Faith in Human Nature

Published by W. W. Norton & Company, September, 2019

Believers advance praise:

“An atheistic scientist has written a book that comprehends the color, variety depth and value of faith. An exhilarating and inspiring work.” Rabbi David Wolpe, Sinai Temple of Los Angeles, Author of David: The Divided Heart 

Believers is a wonderful book. It is a thoughtful, insightful, and engaging narrative that matters, a lot, right now… a lovely and meaningful book.” Augustín Fuentes, University of Notre Dame, author of The Creative Spark and Why We Believe

Believers reviewer quotes:

“Konner [asks]: Why is religion still around?…Then, in each of the following lively chapters, he explores an astonishing range of perspectives… Marvelously readable… Konner’s Believers offers a terrific running start for anyone who shares his excitement about the questions he raises.” Elaine Pagels, The New York Times Book Review, online November 11, 2019; front page of the print edition, December 1, 2019

“An anthropologist mounts a defense of the religious impulse as biological and cultural imperative…. A humane, appropriately qualified argument that provides aid and comfort for believers—and that should also interest fair-minded nonbelievers.” Kirkus Reviews, July 1, 2019 (online June 11)

“Konner defends the search for meaning beyond life as part of human nature… Readers who enjoy the work of Mircea Eliade or Karen Armstrong will find food for thought here.” Publishers Weekly July 8, 2019

“Illuminating…an eclectic approach…Both scientific and aesthetic, his observations are always thought-provoking and stimulating.” Booklist, reviewed by Michael Cart, August 1, 2019

“Rather than dismiss religious faith, Dr. Konner, an anthropologist and medical doctor, wants to understand it as a fact of human existence… For Dr. Konner…religious affections are a natural, innate human impulse, not a consequence of undesirable and eradicable social pathologies.” Wall Street Journal, reviewed by Barton Swaim

“Konner [concludes] that religious inclinations are ‘built into the human brain,’ that they are developed in childhood, that they evolve by natural selection, and that there is a ‘human hunger for commitment to something that really gives life larger meaning.’ Enlightenment secular humanism has the right to question religion, but it does not have the right to proclaim its demise. Ever faithful to the reality that is before us, Konner offers a modern ‘Guide for the Perplexed’ that favors no religion or theology but affirms the reality of religious inclination in humanity.” Rabbi Dr. David Blumenthal, in Reviews in Religion and Theology


Women After All

Sex, Evolution, and the End of Male Supremacy

Published by W. W. Norton & Company, March 9, 2015

“This beautifully written, exquisitely conceived book should provoke spirited debate among all audiences, from researchers to general readers.”—Cynthia Fox, Library Journal

“Engaging and provocative…a virtuoso performance.”Bookpage

Women After All cover hi res medium

“[Konner’s] conclusions give me, well, hope.”Louise Erdrich, National Book Award-winning novelist

“Mel Konner has written a lively, readable, feminist book arguing that the complementarity of the sexes is returning and women are forging ahead as the historic anomaly of male dominance is ending.”  Louise Lamphere, University of New Mexico, Current Anthropology,  August 2015*

“A sparkling, thought-provoking account of sexual differences. Whether you’re a man or a woman, you’ll find his conclusions gripping.”—Jared Diamond, UCLA, author of Guns, Germs, and Steel and The World Until Yesterday

Women After All is astonishingly insightful…It is the best available examination of how and why men and women differ and how 21st century humans can use this knowledge to forge a better world.”—Sarah Blaffer Hrdy, University of California, Davis, author of Mother Nature, Mothers and Others, and The Woman That Never Evolved

“Sweeping, ambitious and eminently readable, Konner’s Women After All tours the sciences to harness the most contemporary offerings of biology, physiology, sociology and psychology to craft an argument that women are not only different from men, but perhaps even better. A compelling and thought-provoking read for men and women alike.”—Lisa Sanders, M.D., New York Times columnist and Associate Professor, Yale School of Medicine

Women After All describes what future historians will surely recognize as one of the momentous transformations in the human saga…Engagingly written and persuasively argued, it shows how an acknowledgment of human nature combined with a long view of history can advance the human condition.”—Steven Pinker, Harvard University, author of The Blank Slate and The Better Angels of Our Nature

“For a young woman just about to embark on adult life…reading this book is imperative…it will make sense of the world and human behavior and empower my daughter to deal with the constant blizzard of antifemale sentiment that is surely roaring her way…Women After All is the manifesto that will remind these young women, as well as us older ones, to be fierce. Always, every minute of every day—unstoppable.”  Meredith Small, Cornell University, Current Anthropology,  August 2015*

“Konner raises vital questions eloquently and with depth. We are in his debt.”  Lionel Tiger, Rutgers University, Current Anthropology,  August 2015*

“An urgent message for women—and men…a brave book.”  Camilla Power, Times Higher Education Supplemement,  March 2015

“As I read, I was challenged on almost every page. Where I didn’t agree, I needed to think hard. Where I agreed, I was presented with new facts and surprising implications. All in all, just what you want from a book: a fluent, provocative, well-argued engagement with a lively mind.”—Sherry Turkle, MIT, author of Alone Together, Life on the Screen, and The Second Self

“Witty, well paced, packed with useful information…This is fascinating stuff, about which we are learning a lot more every year, and Konner lays it out with a fine blend of science and anecdote and a virtuoso mastery of detail.”  Paul Seabright, Times Literary Supplement 15 May 2015

“Konner tells a convincing story with a breadth of research to sustain it. He anticipates counterarguments, is not afraid to offend…and brilliantly shows us the bright new world that we could really have were women’s capacities as biologically given truly recognized for what they are.”  Unni Wikan, University of Oslo, Current Anthropology,  August 2015*

Women After All is the definition of a provocative page-turner…Konner’s writing is clear and light, but this  should not be mistaken for simplicity. Nearly every page presents a scientific finding, tucked between his humorous turns of phrase and well-crafted interpretations.”  Justin R. Garcia, The Kinsey Institute, Current Anthropology,  August 2015*

“Dr. Konner…makes a powerful case for a provocative thesis: that women are, in nearly every way that really matters, superior to men…In making this argument, he ranges from evolutionary biology through ethology, neurobiology, embryology, anthropology and history, with digressions into economics and politics. Not many people could pull this off—but Dr. Konner does… The author’s descriptions of the natural world are erudite and enthusiastic… But the crux of Dr. Konner’s narrative concerns human beings… You might want to argue with the seeming stridency of Dr. Konner’s thesis, but if so, you need to read his book first.” David Barash, The Wall Street Journal, August 3, 2015

“Melvin Konner, a distinguished anthropologist…maintains in this entertaining book that, when it comes to the evolutionary race, men are definitely the weaker sex. What’s more, he says, the sooner we wake up to this reality and adjust our world accordingly, the happier all of us will be.” Kathryn Hughes, Mail on Sunday (and Irish Mail on Sunday), 26 April, 2015

“Konner has written a volume rich in examples, concepts, and insights. Whether or not you agree with his recommendations, you will find much to foster continued and deep debate about the changing and gendered human condition.”  Peter B. Gray, University of Nevada,, Current Anthropology,  August 2015*

“A society in which women are allowed to speak and be heard on equal terms with men is one that has a shot at the kind of decent and democratic future Konner is looking for.” Joanna Scutts, The Washington Post, April 17, 2015

“A wide-ranging, absorbing, and thoughtful account of the many sources of sex differences, from the earliest organisms through to the modern world.” Margery Lucas, “Difference Feminism Now,” Society 52:499-502, 2015.

“A thorough overview of the literature on sex and evolution that is accessible to readers without a strong background in evolutionary theory.” Ashley N. Peterson and Amanda E. Guitar, Evolutionary Psychology, 2015:1-3.

* One of six full-length book reviews published simultaneously in a forum in Current Anthropology.



The Evolution of Childhood: Relationships, Emotion, Mind

Published by The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, May 2010

Five Best Books of 2010 – The Atlantic

Top Ten Science Books of 2010 –

A TLS (Times Literary Supplement) Book of the Year

On The Evolution of Childhood…

“…a magisterial new work…” Rebecca Mead, The New Yorker

“This monumental book…at once grand and intricate, breathtakingly inclusive and painstakingly particular–exhaustively explores the biological evolution of human behavior and specifically the behavior of children. Melvin Konner…weaves a compelling web of theories and studies across a remarkable array of disciplines…To read this book is to be in the company of a helpful and hopeful teacher who is eager to share what he’s found.” Benjamin Schwarz, The Atlantic, May 2010

Evolution of Childhood cover“Konner places childhood firmly within an evolutionary framework in his magisterial book. Synthesizing research across many disciplines, it highlights evidence for interactions between genes and the environment…Konner is an excellent tour guide to the sacred lands of childhood. He has produced a scholarly, detailed, and beautifully written study.” Morten Kringelbach, Nature, October 21, 2010

“The book is breathtakingly ambitious…Yet it is undeniably a tour de force. Konner is perhaps the only scholar who is as comfortable describing cultural change, or evolution…as he is defining the complex biochemical and statistical correlates of behavior. One of his writerly charms is that he is ever the seer and scientist. He marvels at what he describes… Konner is a compassionate Darwinist. He insists on understanding rather than judgment…Of course, toppling disciplinary boundaries can be a high-risk enterprise. In this sense, Konner is himself like the adolescent Icarus…But the likely result of his work is that disciplines will have to fraternize…And the rest of us may well look with renewed wonderment (and respect) at the playing of children small and large.” Michele Pridmore-Brown, The Times Literary Supplement, October 1, 2010

“The volume is a singular achievement, not least because it encompasses, and describes accessibly and eloquently, many fields of endeavor and scholarship…The goal may be extraordinarily ambitious, but the exercise must be deemed a remarkable success. Konner achieves a readable and persuasive synthesis more inclusive than anything ever before attempted…This magisterial book is assuredly the most important analysis of the evolution of childhood yet attempted. It summarizes 40 years of observation, analysis, and synthesis by one of the most profound thinkers of our generation. Whoever follows intellectually will necessarily build on this magnificently eloquent and integrative edifice.” Michael Lamb (see also below), American Scientist

“The breadth of this synthesis is extraordinary…but Konner accomplishes it with visionary and integrative aplomb, and the resulting account…is coherent and compelling…nothing short of magisterial…Sure to have an enduring impact on the way we think about and study human development, this treatise confirms Konner’s status alongside John Bowlby and Sarah Hrdy in the pantheon of ‘game-changing’ scholars whose attempts to understand the defining features of our species and its origins have fundamentally transformed the ways we think. If you have time to read only one book this year, it really should be The Evolution of Childhood: Relationships, Emotion, Mind. Michael Lamb (again), The Association for Psychological Science Observer

“This is a rich book that can be opened to most any page or section and be quite richly rewarding…even without the grand scheme of the whole. Of course, given the remarkable scope and breadth of the book, there will be a lot of disagreements, debates, and arguments…But, the major contribution of the book is its remarkable breadth and openness…Konner is relentlessly interdisciplinary: he crosses levels of analysis and is open to all methods in search of description and explanation for every feature of development. The experience…is that of participating in a rich conversation…with researchers from many disciplines in and out of anthropology with varied theories and data, sitting around a table, who all care about understanding mind, emotion, and relationships. The Evolution of Childhood is a terrific, major contribution to this ongoing conversation about human development in anthropology.” Thomas S. Weisner, Current Anthropology

“We are fortunate to now have Melvin Konner’s ambitious book…Konner reviews and integrates both classic and the latest research from a broad range of fields…Being a scientific generalist in these days of specialists is not easily done, but it is exactly what is needed…My bias may be showing here, but I see the most important take-home message being ‘development matters,’ a point that this book makes loud and clear.” David F. Bjorklund, Human Biology.

“This is a big book, in all senses. It’s big in length and requires some big thinking. Big ideas do. It’s also big in the sense of great…Great too is Konner’s art. His prose is not just clear but engaging. He develops his…argument like a mystery…It also develops like a musical score…a pleasing arrangement of ideas as themes and variations, rhythms, transitions, and interludes…I recommend this book to anyone interested in how we evolved the life cycles that enable so many of us, in so many…environments, to mature into ‘deeply loving’ and ‘wisely caring’ parents. This should include all parents and everyone else with a scientific, therapeutic, or emotional interest in ‘relationships, emotion, and mind’…” James Chisholm, Ethos: Journal of the Society for Psychological Anthropology

“It’s been a long time coming but it was worth the wait. Mel Konner’s wonderful new book shows that you simply must think about our biological past to understand our psychological present. The Evolution of Childhood offers an extraordinary new foundation for all knowledge of human development.” Michael Ruse, author of Evolution: The First Four Billion Years

“Ever since his pioneering studies of infancy among Kalahari hunter-gatherers…Mel Konner has illuminated anthropology with knowledge from ethnography, sociobiology, neuroscience, and social psychology, in a search for a deep understanding of what it means to be human. This monumental book contains the best description of what play is all about that I have ever read, as well as the most comprehensive guide anywhere taking a reader through different phases of infancy, middle childhood, and adolescence. The book is the culmination of Konner’s lifelong quest. It will transform the way that human development is understood and taught.” Sarah Blaffer Hrdy, author of Mother Nature and Mothers and Others

“[Konner] covers almost every topic imaginable in anthropology, biology, and psychology that involves child development. Moreover, since the book is on evolution, there’s a lot about other animals, from the platypus to the great ape…If you want to know the latest scholarly information on child development, you can buy this book for $40 or get a new scholarly encyclopedia of child development for $1500. Odds are that this one will be more thought-provoking and better written–and probably almost as extensive.” Mary Ann Hughes, Library Journal

“Konner has produced a work of great breadth that will draw interest widely across disciplines. The emphasis on childhood as the product of evolution and the thorough deemphasis of the nature-versus-nurture construct advances our understanding of childhood as an adaptation. The wide-ranging review of the literature from animal behavior, psychology, and anthropology as well as the cross-species, cross-cultural comparisons add richness to Konner’s discussions. There is no doubt that those interested in any aspect of childhood, including play, will find rewarding reading.” John Bock, American Journal of Play

“Why do we love watching [babies]?…Melvin Konner’s massive and massively researched new book, goes a long way in dispelling a lot of that mystery. Konner…gives a detailed and expansive overview of what the fields of anthropology, evolutionary biology, psychology and genetics have taught us about human childhood. The book, in fairly accessible language, explains the evolutionary purpose of everything from babies’ expressions (humans, apparently, are the only animal who can pull off the ‘relaxed friendly smile’) to crying, early childhood outbursts and juvenile delinquency.” Thomas Rogers,

(Read an interview with Konner about the book at

“…a truly monumental work…” Harvard Magazine, July-August 2010

“Being a scientific generalist in these days of specialists is not easily done, but it is exactly what is needed to acquire a proper picture of childhood…[an] ambitious and well written book.” David F. Bjorklund, American Journal of Human Biology, 2010

“Anthropologist-physician Melvin Konner’s The Evolution of Childhood is a masterwork of scholarship. Even at over 900 pages, it should entice anyone keen for knowledge about human infancy, childhood, and adolescence and the evolution of these life stages.” Barbara J. King,

“This book is incredibly well researched with 159 pages of references and an index of 22 pages. If you plan to read this book through, take a little each day and savor the delights it bestows. Well worth the read.” D. Wayne Dworsky, San Francisco Book Review

“This exquisite book cannot be summarized in a few lines…Childhood is the central theme but Konner reaches back to the beginning of the species…Konner compares hunter-gatherer groups to families in industrialized societies with respect to childcare, coming of age, mating, and socialization…Children are resilient but this is not something that should be tested too often. These topics are but the tip of the iceberg. The title of this book might well be ‘Why we are us.’ Every chapter contains ideas that ignite curiosity and speculation in the reader.” SciTech Book News, September 2010.

“Konner’s monumental achievement in producing what I consider to be a proper handbook on childhood evolution is not to be underestimated. While reading the text, I was amazed at how much information was being presented, yet Konner’s tone and approach…yielded a manuscript that was readable and entertaining…His sensible consideration of cross-cultural findings from an array of cultural groups sets this text apart from similar contributions. As a student of cognition and culture, I would recommend this book to individuals interested in human biology, evolution, culture, or development.” Natalie A. Emmons, Metapsychology Online Reviews

The Tangled Wing

Biological Constraints on the Human Spirit

Nominated for the American Book Award in Science

The Tangled Wing is available for purchase at

Download Tangled Wing notes in PDF form

On The Tangled Wing…

“How wonderful to have a new Tangled Wing which incorporates the rich findings made in the last twenty years…the same graceful writing as in the original classic.Ernst Mayr

“The word ‘masterpiece’ almost never springs to mind about a work in biosocial science. It does about The Tangled Wing…It’s a remarkable accomplishment.” Lionel Tiger

“In the great tradition of Charles Darwin…Konner updates the argument for a biological basis of the human mind and spirit with force, clarity, and eloquence.” J. Allan Hobson

“…a magnificent synthesis…No one is better qualified than Melvin Konner to illuminate the complex workings of the human mind.” Aaron T. Beck

“If you read the breathtaking first edition of The Tangled Wing and were mesmerized, your pleasures have just begun…a vastly new account of our nature.” Michael Gazzaniga

“…the reader can turn to Konner as the sensible, sober and authoritative voice.” Martin Seligman

“… a breathtaking set of skills. I do not think anyone else could have put together this synthesis…He also has a rare command of language and knows how to tell a story.” Mark Ridley

“It is rare for a book by a scientist to be a page-turner, but Konner keeps the reader ever alert to his rare insights and profound understanding of our nature.” Paul Ekman

“This new edition of The Tangled Wing updates a seminal work…a superb book.” Thomas Insel

“In the upcoming postgenomic era, linking basic biology and behavior is likely to be the most important challenge of the life sciences…The Tangled Wing is the finest such effort I have seen…as gripping as a mystery novel.” Solomon Snyder

“…sure to be among the most important books published in the first decade of the new millennium.” Alice Rossi

“Konner’s general erudition, his combination of deeply moral and humanistic sensitivity with scientific rigor…provide a powerful and distinctive interpretation…a point of orientation for many in the coming decades.” James Gustafson

“Melvin Konner is the nearest thing we have to a poet laureate of behavioral biology. This is an indispensable book.” Robert Sapolsky

Of the first edition Ernst Mayr wrote, “A beautifully written, well-balanced interpretation of human nature…free of dogmatism and ideological commitment.”

From published reviews of Melvin Konner’s The Tangled Wing: Biological Constraints on the Human Spirit (Holt, 1982; completely revised second edition, Holt, 2002):

On the 1982 edition:

“Mr. Konner scorns the arguments of hard-line hereditarians and environmentalists… [His] clear and graceful exposition never falters.” Peter Engel, The New York Times Book Review

“Lucid, appealing, well integrated…a thoroughly engaging adventure of ideas on the human condition…Melvin Konner has furnished us with rich materials for self-understanding and, what is more important, for speculation about the unfinished species to which we belong and have the obligation to sustain.” Norman Cousins, The Washington Post Book World

“[Konner] displays a commanding scholarship, in both width and depth, which is matched by a rare judiciousness and an unrelenting zeal for subtle nuances…[H]is achievement…is overwhelming. We will have to wait many years for a more accessible yet equally comprehensive synthesis…” Times Literary Supplement

The Tangled Wing joins the works of Loren Eiseley, Stephen Jay Gould, and a handful of other scientists on that elite shelf reserved for books that package their tricky technical messages in brightly ribboned prose…His graceful style allows those of us who aren’t professional scientists to link his message to our personal lives…” Harvard Magazine

The Tangled Wing is a thoughtful book. It is rich in data and documentation; it provides a clearly stated set of interpretations of the data, and does it all in a literate fashion.” American Journal of Physical Anthropology

“An excellent, readable book…Konner invokes sociology, anthropology, sociobiology, molecular biology, neurophysiology, and genetics as strands of the net that will eventually catch the explanations of why people act as they do.” ALA Booklist

On the 2002 edition:

“We need visionaries like Konner who can sift through and synthesize an ever growing compendium of scientific and cultural knowledge…Expertly researched and thorough in scope, The Tangled Wing is an extremely accessible survey of the scientific and sociological thinking on the subject of human behavior over the past half century.” Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA)

“Konner has rewritten his magnum opus…The Tangled Wing provides a unique combination of encyclopedia and art, and in both areas it is exceptional. Of all such works it goes deepest into the body, and widest to the soul…Konner’s humane appeal for a workable social world that takes biology seriously is popular science at its lyrical best.” Richard Wrangham, Evolutionary Psychology

What a wonderful, unexpected gift—a second edition of Melvin Konner’s The Tangled Wing, appearing 20 years after the widely acclaimed, now classic first edition…[It] is an authoritative, sophisticated, highly readable survey of a vast amount of current knowledge and ideas about human nature…Konner weaves literature and philosophy into this fundamentally scientific story, in a manner that adds to the epic and poetic qualities of the book.” Peter Gray, Human Ethology Bulletin

The Tangled Wing reminds us that the community of biologically minded researchers in the social sciences should be thankful to have as one of their spokespeople someone with Konner’s fluid eloquence, surpassing breadth of knowledge, and unyielding courage.” Robert Kurzban, Evolution and Human Behavior

Becoming a Doctor

A Journey of Initiation in Medical School 

Becoming a Doctor is available for purchase at

“A richly rewarding book about medical education, far better and more worthwhile than others of its kind . . . although I started out with a strongly negative bias, I am giving this book a rave review. I think it is the finest, and in many ways the most interesting, of all the ‘I was there’ books . . . every medical student would gain insight by reading Konner’s remarkable book.” Francis Moore, M.D., The New England Journal of Medicine


“Having spent some twenty years teaching in medical school and having read many books on medical schools and medical education, I have no hesitation in saying that this is the best account ever written on what goes on in those institutions and why the practice of medicine has become a disaster . . . Excellent writer that he is, Konner makes us relive along with him the life of a student in the pressure cooker of the dramatic and brutalizing environment of the clinical years at a hospital . . . While [he] is highly critical . . . he writes with love and respect for the medical profession . . . Becoming a Doctor, in addition to reading like an exciting novel, is in my opinion the most important book on medical education in almost eighty years.” Ashley Montagu, Chicago Sun-Times

“A skilled writer and observer, he chisels away at the mask of medicine . . . “ Boston Sunday Globe

“Dr. Konner describes with grace and skill those moments of learning when the crunch of clinical insight joins the how of practice to the why of theory . . . An engaging memoir . . . a valuable contribution to the growing literature of medical culture.” Gerald Weissman, The New York Times Book Review

“Becoming a Doctor…is, in a word, outstanding…an unparalleled, mature, and in-depth review of four years of the travail of medical school . . . a rare blend of philosophy, theology, humor, and education…As a physician, reading Becoming a Doctor was an enthralling and cathartic experience…Konner is a truly gifted writer.” William M. Swentko, M.D.,  Journal of the American Medical Association

“Anthropology has always shown us truths about ourselves that are stranger than fiction. Konner’s brutally honest narrative is in that tradition, although Konner delivers his disturbing report more in sorrow than in anger, grieving especially because the present reality contrasts so strongly with our true potential for healing. Read Becoming a Doctor; be prepared to enjoy it and learn from it; but be prepared for the shock of recognition.” Frank Davidoff, M.D., American College of Physicians, Annals of Internal Medicine

“An arresting and candid commentary on the medical profession.” Publisher’s Weekly

“Konner believes in a spiritual aspect to healing, something that has less to do with heroic measures and scientific techniques than with patience, courage, and faith . . . His departure should make us a little less optimistic about the capacity for change of the profession he left behind.” William B. Hamilton, The Washington Post

“With candor and insight he relates the elation of his first delivery, the depression of his first death, and the everyday fact of disease, pain, despair and hope.” Providence, Rhode Island Journal-Bulletin

” . . . a gem of a book, more telling and insightful than most others of its genre . . . Konner is a good writer. The brief sketches of the characters he paints are vivid and thorough, as they are in the best fiction…Though not practicing medicine, his contribution to it is memorable.” Phoenix, Arizona Republic

“Will fascinate readers who have a touch of medical voyeurism and enlighten anyone who uses the services of a doctor.” San Jose Mercury News

“Throughout the book, Konner carries the reader through pain and joy in daily encounters with chaos, disease, death, and healing cures. He is at his best in chronicling the need for empathy as well as mechanical virtuosity and pleads eloquently for humanistic training . . . I’m sorry he’s no longer with us in the medical profession. Nothing in my life has been so marvelous as being a doctor. But I’m glad that he wrote this book. And I dare every member of the American Medical Association to read it.” William Charles Conner, M.D., Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“One of my favorites, for sure. Konner went back to med school mid-career, and his observations on the med school experience are insightful, important, and much needed, even today.” Jaime Herndon, “50 Books to Read if You Love Medicine,” Book Riot, 2017

The Paleolithic Prescription

by S. Boyd Eaton, Melvin Konner, and Marjorie Shostak

The Paleolithic Prescription: A Program of Diet & Exercise and a Design for Living is available for purchase at

“While most diets are simply fads, The Paleolithic Prescription is a brilliant exposition on the diet Nature designed for us…Anyone interested in leading a fuller and healthier life cannot afford to ignore this critical, highly readable, and enlightening book.”

Donald C. Johanson, author of Lucy’s Legacy: The Quest for Human Origins and From Lucy to Language

Paleo cover“…probably the best and most useful diet, exercise, and design for living book ever published, and certainly the most readable.”

Ashley Montagu, author of On Being Human, Touching: The Human Significance of the Skin, The Natural Superiority of Women, and other books

“The last word on diets is probably the first. The Paleolithic Prescription is for the long haul. It is ‘The Live to Win’ diet.”

George Sheehan, M.D., medical editor of Runner’s World magazine and author of Dr. Sheehan on Fitness and other bestselling books

“An extraordinarily important document, and one of the most fascinating and conviincing approaches to healthy eating that I have read in a long time…so important that it should be iin the hands of almost all dietitians and nutritionists.”

Dennis Burkitt, M.D., author of many books including Eat Right, Stay Healthy, and Don’t Forget Fiber in Your Diet

“…of extreme importance. It enables us to bring a crucial element to the interpretation of modern data concerning nutrition and health…The reader of The Paleolithic Prescription will find the data fascinating and can derive very useful lessons from it.”

Jean Mayer, nutritionist and president, Tufts University

“The book to read, first and foremost, as a unique guide to healthier, happier, and even longer living, unique for its evolutionary perspective featuriing the latest discoveries of modern medicine and nutrition in the context of how much we can learn from our Stone Age ancestors. Highly recommended.”

John Pfeiffer, author of The Creative Explosion and The Emergence of Humankind

“I have enjoyed reading The Paleolithic Prescription…It is always good to see the study of our past being applied to the problems of our modern ways of living and the authors have presented convincing arguments.”

Richard Leakey, author of The Origin of Humankind

The Jewish Body

Honorable Mention for the American Library Association’s 2010 Sophie Brody Award, “to encourage, recognize, and commend outstanding achievement in Jewish literature.”

The Jewish Body “…a unique and highly literate perspective on Jewish contributions to culture, thought and the history of civilization …a memorable and often moving experience ”

Sherwin B. Nuland, Moment

”…a tour de force…”

Sander Gilman, The Forward

“Konner’s examination of the Jewish body ranges from the implications of Jewish genes to visions of master mystics crawling in the dense curls of God’s black beard—a brief metaphorical corporeality—and spans the ages from ancient Israel to Israel reborn. This range allows us fresh views of Jewish identity and self-identity from a committed and thoughtful author.”

Jewish Book World, Spring 2009

“…weaves a narrative that is not just a Jewish story, but one of humanity’s many stories…”

Muhammed Hassanali,  

“Konner . . . is an able and companionable guide . . . By the end, it’s hard not to register what a mensch [he] is, and then just how strange and remarkable his times, and ours, have been.”

Noah Efron, Haaretz    


“…a terrific book, filled with deep insight and great originality. This reviewer can’t recommend it highly enough.”

Barbara Pash, The Baltimore Jewish Times   



An Anthropology of the Jews

Unsettled: An Anthropology of the Jews is currently available in a 2018 revised Kindle edition at

Praise for Melvin Konner’s Unsettled: An Anthropology of the Jews:

“Melvin Konner’s Unsettled is a poignant and highly accessible account of an ongoing story that transcends all telling.” Harold Bloom, author of The Western Canon and The Book of J

Revised Kindle edition 2018

“This story of the Jewish character and history is by turns moving, shocking, disturbing and fascinating, and sometimes funny, too. I learned a lot from it.” Paul Johnson, author of A History of the Jews and Modern Times

“…a most remarkable book. Certainly the best one volume overview of Jewish history and identity available today.” Sander L. Gilman, author of Jewries at the Frontier and The Self-Hating Jew

“Melvin Konner is neither a conventional scholar nor a historian—two reasons, perhaps, why his sweeping study of the Jews feels so fresh and alive…Konner’s ability to accommodate ancient memory and modern consciousness, religious identity and secular peoplehood, serves him well…he manages to achieve secular detachment…and something simultaneously transcendent…With “Unsettled” the anthropologist has turned his attention to his own tribe, and the result is nothing less than inspiring.” Jonathan Rosen, The New York Times Book Review

“Serious…timely…Unsettled is unmistakably a labor of love, a graceful synthesis of wide and eclectic reading.” Scott Schoffman, Washington Post

“Konner’s personal and well-written account is very worthwhile and deserves to find a wide audience…” The Jerusalem Post

“[T]his book is a work of grand scope, encompassing the full range of Jewish civilization. [Konner] writes very well and so is able to capture vividly the texture of Jewish life…Even those of us who already know Jewish history will be fascinated by this book.” Rabbi David Blumenthal, Conservative Judaism

“A lucid exposition, informed by science and poetry alike… with some new revelation and novel interpretation at every turn. Rich in learning and observation, Unsettled ought to inspire discussion, perhaps even controversy at points. A splendid treatise that will inform readers of whatever background.” Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

Original print edition 2003

“Konner draws vividly on the lives of ordinary people for this cultural portrait… He has written a celebratory but evenhanded tale, lauding the Jewish people’s strength as he chronicles the adversities they’ve faced.” Publishers Weekly

“…draws on archaeological findings, census data, diaries, oral histories, and religious texts to illustrate how the Jews influenced the non-Jewish world and how that world influenced them…highly relevant and unflinching in its approach to controversial and difficult concepts.” George Cohen, Booklist

“…his concern for the future of the Jewish people is evident…Recommended for most libraries.” Paul Kaplan, Library Journal

“This deeply personal yet analytically incisive book makes the Jewish experience beautifully and comprehensively accessible. Readers who engage this sweeping interpretive history will find it difficult to put down before the last page has been read.” Ira Katznelson, Columbia University, author of Desolation and Enlightenment

Unsettled is an exciting, accessible journey. In its pages we hear the voices of kings and classical sages, but also of the people: women and men whose tales have been largely untold. Konner surveys the Jewish world with the eye of an anthropologist and recounts it all with the pen of a storyteller.” Rabbi David Wolpe, Sinai Temple of Los Angeles, author of The Healer of Shattered Hearts

“Melvin Konner has the cerebral discipline of a professional academician, mellowed by the heartfelt emotions of a Jew who has passed through the trials of faith. He writes from his heart to explain the mystery of this people in its unique journey through thousands of years.” Rabbi Herbert Friedman, President Emeritus, Wexner Heritage Foundation, author of Roots of the Future


A Multicultural View

Companion book to the nine-hour, award-winning PBS television series, “Childhood.”

Childhood ppb cover

“[Konner] has the kind of synthetic vision the task requires. His book moves with ease and grace from describing the universal biological changes of childhood to noting how children are reared in such diverse settings as the Kalahari Desert in Africa, a kibbutz in Israel and a village in Russia. The text is leavened with eloquent literary excerpts and an unusual variety of illustrations. Throughout the book, Dr. Konner displays his unassuming erudition and rare common sense . . . What [he] does very elegantly is bring together contemporary knowledge about the way children mature, learn, and in general change—physically, mentally and emotionally—from conception to adolescence . . . Most important, he reflects on his own experiences in rearing children, thus providing a common-sense model for child care . . .Konner’s answers derive from an evolutionary ethic in which life itself is the greatest good and children are valuable because they are standard-bearers in the continuation of life.”

Mihalyi Czikszentmihalyi, author of Flow, in The New York Times Book Review

“Rather than prescribe a right way and run the risk of giving advice that will look foolish 63 years from now, Konner offers for parental guidance the newest
research results on child development from conception to adolescence. Konner’s style is questioning, groping. His book…is the work of a real parent.”

Constance Casey, The Los Angeles Times

Why The Reckless Survive

…and Other Secrets of Human Nature

Selected as one of the “Best Sci-Tech Books of 1990” by Library Journal

“Konner is one of the most skilled and professionally qualified science expositors working today. He addresses questions of the humn condition in an entertaining manner that draws deep.”

Edward O. Wilson, author of Sociobiology and On Human Nature

WTRS cover

“A beautifully written, spellbinding book filled with new facts and fresh insights about the human mind, body, and soul. Seldom does the technical competence of a practicing scientist find itself so happily matched with uncommon literary gifts.”

Marvin Harris, author of Our Kind and The Rise of Anthropological Theory

“A gifted essayist, Dr. Konner weaves disarming personal anecdotes with anthropology’s wide view of behavior and psychiatry’s deep understanding of brain mechanisms. Whether pondering the evolutionary usefulness of the smile or the link between an infant’s fear of strangers and social prejudice, Dr. Konner’s prose entrances as it informs.”

Daniel Goleman, The New York Times

“Dr. Konner is always both informative and challenging. His willingness to consider interesting new ideas, whether or not they mesh with his own views, distinguishes his scientific stance from the emotional shrillness of most debates on human nature.”

Robin Dunbar, The New York Times Book Review

“To his training in anthropology and medicine, Konner adds an inherent skill at writing uncluttered prose…[He] felicitously combines humor and a facility for viewing material in a wide perspective with the stuff of technology and biological science in these essays of unfailing interest.”

Publisher’s Weekly

“Konner offers a fresh set of stimulating reveries on the relationship between man’s biological and cultural selves…Konner’s ideas are original and entertaining. An exceptionally diverting collection.”

Kirkus Reviews

“Konner brings to his writing a wealth of knowledge from both the social and biological sciences, and can integrate the pragmatic skills of the concerned physician with the curiosity of a basic scientist . . . What’s more, he writes very well indeed . . . Though his topics are wide-ranging, Konner’s writings are not to be confused with science journalism . . . He is a humanistic philosopher who has undertaken to inform himself widely and deeply about the biological, evolutionary, and cultural causes of the human condition—and who has developed the discipline as a writer to convey both information and emotion.”

William H. Calvin, Seattle Weekly

“Sociobiologists have had the audacity to speculate on the deepest mysteries of human being . . . One might think that a book on human nature by someone as irreverent as Melvin Konner would only stoke the fire . . . But although Konner continues to delight in challenging the conventional wisdom—speculating here, for instance, that the first tools might have been sticks and slings invented by women—his authorial voice has grown warmer, more empathic . . . Instead of snidely dismissing our need to hold on to some workable definition of human singularity, though, Konner goes in search of it.”

Alex Raksin, The Los Angeles Times

“In sum, this book is just what it should be, a collection of true essays, thought-provoking and insightful, on why we are the way we are. Konner has perfected his skills as an essayist with regular columns for The Sciences and The New York Times. Collecting his thoughts in one volume is so much the better.”

Paul Bargren, Milwaukee Journal


Medicine At The Crossroads

The Crisis in Health Care 

Companion to the eight-hour PBS/BBC television series.

Medicine at the Crossroads is available here as a PDF Download


MedCross cover

“The book’s greatest strength is Melvin Konner’s clear presentation of simultaneous realities. He honors both scientific achievement and spiritual life, and sees social progress…as the basis for the prevention and cure of suffering . . . The stories are always lively–this is a highly readable book–and usually enlightening . . . Medicine at the Crossroads is jampacked with interesting information and insight. It’s a graceful polemic, a stimulant, and a contribution to the general medical education everyone needs…”

Madeline Marget, Commonweal

“A realistic, much-needed critique.”


“Konner uses his formidable analytical skills to focus on what he sees to be critical issues . . . Writing with passion, [he] reinforces his descriptions of real people in rough situations with enough statistical data to be convincing but never numbing . . . we can all benefit.”

Bettyann Kevles, The Los Angeles Times

“For anyone looking for new perspectives on the crises in health care, Medicine at the Crossroads is a useful book, and an unusual one.”

San Francisco Chronicle

“Leisurely, talkative, entertaining, and readable…illuminating discussions of pressing problems in medical science.”

Francis D. Moore, M.D., New England Journal of Medicine

Dear America,

A Concerned Doctor Wants You to Know the Truth About Health Reform

“Dear America, A Concerned Doctor Wants You to Know the Truth About Health Reform” is available here as a PDF download

Dear America cover

I wrote this short book advocating a single-payer health care system (now known as “Medicare for All”) in 1993, after publishing Medicine at the Crossroads. Working on that book and the PBS/BBC television series tied to it exposed me to the health care systems of many countries, and convinced me that the U.S. was as much of an outlier in health care as South Africa had been in race relations. We still are. We were and are the only industrial country without universal health care coverage. This book argues in favor of a system in the range of all those countries. There are two ends of the continuum that I would not favor–the one in the United Kingdom, where health care itself has been nationalized, and the one in Germany, where private insurance companies have been preserved along with all their inefficiencies and waste. Most of the others have nationalized health insurance (with some private supplements) and independent doctors and hospitals. Pick almost any one you like–France, Sweden, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, or one of many others–and you will have a system far better and fairer than ours, and one that delivers lower mortality and greater longevity than ours does. This was true in 1993 and it remains true today. The coronavirus pandemic (2019-?) has made this American national shame more apparent than ever, but it was gratifying to me to see the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) address it in part in 2009, and also to see single-payer (“Medicare for All”) enter the national conversation (thanks mainly to Bernie Sanders) in the 2019-2020 primary season.

Incidentally, I did not choose the title of this book, the publisher did, and I have never liked it. My preferred title was Real Health Reform: The Single-Payer Solution to America’s Health Care Crisis.