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Publisher's Summary

We have long attributed man's violent, aggressive, competitive nature to his animal ancestry. But what if we are just as given to cooperation, empathy, and morality by virtue of our genes? What if our behavior actually makes us apes? What kind of apes are we?

From a scientist and writer E.O. Wilson has called "the world authority on primate social behavior" comes a fascinating look at the most provocative aspects of human nature: power, sex, violence, kindness, and morality, through our two closest cousins in the ape family. For nearly 20 years, Frans de Waal has worked with both the famously aggressive chimpanzee and the lesser-known, egalitarian, erotic, matriarchal bonobo, two species whose DNA is nearly identical to that of humans.

De Waal shows the range of human behavior through his study of chimpanzees and bonobos, drawing from their personalities, relationships, power struggles, and hijinx important insights about our human behavior. The result is an engrossing and surprising narrative that reveals what their behavior can teach us about our own nature.

©2005 Frans de Waal; (P)2005 Tantor Media, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"De Waal's most hopeful message is that peaceful behavior can be learned....[An] important and illuminating book." (The New York Times Book Review)
"Readers might be surprised at how much these apes and their stories resonate with their own lives, and may well be left with an urge to spend a few hours watching primates themselves at the local zoo." (Publishers Weekly)

What members say

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  • Overall
  • Ruth
  • Tallahassee, FL, United States
  • 06-22-07

I loved this book

A special treat was hearing it read from the author himself. I listened to it on and off for a couple of weeks. The concept of religion poisons everything is instinctive for me but this book puts facts to the feelings I have felt all my life. Thank you for making me realize I am not alone. And thank you for having the guts to write this enlightening and informative book. I admit I hid the title from most acquaintances (but did recommend it to my friends and family). I live (and work) in the what's considered the bible belt and sometimes feel like an outsider or a freak for my beliefs or should I say unbeliefs. This work has given me courage to live a more truthful, honest life.

13 of 13 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Top Banana Award

I'm an avid audiobook listener with a penchant for unabridged science recordings. Along with EO Wilson's Consilience and J Diamond's GGS, this ranks as one of my favorites. Our Inner Ape is a profoundingly engaging work. It is full of ideas and insight about human nature drawn from years of studying bonobo and chimpanzee societies. By comparing and contrasing humans with other apes, De Waal offers a fresh new perspective on the evolution of violence, altruism, moral sentiment, and compassion in modern societies. He is a careful observer of ape social behavior and knows how to make his subject extremely relevant. I highly recommend Our Inner Ape!

10 of 10 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Sherry
  • Bothell, WA, United States
  • 10-26-06


This is science for everybody, written with sound knowledge backed by experience and study. It's also a darn good read! Whether or not you agree with everything de Waal writes, you'll be intrigued and enchanted and will come away with plenty to think about. Please, Audible, offer more like this!

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall


This book establishes a strong and systematic argument against the tendency of philosophers to oversimplify human nature. I think every aspiring philosopher, lawyer, and social scientist should read this book.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

fascinating book

Overturns so many of the common ape myths. It requires you to rethink your preconceptions about human "nature." Very thought provoking book. Don't think that this is simply aimed at the animal lover, it is an intreging look at human behaviour through the lens of our closest living relative.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • John
  • Troy, MI, USA
  • 10-07-08

We are bipedal Apes: part chimp; part bonobo

Have fun and learn all about the ape family, including chimps, bonobos and homo sapiens.

The information about the bonobo, the unknown ape, is well worth the price of the book.

A great way to learn about evolution and primate behavior.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Our Inner Ape

Excellent! I find myself relating the information in this book to all around me. A new outlook on human behavior. The evening news casts, the workings of our government, our codes of morality have all taken on a new meaning making me more aware with greater understanding.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

real entertainment

provocative insights into ourselves through observation of our nearest relatives. burned into my mind is the information that at the current rate of habitat loss for chimpanzees and bonobos -- their habitat will be entirely gone by 2040. This might not have been so deeply engraved had I not come to understand these beings as only marginally different from ourselves. We are much closer than I had ever imagined. I found the author credible -- only occaisionally far out on the limb when drawing parallels with contemporary human behaviours. -- generally a reasonably sober and well balanced researcher and conjecturer.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • Performance
  • Story
  • Kim
  • Spokane, WA, United States
  • 04-17-12

A great mix of science and interpretation

Whether or not you believe that humans and apes are leaves hanging from the same branch on the tree of evolution, this book will fascinate and surprise you. The behavior of bonobos is so different from humans - its hard to imagine living as they do but we could benefit greatly from adopting a few more of their traits - they are definitely lovers and not fighters. Yes, the interpretation of the behaviors of apes and the conclusions of the author can be disputed - but questioning these things is part of being human so it all works out in the end.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Dr.
  • Lake Oswego, OR, United States
  • 07-23-09

Fantastic - not what you think.

The author is witty, thoughtful, and insightful. I was looking for a change of pace and tried this book on a whim. I am delighted that I did. I haven't listened to such an interesting book in ages. I will never think of any animal the same way - and I will not ever think of humans without thinking of our closest relatives. Give this book a try - you will not be bored and you will reexamine everything you thought you knew about the human condition. As Gauguin wrote on the back of one of his paintings - "Where do we come from, who are we, and where are we going?" This book will make you ask similar questions.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful