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T: The Story of Testosterone, the Hormone that Dominates and Divides Us

Carole Hooven

Henry Holt and Co.

T: The Story of Testosterone, the Hormone that Dominates and Divides Us Download image

ISBN10: 1250236061
ISBN13: 9781250236067


352 Pages



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Since antiquity—from the eunuchs in the royal courts of ancient China to the booming market for “elixirs of youth” in nineteenth-century Europe—humans have understood that typically masculine behavior depends on testicles, the main source of testosterone in males. Which sex has the highest rates of physical violence, hunger for status, and desire for a high number of sex partners? Just follow the testosterone.

Although we humans can study and reflect on our own behavior, we are also animals, the products of millions of years of evolution. Fascinating research on creatures from chimpanzees to spiny lizards shows how high testosterone helps males out-reproduce their competitors. And men are no exception.

While most people agree that sex differences in human behavior exist, they disagree about the reasons. But the science is clear: testosterone is a potent force in human society, driving the bodies and behavior of the sexes apart. But, as Hooven shows in T, it does so in concert with genes and culture to produce a vast variety of male and female behavior. And, crucially, the fact that many sex differences are grounded in biology provides no support for restrictive gender norms or patriarchal values. In understanding testosterone, we better understand ourselves and one another—and how we might build a fairer, safer society.


Praise for T: The Story of Testosterone, the Hormone that Dominates and Divides Us

“Dr. Carole Hooven has written the definitive book on testosterone . . . [which] examines testosterone from every possible angle . . . If we can educate ourselves about ‘T,’ according to Hooven, then the unfiltered truth about the impact of testosterone and the differences between the sexes will add to our knowledge-base and help us create a better society.”Evening Standard

“This is a smart, balanced, interesting, humane, and rigorous book that pulls no punches. It helps us understand better the relations between men and women, homosexuality, transgenderism—all aspects of our lives.”—Andrew Sullivan, The Weekly Dish

“One of the most compelling books on human behavior I’ve ever read, T is a scientific mystery story told with insight, intelligence, and panache.”—Daniel Gilbert, Edgar Pierce Professor of Psychology at Harvard University and author of the New York Times bestseller Stumbling on Happiness

“Hooven’s review of what testosterone does and does not do is science-writing at its best: intriguing, personal, bold, persuasive, and most importantly, transparent. Her gripping account will fascinate, whether you’re a teenager in the throes of puberty or are just curious about the nature of sex and gender—one of the most important debates of our time.”—Richard Wrangham, author of The Goodness Paradox

“With all the talk about testosterone in sex, sports, and politics, we need a good explanation of the science and its implications, and this one is outstanding.”—Steven Pinker, Johnstone Family Professor of Psychology at Harvard University and author of How the Mind Works and Enlightenment Now

“Filled with fascinating—often astounding—insights, T takes us on a journey from the discovery of this powerful hormone, to its effects throughout the animal kingdom, to a crucial understanding of how it shapes human minds, bodies, and behavior. Hooven is a compelling and compassionate guide, and T is a book we need now.”—Emily Yoffe, journalist and former “Dear Prudence” at Slate

T is the story of the most famous, most misunderstood, and most maligned chemical in our bodies: testosterone. A fascinating, brave, and brilliant book—the best I’ve read on the topic.”—Steve Stewart-Williams, author of The Ape that Understood the Universe

“A superb and engaging book that delivers the unfiltered truth about testosterone, sex and sex differences, told with clarity and compassion. T conveys a deep understanding about the hidden power of testosterone in our lives, but also teaches us how scientific knowledge exposes harmful misconceptions and helps us become more humane.”—Daniel E. Lieberman, author of Exercised: Why Something We Never Evolved to Do is Healthy and Rewarding

“With wit, warmth, and a touch of motherly love, Hooven lucidly lays out a formidable scientific case for how and why the sexes are different. Boldly confronting contemporary gender issues, T speaks directly to why getting human nature right matters for making the world a better place.”—Joe Henrich, professor of human evolutionary biology at Harvard University and author of The WEIRDest People in the World and The Secret of Our Success

“Truly one of the most remarkable and fascinating books that I’ve come across in a long time . . . Carole is that rare scientist who is able to take sometimes complicated and technical information and make it all understandable."—Danielle Crittenden, The Femsplainers Podcast

“[T]imely and intriguing . . . [T investigates] the ancient question of nature vs. nurture, and Hooven walks a fine line between the two . . . popular science likely to excite academic debate on sex and gender.”Kirkus Reviews

“[Hooven] deftly details the tremendous impact of testosterone . . . [and t]he complex interplay between genes, hormones, social environment, and experience makes us who we are . . . Hooven effectively counters erroneous or misleading assertions about testosterone, a hormone so culturally familiar to most of us that it's frequently designated by a single etter.”—Booklist

“[Hooven’s] insight into evolutionary biology and human behavior will be valuable not only to scientists but to anyone interested in social change . . . A provocative, academic, accessible look at the science behind human behavior.”—Library Journal

“Hooven separates testosterone fact from fiction in her comprehensive debut . . . [S]he takes readers to high-tech labs and on a day of ‘chimping’ in Uganda’s Kibale forest—and her writing is refreshingly free of jargon. The result is an approachable introduction to an often misunderstood aspect of human biology.”Publishers Weekly

Reviews from Goodreads


Read an Excerpt




If we were not under their sleeping nests when the chimpanzees woke up, then we would miss out on the pee—the key to the chimps’ testosterone levels. So I prepared, as I did...

About the author

Carole Hooven

Carole Hooven, PhD, is lecturer and codirector of undergraduate studies in the Department of Human Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University. She earned her PhD at Harvard, studying sex differences and testosterone, and has taught there ever since. Hooven has received numerous teaching awards, and her popular Hormones and Behavior class was named one of the Harvard Crimson’s “top ten tried and true.”

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Carole Hooven

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