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

4.2 out of 5 stars 44 customer reviews

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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."
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.

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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
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #169,904 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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Format: Paperback
I was intrigued by the topic, cover, and title for Dr. Fisher's Anatomy of Love. From the start I was interested. I was especially drawn-in after the first chapter where "the gaze" is discussed as the "most striking human courting play." The Anatomy of Love is a detailed account of human attraction; the book attempts to explain why humans mate, marry, and stray; citing both conjectural, biological and literately evidence. Four pages into the book and the reader discovers a table of contents with such titles as "Why Adultery", "Eros", and "Fickle Passion"; any reader would have to be at least intrigued. And so confirms the theme of the book. Biology plays a role, a fundamental role, in human attraction, marriage, and even divorce. This book is not designed for those who believe solely in fate; it is not designed for romance novel readers. Dr. Fisher presents a persuasive explanation for the purpose of human attraction devoid of political correctness. She provides surprising facts, "most people think men are supposed to take the initiative in sexual advances, in practice women around the world actively begin sexual liaisons." Dr. Fisher presents an interesting, research-based account of sex and relationships, allowing the readers to decide if they believe the research.

Anatomy of Love is written as a sweeping tour of the landscape of love. Her writing style is simple, concise and thorough. Dr. Fischer provides just enough narrative and conjecture to allow this book to be more than a typical biology textbook on love and relationships. She tells the story from the point of view of a casual observer into the human psyche; supporting each discussion points with multiple forms of evidence. She does not hesitate to draw from multiple hard sciences (biology, chemistry, etc.
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