The first cultural anthropology book I read was The Naked Ape by Desmond Morris. I provided the link to the Amazon page, because though it's not available as an ebook at all, there are a lot of used copies there. You can just get it out of the library, but if you're like me, you'll be underlining and making notes in it, so it's best you buy your own copy. He writes for the lay-person, who isn't a scientist, so don't worry about not being able to understand. He makes his prose readable and interesting.
Desmond Morris examines what makes us human. How and why are we different from our simian cousins? What makes humans unique as a species? First published in 1967, this book has only eight chapters, but they will all make you think about what you've read. The one on sex is fascinating for a romance writer--indeed, for anyone who has ever been in love. Even though he refers to the three stages of human intimacy as pair-formation, pre-copulatory activity and copulation, non-sexy titles all, and he describes them in scientific language, you still will find yourself marveling at how he can put names to, and explain things that are processed by us through our senses, primarily, not our brains.
Of course, I then had to obtain everything else written by Desmond Morris, so I also own The Human Zoo, in which he examines things like why people who live in crowded cities are different from those who live in rural areas. As pack animals, we want to reach out and have relationships with everyone around us, to give us a pack to keep us safe. But in cities, you pass by hundreds of people everyday, and you can't possibly relate to all of them. So you develop street-smarts, a way to ignore them--headphones, eyes down, phones in hand, etc. All of these are survival mechanisms that allow for us to live in such an unnatural environment--we alter our behavior unconsciously, to survive.
In Human Intimacy, he delves more deeply into intimate relationships, and examines our actions and reactions involved with sexual relationships. And in one of my favorites of his books, Babywatching, he starts out by stating he's going to examine infancy as if it was another species, because there is just so much going on with infants that we don't ever think about. In this book, I learned three facts about pupils.
1--When you first fall in love with someone, you will gaze at them a lot--why? When you look at a loved one, your pupils will expand, as if to drink in the sight of them. The loved one's lizard brain, the instinctive part of us that reacts unthinkingly and without our knowledge, will recognize that my pupils have enlarged, so that must mean that I love you. In reaction, that person's pupils will also enlarge. This is essential to pair-bonding.
2--Why are all babies around the world born with very light-colored eyes, no matter what color they will become as they get older? The reason is that, just like the fontanel on a baby's head that is odoriferous, allowing mom to bond with her baby's smell, she will gaze into her baby's eyes with love--and of course, dilated pupils. The baby's amygdala will react by dilating baby's pupils as well, to let mama know baby loves her too. If the baby's eyes were dark, it would be hard to see. Since the baby's eyes are lighter in color, mama can easily see that baby returns her love, and their pair-bond is enforced.
3--If you show pictures of newborn babies to a woman who is a mother, her pupils will expand so much there will only be a thin corona of color left, as she gazes at the sight. If you show pictures of newborns to a woman who isn't a mother yet, her pupils will expand, but not as much. If you show pictures of a newborn to a man who is a father, his pupils will expand almost as much as the mothers'. But if you show pictures of newborns to men who are not yet fathers, their pupils will pin, shrinking down as if they are trying to shut out the unwanted sight
Fascinating stuff, right? I think so! And since I write romance, I need to know the language of love, how our bodies react to loving emotions.
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Now join me in blog-hopping to see what other authors think are the non-fiction books we should all read.