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A Natural History Of Love Paperback – February 21, 1995

3.9 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Following up her well-received A Natural History of the Senses , poet and journalist Ackerman less successfully attempts to limn the complex emotion of love for the general reader. Her perspective is both long--beginning with the first writings about love from ancient Egypt and Greece--and wide, encompassing love of pets, religious fervor and altruism, along with her principle focus on romantic love. Ackerman's impassioned prose occasionally takes on a purple cast ("Love feeds a million watchfires in the encampment of the body," she observes in a discussion of how love is often felt as a burning), but seems well suited to both the topic and her often personalized approach. Chronicling the changing views of love through mostly Western history from Roman times through the Middle Ages and the era of Romanticism to the present, she cites the writings of Plato, Proust and Freud, among others. Delving into anthropology, psychology and neurology, as well as literature, she considers the social and evolutionary roles of love, marraige rituals and such love objects as horses and cars. Ackerman's overview is more selective than comprehensive, but that very idiosyncracy may add to the popular appeal of the volume, sections of which have previously appeared in Parade and the New York Times Magazine. First serial to Parade; BOMC featured selection.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

In her long-anticipated companion volume to A Natural History of the Senses (LJ 5/1/ 90), Ackerman mines deep within the caves of human emotion for artifacts of "the great intangible": love. Proceeding with the disdainful understanding that sociologists prefer to study negative behaviors and emotions, Ackerman sets out on her exploration by reviewing the lessons provided across time by such lovers as Antony and Cleopatra, Orpheus and Eurydice, Dido and Aeneas, Abelard and Eloise, and Romeo and Juliet. During this journey, she explores the neurophysiology of love and exposes the components of modern-day relationships, from the "New Age Sensitive Guy" to sexual chic. With dazzling poetic charm and insight, she uses history, literature, science, psychology, and personal experience as tools to illuminate the vigor and vehemence of the thrilling, devastating, and comforting phenomenon of love. Recommended for all libraries.
David R. Johnson, Louisiana State Univ. Lib., Eunice
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 358 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (February 21, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679761837
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679761839
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #330,083 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Diane Ackerman is the author of two dozen highly-acclaimed works of poetry and nonfiction, including the bestsellers "The Zookeeper's Wife" and "A Natural History of the Senses," and the Pulitzer Prize Finalist, "One Hundred Names for Love."

In her most recent book, "The Human Age: the World Shaped by Us," she confronts the unprecedented fact that the human race is now the single dominant force of change on the whole planet. Humans have "subdued 75 percent of the land surface, concocted a wizardry of industrial and medical marvels, strung lights all across the darkness." Ackerman takes us on an exciting journey to understand this bewildering new reality, introducing us to many of the inspiring people and ideas now creating, and perhaps saving, our future

A note from the author: "I find that writing each book becomes a mystery trip, one filled with mental (and sometimes physical) adventures. The world revealing itself, human nature revealing itself, is seductive and startling, and that's always been fascinating enough to send words down my spine. Please join me on my travels. I'd enjoy the company."

Contact me or follow my posts here: www.dianeackerman.com, @dianesackerman, www.facebook.com/dianeackerman.author



Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This book is amazing. If you haven't read Ackerman before, I suggest starting with _A Natural History of the Senses_. Then read this book. Ackerman is a very talented writer. Even if the subject isn't entirely interesting, her words and their rhythms are. This subject, however, is very interesting. Ackerman muses on myths (such as Dido) and history (such as Napoleon and Josephine), but also explores instincts and preferences (why women love horses and the influence of pheromones). This book is romantic, historical, sexual, poetic, challenging, and completely beautiful.
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Format: Paperback
I read this to be entertained, and I was. Like her other books, this one was clearly written, easy on the eyes, clever, witty, and packed with interesting out-of-the-way information. It's a pleasant and well-composed discourse through the history of romantic love in the West. If you come to it from that point of view, you might like it.
If a criterion of a good read is that the author inspires in you some of the emotions she describes, then most of the book succeeded for me: at times I wondered what she'd be like on a date....
Parts of the book get into human instincts. While there's evidence for these--the rooting instinct in babies, for instance--we need to bear in mind that human instincts are heavily modified by time, place, and personality. The maternal instinct, for example, is painted in ideal colors: the loving mother mirroring her baby. We've all seen that; but some of us have also met mothers who hate their children (or, worse, feel indifferent toward them) and whose maternal instinct never sees the daylight. We shouldn't follow Freud's old 19th Century slippage from psychology into biology unless we're prepared to ignore the social and spiritual roots of human motivation.
I appreciate the author's knack for collecting a lot of information on a given topic, then giving us the best fruits of her learnings in breezy and often poetic language.
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Format: Paperback
While I found this book to be very informative, I think that the title can be misleading.
I'll explain. When I saw "Natural History of Love" I expected a treatise on all the forms of loving known to us: We have brotherly love, love towards the parents and love towards the sons and daughters, the love of God, the love of oneself, the love for an ideal and, of course, love between men and women which is the motor of our permanence as a species in this world.

The thing is, this study made by Diane Ackerman is complete in terms of exploring the romantic/erotic phase of love (generally heterosexual) but it fails to expose the other types that I already mentioned. So my advise is: get this book if you want to deepen into the historical and psychological nature of that Saint Valentine's sort of feeling. But if you want to go deeper into the topic, please read ERICH FROMM's "THE ART OF LOVING". You won't be disappointed.
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Format: Paperback
I first heard Diane Ackerman talking about this book on an NPR talkshow. I was so impressed that I went out and bought a copy that day. I was not disappointed. Ackerman's human, non-academic yet poetic style is immediately accessible and almost hynotic at times. Coupled with an interesting, universal subject matter, it makes this a book worth reading and reading again. Closing this book is, in many ways, like closing the door on a love affair: you wish it wouldn't end, but you have fond memories. The plus with this book is that you can do it all over again, and again, and again.
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Format: Hardcover
A Natural History of Love is just that. A wonderfull collection of the past 3000 years of love. The interesting parts of this book are sometimes what you will learn about historical figures that you have read about in thier profession, but not in thier private life. The author is very well educated, and her education, flair, and soul is put into her writing. This book is for any history lover, or for any lover in general
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Diane Ackerman has written many interesting books and this one is especially well researched. She begins the book with stories of Egypt and Cleopatra and then explores the topic of Medieval Knights and the truth about courtly love. She illustrates her points lavishly and unlike many of her other books, she stays close to her main topic with minimal diversions. Although when discussing Freud she can't help herself and she seems to feel compelled to tell his whole life story. The story of Abelard and Heloise is sad but well told. Diane sheds light on many of the famous love stories of the past.

In the first half of the book she deals mostly with romantic love and then she takes various journeys into specific types of love. The love of cars, horses and flying is interesting but she reaches her most poetic explanations when she talks about kissing. There is also interesting information on courtship, marriage, religious love, men and mermaids, the evolution of the face, divorce, aphrodisiacs and modern love.

This book will intrigue you if you enjoy knowing interesting facts, like the origin of the wedding dress or why an X symbolizes a kiss. This book also has some good information on oxytocin and phenylethylamine. Diane Ackerman also gives insight into mental illness when she says: "The mentally ill are people who cannot regulate the conflicting emotions they feel." Since I believe in creation I did get weary of the constant references to evolution, however the book is worth reading no matter what you believe.

~The Rebecca Review
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