The Science of Kissing: What Our Lips Are Telling Us
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The Science of Kissing: What Our Lips Are Telling Us

3.41 of 5 stars 3.41  ·  rating details  ·  339 ratings  ·  99 reviews
From a noted science journalist comes a wonderfully witty and fascinating exploration of how and why we kiss.

When did humans begin to kiss? Why is kissing integral to some cultures and alien to others? Do good kissers make the best lovers? And is that expensive lip-plumping gloss worth it? Sheril Kirshenbaum, a biologist and science journalist, tackles these questions and...more
Hardcover, 246 pages
Published January 5th 2011 by Grand Central Publishing (first published December 16th 2010)
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Julie (Mom2lnb)
Jan 20, 2011 Julie (Mom2lnb) rated it 5 of 5 stars Recommends it for: Romantics & Armchair Scientists
Reviewed for THC Reviews
I happen to be a hopeless romantic who is also fascinated by science, so the minute I saw The Science of Kissing: What Our Lips Are Telling Us, I knew I had to read it. One might think that a scientific book on kissing might destroy the romanticism of the act, but for me, it did the exact opposite. It actually reinforced many of my romantic notions while explaining the logic and biology behind this most common of relational behaviors. Rather than writing a traditional rev...more
Shannon (Giraffe Days)
I got this book after hearing a brief mention of it on CBC radio one day; I missed the actual segment but the title made me curious enough to look the book up when I was next in the bookshop ... which happened to be that same day. I don't read a lot of non-fiction - I have plenty but they're still mostly unread - simply because they generally take a lot more concentration than I usually have available, and I've had real baby brain lately. This one is what's commonly referred to as "pop science",...more
Ashley
Honestly, I was kind of disappointed in this book. I was expecting detailed research and informed speculation. I was expecting some bite. Instead, what I got was a very short and shallow meditation into a whole bunch of stuff that should have been much more elaborated. I also found it disconcerting that there were no notes of any kind throughout the book . . . we just kind of have to take her word on it that she's done her research. Now, I'm not saying that she didn't -- in fact, the extensive B...more
Stephanie D.
Don't you wish they taught this class in high school? The Science of Kissing: What Our Lips Are Telling Us by Sheril Kirshenbaum is the kind of science book I love to read: fascinating, fun, informative, and highly readable for the layperson. Kirshenbaum covers almost everything about this titillating subject. It's not too technical for the nonscientific crowd, but with enough depth across a broad spectrum so by the end I felt very educated about kissing. And people, real-world, personal researc...more
Kristy
So as I sat down to read this book, I really only had one thought. Well, maybe two. The first one was that it was February and I wanted to read a girly romantic love appropriate book. Secondly, I've been trying to figure out how the boy I am seeing and I are so physically enamored with each other while we have virtually nothing else in common!
I got way more than I bargained for. I have friends reading this review who will drop their jaws as I did, or turn away with rolled eyes. I found it fascin...more
Melissalott
When I set out to read this book (written by a friend, whose work I am familiar with) I expected it to be well written and interesting. I even expected to like it, because the topic sounds like fun. But, I didn't expect to find the book so engaging - which it was! I sat down to read 20-30 pages, and ended up reading the entire book in one sitting. Interesting, funny, gross (there's a chapter on cooties) - all describe this book, which is full of scientific data, facts, and theories presented in...more
Cortney
Hooray!! I just was notified I won this book on a free Goodreads giveaway! I think this is going to be a very interesting book...thanks Goodreads!!!

I was right..very interesting book, really, the Author did her research on how the kiss started. I liked all the facts, even the chapter on mouth bacteria although it grossed me out! I also didn't know in the early days that a kiss was a statement of honor, a promise...so it wasn't uncommon for leaders to kiss a hand, or other material to make that p...more
Carol
Aug 17, 2011 Carol rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2011
I enjoyed reading this book. It covered more things than I ever knew were connected to kissing! Do you remember that people who could not sign their names mark it with an "X", the same "X" as in XOOXX? Ok, I won't spoil it for you and tell you more about that.

Were you like me, when your aunts came to visit, came to dread their sloppy kisses. Kissing when relatives and dignitaries came used to be much more more common than it is today. The Great Plague had something to do with it. There were more...more
Sarah Beth
This compelling little book takes a look at an ancient and nearly universal human hobby - kissing. Despite its prevalence in over 90% of cultures, very little research has been done on the subject. Kirshenbaum takes a look at kissing through the ages from the origin of kissing under the mistletoe to the fact that two-thirds of us turn our head to the right when we go in for a kiss. Kissing can seal a bond between mother and child, be an expression of greeting between friends, sign of fealty to a...more
M
A good summary review on kissing from a biological, anthropological, and neurological standpoint. I liked parts 1 and 2 over 3. Three felt too personal describing her involvement in the kissing experiment she devised. While it is a very nice experiment her novelization of the experience read too much like a diary or journal. The author's research is extensive and it shows as she covers every facet of kissing. I wished for reference citations while I was reading but that might of slowed down the...more
Kim L.
In short, I enjoyed this book. It gave a historical overview of where kissing came from, and how we have gotten where we are today. It is obvious that a lot of research went into this book. I enjoyed some of the random bits of information in the historical overview. The second part of the book went through some of the biochemical processes that occur while kissing, which I found very interesting. Especially some of the research that was sited.

I could have done without chapters 11 and 13. I don'...more
K.V. Taylor
A really fun, light read. I picked it up off a Valentine's Day table just before a trip to India and read it on the flight--it was a perfect choice. Zoomed through it in a few hours. The science is well-presented for a wide audience, made to be amusing and educational at the same time. Kept me smiling and randomly elbowing my husband awake to give him some interesting tidbit.

No idea what the guy sleeping in the seat on the other side of me thought.

On a personal note, very cool read for someone w...more
Molly Ringle


Written in a fun style, and certainly a few steps up in terms of humor and smarts from a Cosmo article on being a good kisser. Most of it was stuff I had already intuited (as both a person who kisses and who writes love stories), but it's interesting to see how little science has investigated this very common activity so far. I hope this book will help turn that around. Also, I volunteer to kiss Johnny Depp and Ewan McGregor while you scan my brain if that will help.
Lisa
So I was a little embarrassed to read this book at first but it was really well written and very interesting look into why we kiss, what happens when we kiss, and how kissing has evolved. I really enjoyed the how scientific she was, although once or twice, I did raise my eyebrows a little. (but considering the subject matter, that would be hard to avoid). Very easy to read and to understand and quite enlightening.
trina
ho-hum. my obsession with pop science books should be modified to exclude "sensational" ones like this that take advantage of the popularity of the genre. there's nothing new here- barely anything that isn't intuitive, even- and the writing is amateurish. ah well. kissing is one of my favorite pasttimes, but it turns out to be one of those activities that is fun to do, not read about.
Anna
A very cute, fun book with interesting findings. Good for a time when you're up for science 'light' and want a quick, fact-filled read. The author is the first to admit that her research is a tantalizing but inconclusive prelude to the real science of kissing!
Shannon
This book wasn't nearly as interesting as I thought it would be, and all of the studies that actually were interesting, I had already encountered somewhere else (although I couldn't recall where I had read about them before this book).
Cora Lee
3 and 1/2 stars. I love a good neurobiological experiment and all the explanations that go with it, and there was a nice amount of that in this book. The science was good: well documented, well researched. The writing was very good, too: easy to read, even for someone with little science background, but not too simplified for someone who does. The reason this book doesn't get 4 stars from me is because of the last couple of chapters. One was a list of suggested experiments that have not yet been...more
Emily
Brief but interesting look at the history, cultural and social practices, and science of kissing/smooching/bussing/osculating. Several little tidbits stuck out - such as some of the affectionate, kiss-like practices of non-European cultures (biting off eyelashes!?!?) or the fact that men who kiss their wives before leaving for work live on average 5 years longer and earn 20-30% more or that German has thirty different words for kissing.

Ms. Kirshenbaum gives a short survey of the historical evide...more
Tiffany
I love scientific books normally. I fell in love with Mary Roach's books when I read Stiff and since then, I have been seeking out these scientific books that explore things that ordinarily, I don't think about. In fact, Roach is mentioned in this novel, which got me pretty excited.
Unfortunately, that's where the excitement ended...
That's not to say that this wasn't an interesting book, because it was. The author wrote an article for an online blog of a known science magazine, and received great...more
Bg
So honestly I never usually pick up books like this for the simple reason that I'm not usually interested. But lately I've been getting into more things about the body and what it does. I'm more interested in the physical anatomy than the chemical reactions of the body, but I digress. I also saw this on the news and thought it was be interesting and it was. Who knew the body could be such a chemical and electrical cocktail from just kissing.

What I would like to clarify is that this book is SCIEN...more
Joe Robles
I really liked this book. It did a good job of getting at the science (or lack thereof) of kissing. It approaches it from a partially evolutionary perspective and explains how both evolution and culture shape the ways we kiss. It also reminded me of how I learned about Evolutionary Psychology. You consider something to possibly be an evolved trait if it meets 3 criteria: 1. occurs across time, 2. occurs across cultures, and 3. occurs across species. Kissing meets these criteria. At times people...more
Gretchen
Why do people kiss? That is the central question driving this book written by Sheril Kirshenbaum, a researcher and science blogger. She begins the book by discussing the evolution of kissing behavior, also bringing in similar behaviors found elsewhere in the animal kingdom. She talks about the history of the kiss and how European-style mouth-to-mouth kissing was exported around the world.

The middle section of the book is primarily concerned with the biology of kissing. Kirshenbaum talks about t...more
Julia
Seeing those questions posed to me, I thought to myself, "This could be quite interesting! A scientific look into kissing." I am not going to lie; I was a little weary starting a book about kissing, thinking that the possibility could be high of it turning into a How-to book. (Not that I would turn down a few pointers.. which this book does give based on the context of the science)

This is not a How-to book. It is more of a "Why" book. Each chapter delves into a different aspect of kissing, for e...more
Heather
This was a cute book and I thought it would be appropriate to review it for Valentine’s Day. I don’t know about the claim that this book will make you a better kisser, but it certainly was interesting. It did slightly change the way I think about kissing, because it reminded me about all of the germs that get swapped during a kiss. I’m having a hard time not thinking about that when I kiss my husband now (oh, the woes of a germaphobe). Haha! Ugh.

Other than the section about germ swapping, I real...more
Rachel
Mar 25, 2011 Rachel rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2011
I learned about this book from a list of new releases I read somewhere. Kirschenbaum's book was structured much like an easy-to-read Master's thesis. The first part of the book discussed the history of kissing and summarized previous research. The next section discussed a study she conducted and the results from a small sampling. Finally, the book ends with recommendations for future research and implications about what is yet to be learned about kissing.

I wish I had written my review immediatel...more
Dayna
This was not nearly as good as it should have been. There were a few interesting tidbits...such as, if a man kisses his wife goodbye in the morning then he is 50% less likely to get into a car wreck. That was a new thing I learned, however, I had already heard of or read most of the research Kirshenbaum cites...and that's saying something, because it's not like I am that well-read on the subject. It just wasn't that informative. And it's not witty enough to make up for the lack of interesting fa...more
Arminzerella
This is a kissing book, but it's not *that* sort of kissing book. It's spring right now and half the world is stirring with FEELINGS. And desires. And thoughts of kissing. And after reading about 40 pages of this, I felt like all of the excitement and luscious anticipation had gone straight out of kissing. Which is not what I was in the mood for at all. If you're interested in the theories/hypotheses/studies surrounding why we kiss, how that behavior might have evolved and what it all means in v...more
Beth
Originally published at BethsBookReviews.com

Received from the publisher for review.

Well, let's just say that if you're looking for a comprehensive book on kissing, this is indeed it. It covers everything one may want to know (and many things one would prefer not to know) about the subject. Word to the wise: About 400,000 people a year kiss the Blarney Stone in Ireland. Um, ick!

This one gets four stars. It was fun and upbeat yet covered all sorts of kissing related topics in all time periods and...more
Anna Phoenix
The author presents this book like a student thesis (or what I expect a student thesis would be like; I've never read one): the introduction outlines what she will present and the chapters follow through. The first study of the science of kissing, it's incredibly interesting to see what this everyday occurence means to us as humans, how we differ from animals and how we are the same, easy to read and understand. Ending with a proposal for further scientific inquiry into the subject, the author l...more
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Sheril Kirshenbaum is an associate at Duke University and co-author of the forthcoming book, Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future, with Chris Mooney. She is involved in conservation initiatives across levels of government and works to improve communication between scientists, policymakers, and the public.

In 2007, Sheril helped to found Science Debate 2008; an initia...more
More about Sheril Kirshenbaum...
Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens our Future Unscientific America

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