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Mean Genes | [Terry Burnham, Jay Phelan]

Mean Genes

Short, sassy, and bold, Mean Genes reveals that our struggles for self-improvement are, in fact, battles against our own genes - genes that helped our distant ancestors flourish, but are selfish and out of place in the modern world.
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Publisher's Summary

Why do we want - and do - so many things that are bad for us? We vow to lose those extra five pounds, put money in the bank, and mend neglected relationships, but our attempts often end in failure. Our toughest battles, it seems, are with ourselves. To understand this fundamental aspect of human nature, Terry Burnham and Jay Phelan argue, we need to stop looking to Sigmund Freud - and start looking to Charles Darwin.

Short, sassy, and bold Mean Genes reveals that our struggles for self-improvement are, in fact, battles against our own genes - genes that helped our distant ancestors flourish, but are selfish and out of place in the modern world.

Using this evolutionary lens, Mean Genes brilliantly examines the issues that most affect our lives: body image, money, addiction, violence, and the endless search for friendship, love, and fidelity. But Burnham and Phelan don't simply describe the connections between genes and behavior. They use this knowledge to offer steps for improving the quality of our lives.

Why do we love fast food? Why is the road to romance so rocky? Must happiness always be elusive? What drives us into debt? An intrepid investigation into the biological nature of temptation and the struggle for control, Mean Genes answers these and other fundamental questions about human behavior, while giving us an edge to lead satisfying lives.

Beer.com says "It's not some corny self-help book either. It doesn't preach. In fact, it doesn't care if you continue to abuse yourself beyond recognition. It just attempts to explain why you bought that car you can't afford, ate that box of donuts you don't need and why, lordy lord, you continue to drink that cheap, generic beer when your bladder and liver are begging for an elevated variety."

Executive Producer: Orli Moscowitz



Original Jacket Illustration: David J. High after a concept by Jay Phelan



Original Jacket Design: High Design, NYC



Author Photographs by Lisa Phelan (Jay) and Martha Stewart (Terry)



©2000 by Terry Burnham and Jay Phelan



(P) 2000 Random House, Inc.


What the Critics Say

"Mean Genes is a surprisingly fun read, filled with amazing data that could keep any reader talking through many cocktail parties" (Boston Globe)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.8 (80 )
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3.8 (18 )
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  •  
    Paul Phoenix, AZ, USA 01-28-03
    Paul Phoenix, AZ, USA 01-28-03
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Entertaining and Informative"

    "Mean Genes" is one of the best Audible books I've heard. It's read with a light tone and full of fascinating information about how our biological coding affects us. It is not full of jargon or high level scientific terms. It's aimed at the educated and curious individual. Very good "reading"!

    11 of 11 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Michael San Francisco, CA, USA 03-16-05
    Michael San Francisco, CA, USA 03-16-05 Member Since 2014
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    "Entertainment, not Science"

    I was disappointed; I expected "Scientific American" and what I got was "People Magazine". Mean Genes is targeted at an audience who slept through high school biology. Everything is presented in the simplest of terms, and at no point do the authors go into any particular depth. If you want more than a very light mix of science with your entertainment, give this a pass.

    10 of 11 people found this review helpful
  •  
    James Golden Valley, MN, USA 11-30-03
    James Golden Valley, MN, USA 11-30-03 Member Since 2002
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    "The most interesting ever"

    Mean Genes was a fascinating listen. I learned lots, and enjoyed every second.

    6 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Michael R. Oconnell Chicago 02-24-15
    Michael R. Oconnell Chicago 02-24-15 Member Since 2014

    Mikey MIKAEL

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    "Maybe the original but..."

    Many more recent narrative psychology books have rehashed these ideas (Dan ariely, Gladwell, etc.). But if you are new to evolutionary psychology, this is a great introduction.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kai 01-26-15
    Kai 01-26-15 Member Since 2015
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    "Amazing!"

    This book is fantastic! Love books that give understanding to the world and reality we are faced with everyday! Explaining the things we take for granted with science and probabilities!

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Barry J. Marshall 01-30-08 Member Since 2011

    Medical Doctor Gastroenterologist and Infectious disease specialist Scientist. I collect calculators, I am learning Mandarin.

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    "If you like scioence - avoid this"

    I was disappointed with this book. I had hoped Iwould learn something but the science is very anecdotal. More like a psychoanalysis text with a veneer of evolution and genetics. Dr Phil entusiasts might like it. Very motivational if you are trying to lose weight. I stopped half way through - the second half of the book might be better. Maybe I will update this if ever I am in jail and this is the only book I can find.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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