cover image Why Is the Penis Shaped Like That? And Other Reflections on Being Human

Why Is the Penis Shaped Like That? And Other Reflections on Being Human

Jesse Bering. FSG/Scientific American, $16 trade paper (304p) ISBN 978-0-374-53292-5

Bering, a research psychologist, columnist for, and contributor to Slate and NPR, gathers 30 eclectic essays from Scientific American and Slate that address numerous human activities, such as human sexuality, with an evolutionary spin. He explains, among others, why men masturbate (to expel older sperm that might have less power to impregnate than newer sperm); the prevalence of sexual fantasies (“everyone tends to imagine someone—or something—else when they are having sex with their partner”); the evolutionary advantages of premature ejaculation; and the relationship between a woman’s orgasms and her partner’s status and looks. Bering is often personal, and always takes a wry approach to his topics, but despite the inherent prurient interest that invariably attaches to human sexuality, he is a rationalist and his insights and opinions are always supported by science. And he isn’t all about sex: his essays tackle the “adaptive” aspect of suicide, the penchant for believing Christians to contribute more to charity on Sundays than on other days, and even free will. These entertaining essays offer a cornucopia of ideas that will reward readers with hours of conversational gambits. Agent: Peter Tallack, the Science Factory. (July)