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A Book About Love Hardcover – July 12, 2016
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“Jonah Lehrer has a lot to offer the world… The book is interesting on nearly every page… Good writers make writing look easy, but what people like Lehrer do is not easy at all.”—David Brooks, The New York Times Book Review
"The animating idea of his intriguing new book is that two opposing psychological laws, habituation and love, shape much of human experience... Lehrer uses scores of detailed vignettes to traverse a complicated intellectual landscape, eventually arriving at modern theories of love.... Lehrer is a talent..."—Matt McCarthy, USA Today
"The amazing thing that starts to happen, in pages I wanted to dislike, is that the anecdotes and insights made me stop thinking about Lehrer—stop noticing and interrogating his defensive notations—and instead, started taking measure of my own ability to love."—Nathan Deuel, Los Angeles Times
"Here is my deliberately short review: It is a good book."—Tyler Cowen, Marginal Revolution
About the Author
Jonah Lehrer is a writer, and the author of A Book About Love, How We Decide, and Proust Was a Neuroscientist. He graduated from Columbia University and studied at Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar. He’s written for The New Yorker, Nature, Wired, The New York Times Magazine, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal. He lives in Los Angeles, California.
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Though I’m hesitant to reduce all 300 pages of A Book About Love into an eight-word chunk, this quote would certainly do the trick. If there is one theme to be distilled from the text, it is that life, from beginning to end, from first cry, to last breath, is only underscored by one common denominator across the elaborate and varied spectrum of human experience: Love.
That’s not to say that this common factor is at all simple; indeed, it is the very complexity of this subject matter that Mr. Lehrer seeks to explore with this book. What does it mean to love, and to be loved? How is love lost, and found? What compels Taylor Swift to write dozens of songs riffing on the same topic, and why is it that the popular kids in school always seem to come from loving homes? All of these questions, amongst many others, are explored in depth, both from the viewpoint of scientific fact and experiment and in the form of almost lyrical narration (to be found especially in the ‘interlude’ sections between chapters). This juxtaposition of statistical analysis combined with allegorical language is one of the defining features of Mr. Lehrer’s writing, and one of the primary reasons why this book is so pleasurable to read. The numbers, which provide gravity to the claims made throughout the novel, are counterbalanced by light anecdotal prose.
Even more impressive than style, however, is Mr. Lehrer’s ability to hone in on what matters to the reader. Books that are well written are popular; books that connect with readers on a personal level are timeless. With nuanced examinations of a range of topics from first love, to divorce, to difficult parent-child relationships, A Book About Love belongs firmly in the latter category. The case studies that Mr. Lehrer chooses to incorporate, for instance, feature subjects that feel familiar—in other words, the characters he describes could be your mother, your father, your brother, your best friend… even you. No matter what age or at what stage in life the reader finds themselves, they will undoubtedly see elements of their own human condition reflected in these pages.
I have read a lot of books, but there are very few that have changed my entire perspective on life the way that A Book About Love has. Before reading this, I already knew that love is what makes the world go around, but after reading, I am acutely aware of the mechanics of this process. This increased awareness has, in turn, bestowed upon me a newfound amazement for love itself, as well as an increased gratitude for my loved ones and the world around me. “From dust to dust, with just love in between”, indeed.
PS. The citations are a work of art.
To me this book is by a man dealing with shame and as such it represents someone coming to terms with what they were and what they want to be. We all make mistakes but it is in acknowledgement of the mistakes that we really grow.. I feel like the author has begun to this with this book. I recommend it.