Sex, murder, and the meaning of life

Kenrick has a very nice writing style and is quite self-deprecating in most of the anecdotes he presents. In his book Sex, Murder and the Meaning of Life, Kenrick talks about his years growing up in a tough neighborhood, his priorities in the different times of his life, and finally provides some advice based on his experience. His approach is to explain how and why humans behave in particular ways from an evolutionary psychologist’s perspective. However, this book was not intended as a self-help book as Kenrick notes in the conclusion, and it surely isn’t only an autobiography. Still, the recommendations Kenrick gives based on his own experience can be very helpful, I guess.

The book consists of twelve chapters plus an introductory section and a conclusion. Additionally, there are many notes to all the chapters, a complete list of references in which I did not spot any flaws or mistakes, and, finally, an index for names and constructs mentioned within the book.

In the chapters, Kenrick uses an evolutionary psychology point of view to explain, for example, why we often see an age gap in married couples with the husband being older than the wife. Admitting that he never expected to contribute to this phenomenon, but that he finally did by marrying a much younger woman after he got divorced from his first wife, is just one of the book’s funny anecdotes. When Kenrick mentions the high percentages of people who at least once had homicidal phantasies in Chapter 3, it may become a little bit spooky. However, on second thought, the numbers seem quite realistic.

Throughout the book, the author stimulates his readers to think by providing fresh perspectives. As he writes, when people are asking the question “What is the meaning of life?” they often mean “How can I lead a more meaningful life?” And that is an excellent point. His suggestions from the conclusion include the best advice he can think of and the worst one. The worst one is “You’ve got to do what’s right for you.” This is the sentence he often heard when he got towards the divorce from his first wife. However, the phrase should have been “You’ve got to do what’s right for those you love,” Kenrick writes. And I guess he is right.


Kenrick, D.T. (2011). Sex, Murder, and the Meaning of Life. New York: Basic Books

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