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Anatomy of Love: A Natural History of Mating, Marriage, and Why We Stray Paperback – January 3, 1994


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books (January 3, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0449908976
  • ISBN-13: 978-0449908976
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #47,378 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

"Captivates the reader, answers all those puzzling questions that caused your mother (or priest or guidance counselor or gym teacher) to blame God and/or hormones....Her prediction of a more open and egalitarian order provides a compelling--and hopeful--vision for the future."
THE PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER
Love at first sight...the copulatory gaze...dinner dates...jealousy... intimacy... homesexuality...infidelity...Dr.Helen Fisher, an anthropologist at the American Museum of Natural History, explains it all in this four-million-year history of the human species. She demystifies much about romance and pairing that we tend to believe is willfull or just plain careless. She offers new explanations for why men and women fall in love, marry, and divorce, and discusses the future of sex in a way that will surprise you.

Customer Reviews

I book that anyone can read and everyone should.
Albert Paul Dahoui
Fisher use evolutionary explanations, based on an interdisciplinary approach, to explain how love has evolved into its present form.
Rufus Burgess
Fishers' book was well written and researched, a joy to read.
Kevin Spoering

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

64 of 65 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 10, 2000
Format: Paperback
I found this book completely engrossing. Her detailed explanations of human evolution and her logical, clearly thought out and well-supported hypothesis about early sexual behavior allowed me, as a reader, to develop a rather comprehensive picture of patterns in human sexuality. More than any other book I've read on the subject, this one seems to balance the 'biology is destiny' concept with the acknowledged influence of cultural factors. I highly recommend this book for anyone even remotely interested in evolution, human sexuality or a perspective on modern relationships.
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65 of 73 people found the following review helpful By Todd I. Stark VINE VOICE on February 15, 1997
Format: Paperback
Love was once a popular topic for scientists. It lost popularity for a while as a 'fuzzy' and perhaps even unknowable topic of study. Now we are again studying it, chemically, socially, psychologically, and also from the perspective of how it evolved. The evolution of mating behavior is the topic of "The Anatomy of Love." Evolutionary psychologists have come up with various stories about such things as why women might have orgasms, even though they don't seem to need them to reproduce. Can we ever really know what forces caused such behaviors to be selected ? Should women really accept unquestioningly, as evolutionary psychologists like Fisher propose, that their interest in sex is always secondary to their biological purpose to reproduce ? Thought provoking counter-arguments to some elements of this view are found in anthropologist Meredith Small's "What's Love Got to Do with It ?" Helen Fisher does an enviable, if sometimes tedious job laying out the evolutionary story of love, but is it the only story we can make from the evidence of modern human relationships ? Readers who apply these lessons to their own lives would do well to appreciate that human behavior has a flexibility that sometimes defies our interpretations of our own biology, and that those interpretations often change over time. Read this excellent account of how evolutionary psychologists believe love was selected through evolution, but keep in mind the limitations of our knowledge of what really happened early in our evolutionary history. Bone structure may leave fossillized evidence, but love and sex leave very few clues over the eons
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 5, 1997
Format: Paperback
Through a careful analysis of a vast archive of anthropological and psychological research, Dr. Fisher constructs a cpmprehensive theory that explains why we love, how it happens, and why it (often) doesn't last. Her style and arguments are persuasive--I have had many occasions to refer back to this book since I read it; It is full of useful insights, particularly on the physiological nature of 'passion', that ecstatic feeling that makes lovers feel joyful or anguished. Written with outstanding clarity
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Z. Holmboe on September 10, 2003
Format: Paperback
As I biologist, I am constantly frustrated by the unscientific (and often ultra-philisophical) interpretation that goes on when considering humanity, and particularly love. This book took the extreme interest that exists about human sexuality and love, and places them in a scientific light, without necissarily demonizing or undermining the amazing feelings that go along with love; Fisher simply explains the science behind these amazingly rich and powerful feelings in an attempt to better know ourselves.
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22 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Luis VINE VOICE on January 24, 2008
Format: Paperback
The book is full of interesting data. I fell in love with the book but sadly you have really read it. The author tries to express her ideas as scientific or historic facts. Here are a couple of examples of her writing.

I will maintain that monogamy, or pair bonding, is the hallmark of the human animal, there is no question that a minority of men and women follow other sexual scripts. Page 66

On the same page she states, Only 16% or 136 of 853 cultures that exist are monogamous. 84% of the cultures permit a man to take more than one wife at a time. In Africa 25% of all older men, have two or three wives at once.

On page 154 the author states her theory:

Like pair bonding in foxes, robins, and many other species that mate only through a breeding season, human pair bonds originally evolved to last only long enough to raise a single dependent child through infancy, the first four years, unless a second infant was conceived.

On the same page the author states the following;

How serial monogamy evolved can only be surmised. Our earliest ancestors probably lived in communities much like modern chimps. Everyone copulated with just about everybody else, except with mother and close siblings. Then gradual monogamy emerged. The lifestyle of olive baboons provides a fascinating model, however, for how pair bonding, the nuclear family, and divorce could have evolved in these primal hordes.

On Chapter 10 the author states
At times in history the Egyptians, Iranians, Romans, and other sanctioned brother-sister incest for special groups such as royalty. But with these curious exceptions, mother-son, father-daughter, and brother-sister mating have been forbidden; incest taboo is universal to humankind.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Paul Laub on April 27, 2011
Format: Paperback
Anatomy of Love offers an anthropological history of human
mating, marriage, and infidelity written from an evolutionary
perspective. A primary aim of author Helen Fisher is apparently
to demythologize love, sex, adultery, and related topics, instead
investigating them as nonjudgmentally as possible from a
scientific perspective. She is especially ambitious in writing
this book not for experts in her field but for a popular audience
of varied backgrounds. That's a tall order for which she is
partially successful. In the "To the Reader" preface, the author
describes herself as an ethologist who believes that humans have
unconscious, inherited behavioral tendencies that influence, but
do not determine, our behaviors. I respect her sincerity in
stating up front what her viewpoint (some might say "bias", but
we all have one) is.

The open-minded, critical reader will gain much from both this
book's strengths (it is an engrossing, provocative read) and, as
importantly, from appreciating its weaknesses. For me, the
challenge in writing this review is explaining why I reduced the
five stars I much wanted to award to three stars.

Her overall message is convincingly argued and is this. We humans
have an "ancient blueprint for serial monogamy and clandestine
adultery [onto which] our culture casts its own design" (p. 310).
Social change over the last century, most of all the growth of
women in the workplace, suggests that the nature of marriage and
the balance of power between men and women is shifting.
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Anatomy of Love: A Natural History of Mating, Marriage, and Why We Stray
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