the ability to “adopt another’s point of view”—allows animals to show compassion across species boundaries. This social glue is evidenced in pets who act as companions, peacemaking primates who try to stop fights and offer comfort to the vanquished and mothers responding to their young. De Waal cites the “evolutionary antiquity” of empathy to argue that “society depends on a second invisible hand, one that reaches out to others.” An appealing celebration of our better nature.