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The Chemistry Between Us: Love, Sex, and the Science of Attraction Hardcover – September 13, 2012

4.6 out of 5 stars 54 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"Combine a first-class neuroscientist like Young, director of Emory University’s Center for Translational Social Neuroscience, and an award-winning science journalist like Alexander, and the result is likely to be an engaging book about cutting edge science. They do a wonderful job of mixing and matching human studies with those of other animals to explain how chemicals influence and, at times, control behavior associated with sex, love, and longing."
Publishers Weekly

"Why do we drunk-dial our exes? Why do strippers make more money when they are ovulating? Why do fools fall in love? These are some of the questions explored by Young (Psychiatry/Emory Univ.) and Alexander (America Unzipped: In Search of Sex and Satisfaction, 2008). The authors argue that the causes are related to the potent, sometimes irresistible, chemical cocktails our bodies produce. In interviews with scientists of all stripes (psychiatrists, neuroscientists, researchers), Young and Alexander examine their ideas and how they pertain to us, often illuminating their explanations with funny, and sometimes raunchy, anecdotes... the book is sure to hook even casual science readers with its subject, because, as Young and Alexander point out, “the combination of erotic desire and the love it leads to may be the most powerful force on earth. An entertaining overview of the science of physical attraction."—Kirkus Reviews

“This lively book by a great neuroscientist and a savvy writer is the first popular account to tie together what we have learned about the chemistry of sex, love, and family bonds. Progress in this field has been nothing short of breathtaking, and Larry Young is recog­nized as its leading pioneer. The way our brains react when boy meets girl determines the stability of marriage and the future of the human family.”

—FRANS DE WAAL, C.H. Candler Professor of Psychology at Emory University and author of The Age of Empathy

“…One wild and entertaining ride. The prose in The Chemistry Between Us is lively and fun – and provides a fresh and unapologetically pointed analysis on what understanding the neurobiological correlates of love may mean for both our relationships and our culture.”

Kayt Sukel, New Scientist

“If you’ve ever been curious—and let’s face it, we all have—about the intricate dance of biology and behavior that both brings men and women together and pushes them apart, then The Chemistry Between Us is the book for you. Authors Larry Young and Brian Alexander explore questions as gentle as parenting and as edgy as sexual addiction with consistent style, humor, and insight. The result is a story that’s fun, fascinating, and, finally, insightful.”

—DEBORAH BLUM, Pulitzer Prize winner; author of Sex on the Brain, Love at Goon Park, and The Poisoner’s Handbook

“Nothing fascinates us more than why we fall in love and what makes us choose that par­ticular person. The Chemistry Between Us sheds light on just this mysterious phenom­enon with a thorough look at the neuroscience and psychology of the process. Whether you have a desire for better intellectual understanding or a personal curiosity as to why you or your partner do what you do, this book is a super-enjoyable class in love, sex, and all its dark mysteries. A fascinating and stimulating read!”

—GAIL SALTZ, MD, NBC Today show contributor and clinical associate professor of psychiatry, New York-Presbyterian Hospital

“Dr. Young is one of the science world’s most respected authorities on the chemistry un­derlying the most complicated and beloved interactions of our species. The insight and candor he and Mr. Alexander provide in this simultaneously entertaining and compel­ling book will impress both novice and scientific aficionado alike. What an intellectually and emotionally satisfying exploration!”

—MAYIM BIALIK, PhD, CLEC, actress on CBS’s The Big Bang Theory and author of Beyond the Sling

“You may not need this book in order to meet the love of your life but if you are head over heels in love with someone this book will go a long way toward telling you what has hap­pened in your head and body to make this so.”

—ARTHUR CAPLAN, PhD, William F. and Virginia Connolly Mitty professor and head of the Division of Bioethics, NYU Langone Medical Center

About the Author

Larry Young, PhD, is the director of the Center for Translational Social Neuroscience, the William P. Timmie Professor of Psychiatry at Emory Univer­sity School of Medicine, and chief of the Division of Behavioral Neuroscience and Psychiatric Disorders at Yerkes National Primate Research Center. He lives in Atlanta.

Brian Alexander is an award-winning journalist and the author of several books, including Rapture: How Biotech Became the New Religion and America Un­zipped: The Search for Sex and Satisfaction. He lives in San Diego.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Current (September 13, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1591845130
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591845133
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 5.9 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #860,333 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
*A full summary of this book is available here: An Executive Summary of Larry Young and Brian Alexander's 'The Chemistry Between Us: Love, Sex, and the Science of Attraction'

The main argument: Love and sex play a central role in the human drama. But when we talk about the emotions and decisions that we make in connection with them, we tend to remain strictly at the macro level, referring to people, and relationships, and our freely made choices. However, in their new book The Chemistry Between Us: Love, Sex and the Science of Attraction social neuroscientist Larry Young and journalist Brian Alexander contend that our biology and chemistry play a much bigger role in love and sex than most of us ever acknowledge (since Larry Young is the scientist behind the book [and responsible for the ideas therein], I will refer to him as the main author throughout). Young explores everything from gender identity (and sexual orientation), to romantic relationships (and parenting), to monogamy (and adultery), taking us inside our bodies to investigate the genes and hormones that influence our approach to love, sex and relationships. While the focus here is on us humans, the evidence comes not only from our own species but from a host of other animals that exhibit similar biology and behavior.

Young begins by way of smashing the notions that gender identity is constructed by culture, and that sexual orientation is a matter of choice. The foundations of these phenomena, the author argues, are laid down in utero by the specific hormones that wash over the fetus as it develops.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Before reading this, I read Ogi Ogas' A Billion Wicked Thoughts and loved it. Both books are on similar themes, and ABWT is very much like a textbook so it's sometimes difficult to get through all the statistics and studies. Chemistry Between Us has much of the same information but it's written in a very colloquial style. I have recommended both of these books to my friends because they explain almost everything you need to know about romantic relationships. The problem is that most people are not introspective enough to apply the information to their own lives. I have only read perhaps one or two "self-help" books on romance, but in my opinion this is the only book that anyone needs. It does get off to a bit of a slow start, but hang in there because at about 1/4 or 1/3 of the way into the book it really takes off an becomes pretty riveting.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Dr. Young's narrative voice is humorous and engaging, his language makes the science very user-friendly, and the book as a whole is very thought-provoking. I love sharing the knowledge I learn from his book with friends who share similar interests. Many fascinating stories that set up the neurochemistry or extrapolate on the science. A must-read!
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Format: Hardcover
Why is it that we are drawn to some people and pushed away from others. What exactly is love? A force that make individuals change their lives completely, sacrifice to bear children, and be loyal to one soul?
In the book The Chemistry Between Us: Love, Sex, and the Science of Attraction by Larry Young, PhD, and Brian Alexander you take a scientific approach to these natural connectors. This story is very fascinating how hormones and chemicals within us impact our actions on the outside.
A bit scientific in certain parts, you get the nuts and bolts and research on the dynamics between the sexes. How often the way we act are more a force of biological forces than simply random acts.
The book delves into the science of how depending on the hormones that we are exposed to within the womb can determine our sexual orientation and sexual prowess. For men being faithful can be a challenge when we are constantly on the hunt for the rewards of sex.
If you want to delve into a deeper understanding of connecting with another person, this book is a good foundation to understand why when you are in love or are attracted, you get that "magical feeling". As cited, "Men are still led by instinct before they are regulated by knowledge", Theodore Dreiser.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The Chemistry Between Us is a fascinating look at the genetics, brain chemistry and hormones that, for better or worse, exert a strong influence on our deepest relationships. The book surveys experiments done on slugs, voles, humans, and other animals in order to get a glimpse at the workings of the brain, while being careful not to over-state the conclusions. It deals with a wide range of topics from epigenetic (environmental, non-DNA) factors in gender identity to jealously and mate-guarding, to monogamy and infidelity, and mother-child bonding with many stops in between.

For the most part, this was all riveting stuff. If you've read more than a few biology books, some sections will seem a little repetitive - you can start predicting what the human experiments will be like (and their results) while you're still reading about slugs or voles, but I think the approach was necessary to show to what extent the animal experiments map over to human experience, with our rather more complex brains.

For me, the biggest irony of the book was in the last chapter, where the authors claim that science can't answer the 'big questions' - that those are better left to religion and philosophy. It's ironic because the book just finished giving a better answer to one of the biggest questions of all - 'what is love?' - than any religion or philosophy I've encountered. It seemed like a bone thrown to a largely religious audience in an attempt to make their findings more palatable. Why do I think the authors were insincere here? It might have to do with their flippant analogy of the child who endlessly asks 'why?' and the speed at which the parent collapses into an answer like 'Because that's God's plan' or 'Let's go watch Sponge Bob!'.
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