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The Other Side of Desire: Four Journeys into the Far Realms of Lust and Longing [Kindle Edition]

Daniel Bergner
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)

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Book Description

“Riveting….Powerful…as much about desire and what’s normal as it is an exploration of why we are the way we are, whether we like it or not.”

New York Times Book Review


Subtitled “Four Journeys into the Far Realms of Lust and Longing,” Daniel Bergner’s The Other Side of Desire is a literary exploration of science and sex that will appeal to readers of Mary Roach and Natalie Angier. A cross between “a top-rated HBO series [with] provocatively graphic sex, humorous dialogue, and moral ambiguity,” (New York Times) and a profound, deeply humanizing study of sexuality, The Other Side of Desire has been called, “a foray into extreme passion, in quest of the human soul” (O, The Oprah Magazine) and its author, Bergner, “a keen storyteller but above all a humane one” (

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. As if it weren't already difficult enough to find a suitable mate, what if a prerequisite was that the lover be missing an arm or a leg? Or willing to be roasted on a spit? Comparatively, a mild-mannered foot fetish seems, well, pedestrian. Bergner (God of the Rodeo) investigates how we become who we are sexually, whether our lusts are common or improbable. The book's combination of titillation, shock value and documentary evokes a set of page-turning conundrums: is a man who desires feet any less odd than the psychiatrist who treats him or the scientist who studies pedophilia or the journalist who describes a whipping session in precise detail or the reader who becomes voyeur? It's all fairly delicate and disturbing material, and while the descriptions can grow florid, the author's strongest moments (e.g., evoking the tabooed desires impelling the artist Hans Bellmer's work) compensate for the lapse. Bergner has an empathetic sensibility and convincingly suggests that what a fetishist needs is a willing and loving partner with complementary interests. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


“Unsettling but riveting....what makes [this book] so powerful is that it’s as much about desire and what’s normal as it is an exploration of why we are the way we are, whether we like it or not.”

Product Details

  • File Size: 240 KB
  • Print Length: 226 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0060885572
  • Publisher: HarperCollins e-books; 1 edition (October 13, 2009)
  • Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B001QB9F9Y
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #277,486 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
43 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More great prose from a top-notch journalist January 28, 2009
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Journalist Daniel Bergner has a knack for getting inside his subject matter, which often focuses on the edgy extremes where most of us will never venture in real life, and about which little has been written. In the Land of Magic Soldiers: A Story of White and Black in West Africa gave us a glimpse of Africa's poorest and most violence-ravaged nation, Sierra Leone. In God of the Rodeo: The Quest for Redemption in Louisiana's Angola Prison, Bergner introduced us to the rodeo champions of Angola Penitentiary in Louisiana, "the last slave plantation." Here, Bergner give us a glimpse of another forbidden zone, that of extreme sexual practices.

Bergner's status as a skillful writer for the New York Times Magazine shows in his ability to bring both insight and compassion to bear on characters that might otherwise come off as mere freaks. The narrative is woven around four stories, involving a dominatrix, a foot fetishist, an amputee fetishist and -- of interest to those of us who work with sex offenders -- an incestuous stepfather. Describing that case of "Roy," Bergner introduces competing theories of sex offending and describes the time he spent with Roy's pedophilia therapy group as well as with well-known experts in the field.

If you are undecided about whether to buy this book, you can start with a little taste from the Internet: Bergner's New York Times article of January 22, 2009, "What Do Women Want?" illustrates his knack for translating dry science into accessible prose. Salon's January 27 interview with Bergner, "Sexual perversity in America," briefly describes all four cases featured in the book.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Reader Decides What the "Other Side" Is September 13, 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Q: What's the difference between weird and kinky?
A: Weird is when you use a feather. Kinky is when you use the whole chicken.

That's essentially what you get with this book, but what is weird, and what is kinky? Where's the break line, and who gets to define where the line is? What is it like if you're on the "wrong" side?

I came to this book after reading Mary Roach's outstanding Bonk. The two are very different in content and approach, but the core subject is still the same, and the two complement each other quite well. I recommend Roach's book be read first, one because it's better written and more entertaining, and two because it's a better overview and serves as a good foundation from which to explore.

This book is about what Bergner calls "eros," the fringes of desire, or to be much more direct, sexual desire. The heart of the book asks what is a fetish, and when does it become a liability? How does one end up saddled with an overpowering fetish, or urge? And most importantly, is such a fetish normal or abnormal?

There are four real-world observations--these aren't nearly direct and detail-laden enough to be called "case studies"--on that edge. One reader will call these people sick or twisted or even evil, while another might just place them in the decidedly flatter areas of the traditional bell curve of human sexuality. Bergner's biggest success in this book is that he provides no solid judgment of his own as to whether these folks are wrong/right or normal/deviant; the reader is left to make that determination, if such a determination is even appropriate.

This is definitely an adult read, 18+.
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15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Hybrid February 10, 2009
For some reason, I couldn't decide initially if this book was fiction or nonfiction. The truth finally hit me when the narrative referred to "Fred Berlin"--a well-known sex therapist and researcher in my neck of the woods. In any case, we get to learn quite a bit about the strange, the weird, the odd, the bizzare and the different. There was some, but not a lot, of prurient material despite the potentially explosive nature of the pathology described. More cut-and-dry than sensationalistic. Gives a sympathetic viewpoint of persons with atypical sexual impulses and behaviors. Uses commonsense to skewer the cockeyed theories of "major thinkers" in the field.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Read the first chapter October 25, 2011
By Miles
I loved the first chapter about the sympathetic foot fetishist and the idea that sexual compulsions are entirely separate from the self, similar to a disease or other medical condition. However, I found myself bored by the remaining chapters, more for the subject matter (not another B&D madame) than for any deficiency in the writing.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Different August 25, 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A good try at showing some insight to those among us that may have somewhat unconventional tastes. If you are one of the four or five people in the book it is especially interesting. S&M is covered along with devoteeism (amputees) and two others.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent view of the lesser known aspects of desire March 25, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I liked this book because it showed how fetishes play into the notion of love and desire without making the people involved seem like freaks. It was very well written and interesting.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars EXCELLENT November 14, 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Beautifully written with care and compassion. Good for professionals who treat these disorders as well as those aflicted with these disorders. Also just a lovely read for anyone who is interested in human sexuality.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Entertainment but not Research
This book functions like a sexy version of Michael Pollan's Botany of Desire.

Really it is very veyr interesting, but the description makes you think it is a book heavy... Read more
Published 7 months ago by JackyBabyT
3.0 out of 5 stars Muddled anecdotes and science- 2.5 stars
While the subject matter is compelling- what is a "kink", and how does it come about?- this book offers very little in the way of insights or information. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Cissa
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating and thought-provoking
I bought this book thinking that it dealt with desire, lust, and longing in terms of chemicals in the brains or something along that line. Read more
Published 11 months ago by bananas
4.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing
Very fascinating book. I chose it to write a paper on for my human sexuality class. A little bit overwhelming at some parts, and almost dry at others. Overall a great read though.
Published 14 months ago by Sarah Farman
5.0 out of 5 stars Desire Rules
Very eye opening and thought provoking. Even as a writer of erotica this book opened my eyes to new horizons.
Published 15 months ago by Christopher J. Rosalie
5.0 out of 5 stars Strange Goings On
Very interesting book on sexual deviant life. Delivery was on time. The book was in perfect condition. I bought two paperback copies as I am using one for teaching puposes.
Published 15 months ago by Michael Welikson
1.0 out of 5 stars Not worth looking at.
Told with authority, yet lacking in research. A few examples given and then expounded on and that's it. Not worth looking at.
Published 17 months ago by David Colson
2.0 out of 5 stars not what i expected
It wasn't an awful book, but definitely not what I expected it to be. Was very heavy handed at times.
Published 20 months ago by nightmaregirl
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, but shallow
I've read most of Bergner's books and this would have to come in last. It is undoubtedly well-written and fascinating, but is more of a long magazine article than an in-depth book. Read more
Published on September 29, 2011 by Patrick Oglethorpe
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