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Our Inner Ape: A Leading Primatologist Explains Why We Are Who We Are    by Frans de Waal order for
Our Inner Ape
by Frans de Waal
Order:  USA  Can
Tantor Audio Books, 2005 (2005)
Hardcover, CD
* *   Reviewed by Lance Victor Eaton

Now, let's not monkey around about this, because Frans de Waal takes his primate research seriously. Given that he has worked with primates for the better part of three decades, few people on Earth could rival his understanding and breadth of knowledge when it comes to humanity's closest cousins. In this delightful look at the similarities among humans, chimpanzees, and bonobos, de Waal effectively illustrates how humans can learn and grow from a closer consideration of other primates.

Covering a range of topics (including politics, war, sex, relationships, and morality), de Waal illustrates how chimps and bonobos negotiate a communal existence comparable to human societies. Though chimps and bonobos have so often been depicted in contrasting perspectives - the chimp assigned the more aggressive and darker aspects of primates and bonobos of a more angelic disposition - de Waal shows the deeper complexities influencing these species.

In addition to ample studies and research, de Waal flowers his book with ample personal observations and anecdotes to illustrate his points. Though his love for primates is obvious, it doesn't inhibit his ability to deconstruct and look at issues from all sides. At times, it may seem he is assuming a lot but then he will clarify how he comes to his conclusions based on previous data and research. Most compelling is how he craftily decodes primate behavior to thought processes relating to a variety of actions that require complex thought.

Alan Sklar narrates this audiobook like an engaging college professor who enjoys what he's doing, both because he is bestowing knowledge upon listeners and also because he has a great interest in the material. He manages the flow of the text quite admirably, as he must navigate through anecdotes which demand more attention while also carefully reading the more straightforward factual parts of the book.

Our Inner Ape carefully deconstructs human behavior so often considered to be advanced and intelligent, and shows how we are not nearly as separated from nature as we like to think. De Waal provides a text that covers biology, psychology, sociology, criminology, political science, and many more topics that indeed bring us back to our inner ape. Though his assessment may not drive you bananas, it might leave you scratching your head, or at the least, give you something new to consider the next time you visit the zoo.

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