The first of the five new books I am reading this year was Anatomy Of Love: A Natural History Of Mating, Marriage, And Why We Stray By Helen Fisher. I’ll tell ya, this book is a S-L-O-W read. Normally I can breeze through a book of it’s size in a week or two, but this book challenged me to think, hard, and it took a great deal of time to mentally digest all of the fascinating information held within it’s pages. I love those sorts of books. It’s so much more satisfying once you make it to the end.
To break this book down to the very basics (not easy to do, trust me) it could be called a very thorough examination of human sexuality throughout our evolution. It starts right at the beginning of time, and speaks at great length about how sexual beliefs and practices have come to be through the ages. It examines countless other cultures, which I enjoyed a great deal. Books that are completely based on western culture and then claim to represent humans the world over irritate me. This is not one of those books.
It has an excellent balance of speculative versus factual information. The flow of the book is easy to understand and it’s organized chronologically. It also remained very neutral on subjects such as monogamy/non-monogamy, which was refreshing. I know that sometimes books claim to be neutral, and yet you can sense a sort of ‘tone’ about the writing that hints subtle preferences or agreement with one or the other. Not so with this book. In fact it’s almost entirely devoid of emotion, clearly wanting to stick to the scientific analysis, rather than taking a moral stance.
It was incredibly interesting to learn about how early humans related to each other, and how our mating practices came into being. It also taught me a great deal about marriage and how monogamy came into practice (like most primates, early humans were very likely not monogamous).
Without revealing too much of ‘good parts’ it certainly makes one think a great deal about our society. Sexuality, relations between men and women, and our commonly held beliefs about monogamy and marriage seem to be coming full circle. I think that as men and women come to depend on each other less and less for financial security and reasons related to material things, we will see a return to more ‘natural’ patterns of relationships.
Actually, I can’t come up with a single negative comment on this book. It completely exceeded all of my expectations.
If you enjoy being challenged mentally, and find history and evolutionary theories interesting, give this book a read. I promise you won’t be disappointed.
This Book Receives: