Recommended Reading: Level One Books

Women, Power, and the Biology of Peace

Judith L. Hand, Ph.D.
Book review by William A. Spriggs, January 28th, 2008

Redefining Seduction: Women Initiating Sex, Courtship, Partnership, and Peace
Donna Sheehan & Paul Reffell

Book Review by William A. Spriggs, December 31, 2007

Evolution: The Triumph of an Idea
by Carl Zimmer, Stephan Jay Gould, (Introduction), Richard Hutton

Hardcover - 320 pages 1 Ed edition (September 4, 2001)
HarperCollins; ISBN: 0060199067 ; Dimensions (in inches): 1.30 x 10.33 x 8.37
Other Editions: Audio Cassette  (Abridged) | Audio CD (Abridged)

Editorial Reviews
Review by William  A.  Spriggs, January 20, 2002

The Human Face
by Brian Bates, John Cleese 
Hardcover - 240 pages 1st edition (July 1, 2001)
ISBN: 0789478366
Editorial Reviews
Review by William  A.  Spriggs,  July 10,  2001

The Dragons of Eden: Speculations on the Evolution of Human Intelligence.

by Carl Sagan                                                    

Review by William A. Spriggs
An early book by Sagan, and a helpful primer in evolutionary thought. Important in its insightful imagery on the origin of the human brain, this book won Sagan the 1978 Pulitzer Prize for general nonfiction.

Other Editions: Hardcover

Ballantine Books, 1989
ISBN: 0345346297
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Mean Genes: From Sex to Money to Food: Taming Our Primal Instincts
by Terry Burnham & Jay Phelan
Hardcover - 224 pages (August 2000)
Perseus Book Group; ISBN: 0738202304 ; Dimensions (in inches): 0.90 x 8.44 x 5.63
Editorial Reviews
Review by William  A.  Spriggs,  July 21,  2001

Reason for Hope : A Spiritual Journey
by Jane Goodall, Phillip Berman

Hardcover - 320 pages (September 1999)
Warner Books; ISBN: 0446522252; Dimensions (in inches): 1.10 x 9.33 x 6.32
Other Editions: Paperback, Audio Cassette (Abridged) Large Print Edition, Digital

Review by William A. Spriggs

The Math Gene: How Mathematical Thinking Evolved and Why Numbers Are Like Gossip
by Keith J. Devlin
Hardcover - 328 pages (January 15, 2000)
Basic Books; ISBN: 0465016189 ; Dimensions (in inches): 1.17 x 9.68 x 6.48

Editorial Reviews
Review by William  A.  Spriggs, 

Molecules of Emotion : Why You Feel the Way You Feel
by Candace B. Pert

Hardcover - 304 pages (September 1997)
Scribner; ISBN: 0684831872 ; Dimensions (in inches): 1.30 x 9.67 x 6.47
Other Editions: Paperback, Audio Cassette (Abridged)
Review by William A. Spriggs
Lucid and informal, this important book brilliantly explains how emotions are irrevocably tied to the physical body. Easily encompassing the sciences of neuroscience, endocrinology, immunology, and their associated various organs, Pert relates how this intertwining of body and mind creates a bi-directional network of chemical messages transmitted via neuropeptides. This network, Pert says, is "a psychosomatic information network, linking psyche, which comprises all that is of an ostensibly nonmaterial nature, such as mind, emotion, and soul, to soma, which is the material world of molecules, cells, and organs. Mind and body, psyche and soma."

Pert takes her time in telling this story, but in its depths you will find gems of evolutionary psychology. This book, for instance and among other things, leaves us standing at the doorway of understanding why DNA mutates. It gives us hints about the selfish gene, which becomes aware of direct chemical consequences upon it and adapts to these forces to its exclusive betterment.

Click here to learn more or purchase from is for the hardcover edition. see other editions above).

The Moral Animal: Why We Are the Way We Are: The New Science of Evolutionary Psychology

by Robert Wright

Review by William A. Spriggs

This popular book, written by a non-scientist, put the phrase "evolutionary psychology" on the front burner. Easy reading and very insightful in its glimpses of the personal side of Charles Darwin. Highly recommended as an entry level book on evolutionary psychology for the lay person.

Vintage Books, Reprint edition, Sept 1995
ISBN: 0679763996
Other Editions: Hardcover
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Chimpanzee Politics : Power and Sex Among Apes
By Frans de Waal

Hardcover - 216 pages Revised edition (April 1998)
Johns Hopkins Univ. Pr; ISBN: 0801858399 ; Dimensions (in inches): 0.95 x 9.95 x 6.99
Other Editions: Paperback

Review by
The great apes, like humans, can recognize themselves in mirrors. They communicate by sound and gesture, form bands along what can only be called political lines, and sometimes engage in what is very clearly organized warfare. (Less frequently, too, they practice

cannibalism.) In Chimpanzee Politics Frans de Waal, a longtime student of simian behavior, analyzes the behavior of a captive tribe of chimpanzees, comparing its actions with those of ape societies in the wild. What he finds is often not pleasant: chimps seem capable of astonishing deviousness and savagery, which has obvious implications for the behavior their human cousins sometimes exhibit. --This text refers to the paperback edition of this title

Another classic. Detailed study of primate behavior that mirrors our own behavior. The many photographs help to illustrate the behavior patterns that are written about. Entry level, and easy to understand. Contents include: Reciprocity, Dependent Rank, Sexual Bargaining, Sexual Privileges, Courtship and Copulation, Coalitions, Social Mechanisms & Manipulations, and Power Take-Overs. Highly recommended. William A. Spriggs

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Good Natured : The Origins of Right and Wrong in Humans and Other Animals
by Frans de Waal

Paperback - 304 pages Reprint edition (October 1997)
Harvard Univ. Pr; ISBN: 0674356616 ; Dimensions (in inches): 0.94 x 9.25 x 6.10

"There is no need to launch probes into space in order to compare ourselves with other intelligent life," writes primatologist Frans De Waal, "there is plenty of intelligent life down here." And not just intelligent life: life with a sense of right and wrong, with a conscience. De Waal and other observers of ape and monkey behavior see many examples of "empathy and sympathy, the pillars of human morality" among our relatives. No reader of this book (or of De Waal's other works, especially  Bonobo, the Forgotten Ape, , which covers material Good Natured does not) will be able to smugly assume that nature is always "red in tooth and claw," but will have to acknowledge that our finer feelings, too, have natural roots. -- Mary Ellen Curtin

In Good Natured Frans de Waal, ethologist and primatologist, asks us to reconsider human morality in light of moral aspects that can be identified in animals. Within the complex negotiations of human society, a moral action may involve thoughts and feelings of guilt, reciprocity, obligation, expectations, rules, or community concern. De Waal finds these aspects of morality prevalent in other animal societies, mostly primate, and suggests that the two philosophical camps supporting nature and nurture may have to be disbanded in order to adequately understand human morality. A theoretician, de Waal is meticulous in his research, cautious not to extrapolate too much from his findings, and logically sound in his arguments. He also writes with precision and a flair for the dramatic, carrying readers along with graceful ease and vivid examples.

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Bonobo : The Forgotten Ape
by Frans De Waal, Frans Lanting (Photographer)

Hardcover - 235 pages (May 1997)
Univ California Press; ISBN: 0520205359 ; Dimensions (in inches): 1.03 x 10.29 x 8.83
Other Editions: Paperback

For Frans de Waal, man is not the only moral entity, as he made clear in his last book--Good Natured: The Origins of Right and Wrong in Humans and Other Animals. The author has long been intrigued by chimpanzee politics and mores, and now he has turned his human heart and scientific mind to a species science has tended to celebrate solely for its sex drive. Bonobos may look like chimps, but they are actually even closer to us--far more upright, physically, for a start. Furthermore, where chimpanzees hunt, fight, and politic like mad, bonobos are peaceful, often ambisexual, and matriarchal. (Of course, hyenas are matriarchal too, but that's another story ...) De Waal's collaborator, Frans Lanting, has been photographing these gentle creatures for some years and augments the primatologist's explorations and interviews with hundreds of superb color shots. The penultimate picture is of bonobos crossing a road while schoolchildren stand watching, a short distance away. If, as the truism goes, all books about animal behavior are ultimately about us, this exploration of the bonobo may be a step in the right direction.

This beautifully photographed coffee table book of the Bonobos is an evolution of sorts for Frans De Waal from his Chimpanzee Politics Book.  Perhaps he has highlighted a species that some evolutionists think are more highly evolved than humans as their primate society has very little violence.   Make love, not war.  Recommended.  Caution: graphic sexual photographs of Bonobos doing what comes naturally to their primate society.
Click here to learn more or purchase from is for the hardcover edition. see other edition above)

Social Phobia : From Shyness to Stage Fright
by John R. Marshall
Paperback - 240 pages Reprint edition (June 1995)
Basic Books (Short Disc); ISBN: 0465078966 ; Dimensions (in inches): 0.60 x 7.99 x 5.26

by John R. Marshall, MD.
Review by William A. Spriggs
A most interesting and insightful book. Pay particular attention to chapter 2: The Evolutionary Origins of Social Anxiety. We humans, as well as primates, rank others in our society according to various methods. The people that are pushed down develop phobias. To what degree is it innate, and to what degree is it our culture? Highly recommended.

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First Sex : The Natural Talents of Women and How They Will Change the World
by Helen E. Fisher
Hardcover - 320 pages 1 edition (May 1999)
Random House; ISBN: 0679449094 ; Dimensions (in inches): 1.34 x 9.55 x 6.46

Other Editions: Paperback
Review by John G. Martin
Here is an uneasy flag of truce waving above the battle of the sexes. Utilizing recent findings from evolutionary biology and studies of corporate culture, Helen Fisher, an anthropologist at Rutgers, finds that women’s evolutionary history uniquely qualifies them for life and work in the global economy of the dawning 21st century, and that, far from usurping males, women will use their complementary evolutionary skills for the betterment of all.

In clear, unadorned prose Fisher makes the case that women will come to dominate many fields, particularly communications and education, because their evolutionary bias toward "contextual perspective…mental flexibility…imagination, and their superb linguistic faculties" naturally fit them to excel in those, and other, fields.

These skills evolved because of structural difference between the brains of men and women, particularly in the prefrontal cortex, the "crossroads of the mind" where connections are made, "multitasking" occurs, and the flexibility required for modern work grows. These differences are the result of the different tasks men and women fulfilled in prehistory, men focusing on a single task (killing a bison, for example), and women not so much focusing, but attending to a variety of tasks (gathering herbs, preparing meals, caring for children). In support of this Fisher points out that at least one region of women’s prefrontal cortex is larger than men’s, as is the corpus callosum that connects the brain’s two hemispheres, and this makes women better able to "chunk" data, to reach for connections to others, and to weigh many factors at once in decision-making – all necessary skills in the ever-increasing number of "flat" hierarchy companies in the U.S.

Above all these skills is women’s greater facility with language, which Fisher says is the result of estrogen, which builds more dendritic projections on nerve cells of women’s brains, facilitating the flow of information between neurons. She cites a remarkable study showing that "[a]s estrogen levels rise, a woman’s verbal memory and her ability to find the right word rapidly also heighten." Another shows that when post-menopausal women take hormone replacement therapy, "they also improve their scores on tests of several verbal skills."

What is the practical import of these advantages for women? Fisher tells us: In the communications industries, women

    "Will change what we watch on television, hear on the radio, and read in  newspapers….We are likely to see less violence and action-adventure, more complicated stories…more ethnic and age diversity…and a broader, more contextual perspective on just about every issue."

As they move into influential positions in the rest of the business world, women will alter our views of many consumer products, support flexibility in the workplace, and "introduce a more varied, less conventional point of view on business issues."

This is a seriously hopeful book, and it is hard not to be swayed by Fisher’s happy outlook: Women, "Subtly – at times dramatically…will change the world." Fisher leaves little doubt that it will be a change for the better.
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  (this is for the hardcover edition. see other edition above)

Woman: An Intimate Geography
by Natalie Angier

Hardcover - 398 pages (April 1, 1999)
Houghton Mifflin Co (Trd); ISBN: 0395691303 ; Dimensions (in inches): 1.40 x 9.34 x 6.41
Other Editions: Paperback, Audio Cassette (Abridged)
Review by Jennifer Goehring
November 4, 1999  So, I guess it's about time I submit another addition to my column.  I've had a couple of months to sit back, read scads of email responses, two books by supposed female "rivals" within the evolutionary debate, and settle into what seems to be the next logical step in this ongoing pursuit of scientific insight.

Given my latest, rather unforgiving critique of Evo Psych's latest feminist opponent, Natalie Angier, The Boss decided it would be kinda cute to have me review her book for my next article.  Lucky for me, I didn't resist the opportunity to benefit from the advice of someone older and wiser than I, because Angier's book, Woman: An Intimate Geography, turned out to be a most enjoyable read.   So much so that I'll be strongly inclined to give it as a gift to most of the women in my life this coming Christmas; and believe me, I'm a pretty hard sell.

To even attempt to summarize, or categorize, Angier's work in ten words or less is proving more than a little difficult; especially when others' first question to me when I recommend a book is usually, "Well, what's it about?"  It's not a nonfiction piece about feminism, or biology, or evolution, or the typical, melancholy call for a fairer and more just approach to issues that affect women; yet it is all of these things.  And believe me; I have read a library's worth of literature authored by everyone from society's most reactionary feminist to its most dull and technical scientist.  What I found from Angier is that she brings to her writing the best of all of these worlds; the valuable information from science, the poignant insight of a cultural commentator, and the encouraging celebration of dimensions of the female sphere that we have so long ignored and devalued-- but without all the crap.

Woman: An Intimate Geography is exactly that; an elaborate and fascinatingly provocative exploration of womanhood; from basic biology, to instinctive behavior, to the more complex facets of female consciousness.  Angier glides effortlessly from one dimension to the next, deconstructing long-held notions of the origin and function of everything considered to be 'female' in nature.  She provides what I consider to be a long-absent and much needed scientific and evolutionary explanation for many of the elements of female biology we have never bothered to fully understand, before now.  Although some would argue that we have far from grown out of our youth as a species, from the days when phenomena like "female intuition" were regarded as some kind of mystical and evil threat to the sanctity of humankind, we have never bothered to fully deconstruct biases of this nature and approach femininity from a truly rational perspective, and with truly open eyes.

After a lengthy cultural history of continually misrepresenting and bastardizing all things female, Angier provides our first glimpse into reality:  namely, that women, and femininity in general, offer critical and priceless   contributions to not only the survival and perpetuation of our species, but our actual elevation to levels beyond what we need merely to survive.  Progress.   Growth.  Evolution.  It is not, nor has it ever been, the masculine strengths demonstrated by the males of our species that can take sole credit for even a single stage of our development.

Given the vigor with which I had originally challenged Angier's writing, in my previous article, The Evolutionary Perspective of Women, Sex and Monogamy, I would imagine you are all waiting for the proverbial "But..."  Throughout most of the book, I found myself wondering why it was that Angier's article from the Times could have rubbed me the wrong way, when her book had the exact opposite effect.  To my surprise, her piece from the Times turned out to be the last chapter of the book; a chapter devoted solely to uprooting Evolutionary Psychology.  Fortunately for me, this eliminates the dilemma of inconsistency I had thought I was facing; my only criticism of Angier is just as it had always been.  You see, the majority of her book was devoted to a fascinating elaboration of ideas regarding the origin and function of various elements of female biology and femininity-- ALL of which just happen to coincide nicely with current prevailing theories within the field of Evo. Psych.  Angier's only problem is, she just doesn't realize this yet.  I can only assume that she has yet to familiarize herself with the most recent literature within the field.  Although the most "memorable" and stereotypical theories to come from Evo  Psych had designated female sexuality to tend toward monogamy and modesty by nature, this is no longer the prevailing ideology.  Due to the long-awaited awakening of this field, and the work of all the brilliant minds and theorists it has attracted, outdated ideas of female sexuality and femininity have been truly upended.  And whether she likes it or not, with the exception of the last chapter, if I were to locate her book anywhere in a bookstore, it would be in the Evolutionary Psychology section.

Natalie Angier, if you are reading this, I would like to assure you that your problem was never with Ev Psych, but rather with some of the ideas produced by theorists within the field.  (Although Einstein's theories were not consistent with previous mathematical models, his problem was never with the field of mathematics.)  This new revolutionary field could use intuitive minds like you, Ms. Angier.

And on that note, I would like to take this opportunity to welcome you to the club. And as for you guys, I want you to buy this book!
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When Elephants Weep : The Emotional Lives of Animals
by Susan McCarthy, Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson

Paperback - 291 pages (June 1996)
Delta; ISBN: 0385314280 ; Dimensions (in inches): 0.73 x 8.03 x 5.28
Other Editions: Hardcover, Audio Cassette , Large Print

Review by William A. Spriggs
A most interesting book. Although the entire book is anecdotal in nature, Masson piles anecdote upon anecdote upon anecdote retelling tales of animal behaviors that resemble human emotions. You can not help but be impressed by the evidence. The issue of anthropomorphism is a controversial one, and this books helps to keep the flame burning bright in the minds of the common person. It is time for scholars to take a stand. We humans evolved from the primates and are connected to our other animal cousins or we are not. If you believe that we are, then purchase, read, and discuss this book with others. Highly recommended.
Click here to learn more or purchase from is for the hardcover edition. see other edition above)

The Selfish Gene
by Richard Dawkins
Paperback - 352 pages (September 1990)
Oxford Univ Pr (Trade); ISBN: 0192860925 ; Dimensions (in inches): 0.87 x 7.72 x 5.10
Review by William A. Spriggs
This is a very popular book that should be part of your evolutionary library.  It is the updated version of the 1976 original.  Dawkins is superb in explaining complex, dry material with simple-to-understand analogies.   He explains the evolutionary forces behind the all-consuming gene in its march to immortality by passing from generation to generation through Homo sapiens and other living animals.  He also introduces us to the theory of the meme, the cultural equivalent of the gene which seems to have gained acceptance in the popular culture.   He has given us much in this book, including the phrase "willy nilly," which seems to have enjoyed a revival since he first introduced it 23 years ago.

I am absolutely amazed at the influence that Dawkins has had on evolutionary thought in just the past several years.  Perhaps, his thoughts fit well with conservatives who need all the ammunition they can muster to justify their social agendas.  I am equally appalled that Dawkins has not tried to stop this memetric tidal wave when he concludes the book with his final words in the endnotes to chapter 11 on pg. 332:

"We, that is our brains, are separate and independent enough from our genes to rebel against them.  As already noted, we do so in a small way every time we use contraception.  There is no reason why we should not rebel in a large way, too."

Rebels do not enslave others for their enjoyment nor exploitation.  Despite my harsh words, you should still read this book and learn the history of that which came before today's evolutionary thought and judge for yourself.
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The Dark Side of Man: Tracing the Origins of Violence
by Michael P. Ghiglieri

Hardcover - 336 pages (April 1999)
Other editions: Paperback
Perseus Books; ISBN: 073820076X ; Dimensions (in inches): 1.16 x 9.54 x 6.45

Review by William A. Spriggs
This is a book that is as dark as its title. It represents the dark side of biological evolutionary thinking in what some in the discipline call, Social Darwinism. As such, I am recommending the book to feminists, liberals and progressive thinkers as prefect evidence as to how the male conservative mind works at a biological level, with the hopes that it will create the argumentative movement against such a narrow scientific thought.

I am also placing the book on my Recommended Readings site because the information is factual; the depth of research is excellent, and the book is written in a non-academic style that is lucid, and as such it is suitable for the lay reader. But the recommendation comes with a WARNING label. What is wrong is that the male who wrote this book has allowed his conservative political leanings and macho personal biases to turn the book into his personal vendetta against compassionate souls and those who think that male violence is solely a product of our cultural influences. (Read the anti-Barbara Enrenreich thrust on p. 178). It is a perfect example of scientific methodology gone wrong: presenting accurate facts, but framing them in a slanted and biased manner to suit one's personal agenda that is to his gender's advantage.  Some perfect examples of Ghiglieri's macho dribble:

On page 86, Ghiglieri attempts to argue why men rape by framing the subject under the entry section  called: Myths of Rape; with the third myth the most blatant: "…(3) rape is a crime motivated by power and control, not by sex. Each myth can be seductive, yet each is wrong." Ghiglieri presents us with 29 pages on why sex is the main motivation behind rape by males as the sexual transmission of genes.  Yet he only presents seven sentences on page 152 about male spousal abuse; which if my studies are correct, is all about power and control in brutalizing a female within a relationship.  He also does not mention male sexual behavior in our prison systems where sex among male inmates is a widely know secret.  In his latest book, Lockdown America: Police and Prisons in the Age of Crisis, Verso, 1999, Christian Parenti documents how prison guards at California's infamous Corcoran prison repeatedly assigned new prisoners to a cell that contained a serial rapist, whom they rewarded with sneakers and extra food for his performances of sexual rape upon the new male prisoner.   Sex between males in prison has nothing to with the transmission of DNA or sexual selection strategies; in their environment, it has to do with domination and control.    Yes, men raping women is about sex, but it is sex without their consent; and that means dominance and control.   Ghiglieri is telling us the details of a tree without looking at the forest.

Another prefect example of his macho bias:

"The central "truth" of sociologists is that nature, especially that of humankind, is nice and that people are designed to do things that, all in all, favor the survival of their species. Hence people could never be equipped by nature with instincts to kill other people. This idea comes from the Bambi school of biology, a Disneyesque vision of nature as a collection of moralistic and altruistic creatures." p. 179

In the final analysis, Ghiglieri's message is the predictable hopeful one: by embracing our dark side we can then get to the truth about our biological heritage and then we can place pressure on our policy makers to change public policy.

How nice of Mr. Ghiglieri to end on such a promising note.  But if the vicious cycle of male violence is proven beyond a doubt with Ghiglieri's book, how come he does not insist that power and control be taken away from policymaking males and be given to females? As a compassionate, bleeding-heart liberal, one needs to know how the macho scientific mind works, and this book is a shinning example. William A. Spriggs
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The Third Chimpanzee: The Evolution and Future of the Human Animal.

By Jared Diamond

Review by William A. Spriggs
The popular Discover magazine contributor gives us his views on evolution. Pay particular attention to Jared's descriptions of the sexual organs of males of the various species -- including the male animal. This is important if you are interested in studying homophobia.

A provocative look at mankind's evolution from the ape into the complex creature we call human. By standards of other animals, our powerful civilization appears unique. So do many of our behaviors, including our sexual habits and the ways we select mates. Yet in many respects we are merely another species of ape--our genes are more than 98% identical to those of chimpanzees. 25 line drawings and halftones.

Harperperennial Library, 1993
ISBN: 0060984031
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The Cartoon Guide to Genetics

by Larry Gonick, & Mark Wheelis

Review by William A. Spriggs
Yes, your eyes are seeing that book icon correctly -- it's a cartoon book.  The popular cartoonist of Discover Magazine fame helps beginning students learn the basics of Genetics.  I found it extremely helpful when I began my studies in 1992.  Come on, you can always tell your friends at work that you are reviewing the book for your kid -- and besides, will mail you the book in an opaque red, white, and blue package material so that not even your mailman will know what you bought.   Then you can show off the book below (Dealing With Genes)and amaze everyone with your intellect.

Harperperennial Library, Aug. 1991
ISBN: 0062730991
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