Anatomy of Love: A Natural History of Mating, Marriage, and Why We Stray

Anatomy of Love: A Natural History of Mating, Marriage, and Why We Stray

by Helen Fisher

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Why do we fall in love? Romping through evolution, addressing a broad spectrum of species & a huge variety of cultures, Fisher casts her investigative net from the tundras of Siberia to the jungles of Amazonia in her examination of the physical & psychological phenomena of love. Enlightening & entertaining, lucid & learned, Anatomy of Love is a reminder that our


Why do we fall in love? Romping through evolution, addressing a broad spectrum of species & a huge variety of cultures, Fisher casts her investigative net from the tundras of Siberia to the jungles of Amazonia in her examination of the physical & psychological phenomena of love. Enlightening & entertaining, lucid & learned, Anatomy of Love is a reminder that our Western culture is but the latest fascinating design on an ancient blueprint called the mating game. Fun & delightful to read, offering an abundance of fascinating facts new even to somebody well versed in the minutiae of animal behavior.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In this engrossing, entertaining book, Fisher, a research associate at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, draws on anthropology and biology to answer eternal questions about love and sex, men and women. Breezy but serious, she cites everything from chimpanzee polities to the !Kung people of the Kalahari Desert to provide details on courting styles, multiple orgasms and homosexuality. Fisher (The Sex Contract) allows that she's not politically correct, and some may be troubled by her assertions that adultery occurs in nearly every culture and that male attraction to beauty and female attraction to money are probably innate. She offers her own theory on challenges to marriage in traditional societies: the proverbial seven-year itch may be better seen as a four-year cycle allowing relationships to endure at least long enough to raise a child through infancy. Surveying reasons (such as the introduction of the plow) for the growth of the sexual double standard in Western society, Esher concludes that increased equality between men and women will restore older traditions of love and marriage. BOMC and QPB alternates; author tour. (Nov.)
Donna Seaman
By studying the sexual behavior of various animals and of people from a variety of cultures, anthropologist Fisher has found convincing evidence of a genetic origin and a clear evolutionary purpose for the gestures, rituals, and phases of love. While her generalizations about our innate passions and traditions are quite broad, her vivid examples of sexual customs are undeniably provocative. Fisher identifies the specific brain chemicals responsible for sexual euphoria and contentment, then links their effects to key stages in relationships: infatuation, attachment, and, eventually, boredom. Why, Fisher wonders, are both marriage and adultery universal norms? Why is the sequence of marriage-divorce-remarriage so common? Why do so many women and men crave sexual variety in spite of cultural taboos? Fisher's carefully constructed answers revolve around two key points: one, when our ancestors began to walk upright they started a sexual revolution, and two, many marriages begin to decay after four years, just about the time a child grows out of infancy. As Fisher presents her well-substantiated theories (documented with 120 pages of notes), she illuminates intriguing aspects of physiology, the reproductive imperative, and sexual selection, as well as the more visceral experiences of love at first sight, arousal, and jealousy. This lucid synthesis covers a lot of territory, challenges plenty of assumptions, and makes for lively conversation; it will also be heavily promoted, hence in demand.
Publishers Weekly
In this revised and expanded edition of her 1994 study on the nature of love, lust, and relationships, anthropologist Fisher (Why Him? Why Her?), chief scientific advisor to, applies a wide-ranging, scientific approach to the subject of love and relationships, addressing it from a variety of angles. Drawing on interviews, scientific surveys, anecdotes, and much more, she undertakes to explain “how we court; who we choose; how we bond; why some are adulterous and some divorce; how the drive to love evolved; why we have teenagers and vast networks of kin to rear our young; why a man can’t be more like a woman and vice versa; how sex and romance drastically altered with the invention of the plow.” The result is a dense read that conveys a wealth of information, both useful and trivial, in the attempt to cover every aspect of a vast and mutable subject. Fisher is consistent, however, in keeping the tone light, regardless of whether she is discussing marriage rituals, polygamy, flirting, or incest taboos. At the heart of it all is “the unquenchable, adaptable, and primordial human drive to love.” People seeking easy answers to relationship issues may feel disappointed or overwhelmed, but there’s no shortage of food for thought. (Feb.)
Richard Dawkins
“Is romantic love a creation of troubadours and poets, or has it deep evolutionary roots? Is the seven-year itch really the four-year itch? Does true love betray itself in a brain scanner? With the eyes of an anthropologist and the voice of a poet, Helen Fisher lays bare the many worlds and ages of erotic love. And she knows whereof she speaks.”
John Tierney
“For journalists around the world, Helen Fisher has been the go-to authority on love and heartache since the first edition of Anatomy of Love. No one else knows the human heart so well—or explains it with such wit and style.”
John Gottman
“This book is a marvel. I eagerly read everything Helen Fisher writes. She is a national treasure. So illuminating!”
Aziz Ansari and Eric Klinenberg
“Our conversations with Helen Fisher were crucial to understanding the current romantic climate. This revised version of Anatomy of Love is a great read for anyone interested in understanding love and romance. Also, Helen was kind enough to blurb our book, so we’d be real dicks not to do the same for her. Luckily, her work is fantastic and no moral dilemma has been posed.”
“Much has changed in the landscape of love and dating since the first edition of anthropologist Fisher’s Anatomy of Love was published over 20 years ago . . . [and Fisher] presents plenty of new data. . . . The recent success of comedian Aziz Ansari and sociologist Eric Klinenberg’s Modern Romance (2015) suggests readers might be looking for further, more serious reading on the topic: Fisher’s book and its hundreds upon hundreds of cited sources won’t disappoint them.”
Deborah Tannen
“Will give everyone who reads it a lot to talk about.”
New York Times Book Review
“Delightful to read . . . fascinating.”
Edward O. Wilson
“Fisher weaves a persuasive and consistently surprising new explanation of the roots of human marriage, sex, and love. Her account cuts more deeply than the ordinary literature on human sexuality.”
Philadelphia Inquirer
“Answers all those puzzling questions that caused your mother (or priest or guidance counselor or gym teacher) to blame God and/or hormones.”
San Francisco Chronicle
“Enlightening and controversial.”
Library Journal
Anthropologist Fisher (senior research fellow, Kinsey Inst.; chief scientific advisor, has revised her classic book on sex and relationships, which was originally published in 1992. The author approaches her subject by referencing crosscultural studies, human physiology, evolutionary biology, psychology, primatology, and statistics, and, with this edition, surveys from online dating services. Topics covered include love and attraction, attachment, monogamy, adultery, divorce, gender differences, sexual politics, and the future of sex. In this newer edition Fisher draws upon the growing body of research on sex and relationships from the neurosciences, the physiology of hormones, paleoanthropology, genetics, sexual orientation studies, and both evolutionary and social psychology. The original portions provide a natural history filled with entertaining and informative anecdotes and narratives that offer context and background. For Fisher, relationships and their cultural accoutrements have come and gone throughout human history, but love remains enduring; it is this sanguineness for love's universality that drives Fisher's understanding of human behavior. VERDICT This work remains a solid introduction to the nature of sex and relationships, albeit cursory in depth of coverage. Highly recommended to readers interested in human sexuality. [See Prepub Alert, 8/24/15.]—Scott Vieira, Rice Univ. Lib., Houston

Product Details

Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
Edition description:
1st ed
Product dimensions:
6.37(w) x 9.50(h) x 1.45(d)
1270L (what's this?)

Meet the Author

Helen Fisher , a biological anthropologist, is the author of five internationally selling books, including Why We Love and Why Him? Why Her? A Senior Research Fellow at the Kinsey Institute, a member of the Center for Human Evolutionary Studies at Rutgers University, and the chief scientific advisor to, Fisher is a frequent national and international speaker. Her TED talks have been viewed by more than 10 million people; and she lives in New York City.

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