An Oxford-trained evolutionary anthropologist explores the ever-elusive science of love.
What can the social and life sciences tell us about the most fundamental and unquantifiable human experience—love? Anna Manchin is interested in the the the most inclusive possible answer, one that, unlike previous books on the subject, considers friendship and family on par with romantic love, as well as polyamory, chosen families, queer love, and touchingly, the love we feel for pets, celebrities, and deities.
Anna delves into these intimate relationships from the levels of biology, chemistry, and neuroscience all the way up to psychology, sociology, and evolution, in engaging, accessible, and ever-charming prose.
But Anna doesn’t shy away from love’s darker consequences – its addictive nature which can lead us towards, or leave us susceptible to, manipulation, coercion, and even violence. And yet, in the end, her book is an argument for love. Growing evidence shows that the nature and quality of our relationships is the most significant factor in our life satisfaction, happiness, physical and mental health – more important than quitting smoking or losing weight. Love is the center of what makes us human. It is, by nature, inefficient – and in our ever-busier world, it can tend to be shunted to the side. Anna’s goal, therefore, is to expand our understanding and reinvigorate our awe at the complexities and intricacies of the human heart.
Building on the great tradition of writers like Esther Perel, Alain de Botton, Erich Fromm, Stan Tatkin, Sue Johnson, and Helen Fisher, Anna’s depth of research and wells of empathy bring us many leaps forward in the eternal project of understanding ourselves
About the Author
Anna Machin has dedicated her research life to the science behind our closest relationships, most recently spending 12 years at the Department of Experimental Psychology at Oxford University working alongside Robin Dunbar. She is the author of a book on fatherhood, The Life of Dad: The Making of a Modern Father.
“Anna Machin offers a lively guide to the many kinds of human love that exist, and the biology and psychology that explain why we love the way we do.”
— Frans de Waal, NEW YORK TIMES bestselling author of "Mama's Last Hug"
“This book opens the Pandora's Box on this most complex and puzzling aspect of what it is to be human.”
— Robin Dunbar, author of "Friends"
"Love sits at the center of human existence, according to this sharp survey from anthropologist Machin. Machin draws from plenty of studies of both the human and animal worlds, and her personal interjections are energizing: 'Human love is awe-inspiring. I believe it defines our humanity.' This provocative account is a fitting tribute to its subject." — Publishers Weekly