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Love Trilogy

All About Love: New Visions

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All About Love offers radical new ways to think about love by showing its interconnectedness in our private and public lives. In eleven concise chapters, hooks explains how our everyday notions of what it means to give and receive love often fail us, and how these ideals are established in early childhood. She offers a rethinking of self-love (without narcissism) that will bring peace and compassion to our personal and professional lives, and asserts the place of love to end struggles between individuals, in communities, and among societies. Moving from the cultural to the intimate, hooks notes the ties between love and loss and challenges the prevailing notion that romantic love is the most important love of all.

Visionary and original, hooks shows how love heals the wounds we bear as individuals and as a nation, for it is the cornerstone of compassion and forgiveness and holds the power to overcome shame.

For readers who have found ongoing delight and wisdom in bell hooks's life and work, and for those who are just now discovering her, All About Love is essential reading and a brilliant book that will change how we think about love, our culture-and one another.

240 pages, Hardcover

First published December 22, 1999

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About the author

bell hooks

108 books9,000 followers
bell hooks (born Gloria Jean Watkins) was an African-American author, feminist, and social activist. Her writing focused on the interconnectivity of race, class, and gender and their ability to produce and perpetuate systems of oppression and domination. She published over thirty books and numerous scholarly and mainstream articles, appeared in several documentary films and participated in various public lectures. Primarily through a postmodern female perspective, she addressed race, class, and gender in education, art, history, sexuality, mass media and feminism.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 6,071 reviews
Profile Image for TJ.
43 reviews114 followers
May 7, 2016
The best and worst thing about this book was hooks' commitment throughout the work to making powerful, decisive statements that wanted to leave little room open for argument.
When she was on, this authoritative voice felt like a revelation -- such as when she declares that abuse and love cannot coexist. It's a beautiful, affirming, heartbreaking statement, that seems to have a large weight of truth behind it, at once the most and least obvious thing. The definition of love that she borrows and endorses is also very powerful and transformative. Not to mention, incredibly useful.
But when she isn't on -- the voice feels moralizing and sermon-like, hard to swallow. I mean, she really used the phrase "hedonistic pleasure" seriously. & her thoughts on work, her feeling that work can be bearable if done with love, feels downright degrading, especially alongside the way she talks about things like having TWO HOMES, one in the city, one outside of the city -- a pretty extreme display of class privilege. I feel that hooks sees too much room for possibility in a world so totally dominated by capitalism.

Basically there are some real gems of thought in here, practical gems, but I felt like I was digging for them through a lot of writing that I disagreed with, didn't care about, felt annoyed by, or felt like wasn't written with "people like me" -- queer/gay folks -- in mind in the slightest.
Profile Image for Katie.
600 reviews44 followers
November 16, 2021
Well, so, OK. Here's the thing. This book changed/is changing my life. It came to me at just the right second (by which I mean, I took it from the house where I was house-sitting at just the right second), and I have taken it straight to heart. hooks is in the business of life-changing, really, whether she's teaching us how to love in the face of a planet of lovelessness, or teaching us to find, confront, and exorcise the racism and sexism by which we invariably live. What got to me in "All About Love" was honesty. Telling the truth in order to pave the way for unadorned, loving interaction. WOO BUDDY there was a lesson I haven't been ready to hear until right now, but wow am I hearing it now.
To give two brief criticisms, because it wasn't actually perfect, and that's important: it's pretty god-heavy. If that's not your thing, take note. bell loves god. Also, it's pretty gender-essentialist. I agree, for example, that men are shamed out of revealing their needs and wants for love more than women are, but there is nary a mention of genderqueer identities. What happens if you are neither from Mars NOR Venus??

Here are my notes from this extraordinary book:

-it is much easier in our world to discuss the loss of love than the presence or, particularly, the search for love.

- love is comprised of, but not equal to: commitment, affection, recognition, respect, trust, communication.

-cathexis: the process of investment in a person wherein the other becomes important to us. often confused for love; as in "I can't leave her. We've been through too much together."

-love: the will to extend oneself to nurture our or another's spiritual growth.

-Love and abuse CANNOT COEXIST. we cling to notions of love that make abuse acceptable, in order to avoid acknowledging either that we must leave, or that we have been abused and DIDN'T leave, or that, horror of horrors, we have never yet received real love.

-dissimilation: taking on whatever appearance is needed to manipulate a situation. one of the barriers to truth-telling in love.

-prescribed patriatrchal masculinity requires active denial of the yearning for love. this is because patriarchy is the worst.

-secrecy vs privacy: power, dishonesty struggle vs. emotional space, autonomy

-a loving ethic could look like this: working for individuals you admire and respect; giving all to our relationships; seeing our lives and fates as tied to everyone else's on the planet

-live with love. make money, because you'll need it. but give all to love.

-there is no love specifically meant for romance. love is an ethic, a state of readiness and openness and willingness to struggle. commitment and behavior change to reflect specific situations, but love is the same all around.

-females are given more socially accepted space to search for and talk about love, but are not necessarily any better equipped than males to BE loving.

-love is an act of will, not a strong feeling. why else would you promise to love someone forever? you can't promise feeling. you can promise a readiness to work, to build love further every day.

-true love IS unconditional. this is not an excuse to fuck up.

-you cannot change someone, but you can both agree to be changed by the expeience of being together.

-instead of "falling in love," think of the mysterious 'spark' feeling as a sign blinking: "love could be here, if you're willing to take some risks and get your hands dirty..."
Profile Image for Cindy.
407 reviews109k followers
March 6, 2022
I agree with most of bell hooks’ thoughts in this book and the notion that love can be a transformative power that heals individuals, communities, and even public policies and institutions if we prioritized it over greed. Would that ever happen though? As a cynic, I seriously doubt it. Still, it was nice to imagine this idealistic world. She lost me later with the overemphasis on spirituality, at one point literally referencing angels, so I think a religious person might resonate with this book better than I did. She tends to make generalized statements throughout the book as if they were universal truths, and it made me wonder what sources she had to actually back that up. For example, she’ll talk about how men do X and Y, and even if I agree with her statement, I wonder if this is coming from a valid source or if she is just basing this on a few people she’s met. It feels like the latter, which makes me question the validity of her thesis.

A lot of the writing also felt very straight, which is odd since a Google search tells me that bell hooks is queer. The book often contrasts men’s perspectives on love vs women’s in a heteronormative way, which to me felt limiting and too simplistic to describe love, when factoring in queerness could have opened up so many more avenues. I will just assume this is a product of its time though. This is my first bell hooks book, and this just didn’t quite hit the mark for me.
Profile Image for Always Pouting.
568 reviews679 followers
February 14, 2022
I started off really liking this book and then it i just kind of lost interest. I think the book is very well written which I always find appealing. I also think it's interesting to think of love as a verb and in the framework laid out by Hooks. I just like others started to get put off by the sermonizing. It can be cool to read where others are coming from but I guess what I found off putting was for me love is about extending others understanding and the benefit of the doubt but her comments about Monica Lewinsky and Nicole Brown Simpson did not feel aligned with that. There was a lot of presumptions made about why people partake in specific behaviors and it felt a little bit too broad a generalization to say that it's a lack of love causing all the issues she pointed out. Also like others said the spiritually stuff just didn't do it for me. I'm sure it appeals to others and helps them find meaning but that just isn't for me. It also felt really repetitive as I kept making my way through it and halfway through I kind of felt like I had gotten the point.

Anyways well written and addressing a topic in an interesting and engaging way. Especially with its emphasis on care work. Just could have done without the random usage of people's choices to pass judgment certain points without considering other things that might motivate those choices. Also gets a little repetitive and the spirituality aspect wasn't for me. I loved the opening though and would give that five stars. Overall though this was 3.5 stars for me.
Profile Image for emma.
1,788 reviews43.1k followers
December 14, 2022
Reading this is like receiving a hug that also makes you smarter.

You don't realize until you read this how we treat love like a silly subject as a culture, how we kind of giggle at it and reduce its significance. This reminds you of how we can all benefit from taking love seriously, from studying it like the subject it is.

A lot has changed in the 20-plus years since it was written, and the very binary interpretation of gender makes this less applicable than it might be...and I am not a Christian so any mention of angels has me tucked away in my proverbial shell like a cartoon turtle.

And it is, as some reviews say, repetitive, but not in an annoying or boring or this-needed-more-editing way. It's in the way of a radical text engraining new ideas.

Honestly, the long and short of it is that this hit me in many ways. It helped me identify places to grow - in choosing honesty, in what I perceive as love or as loving.

I really recommend this for anyone hurting from childhood, or an abusive relationship, or loneliness, or anything. bell hooks will give you a little reassurance and then tell you how to get better. Like a good therapist.

Bottom line: Required reading!!!
Profile Image for Thomas.
1,403 reviews8,134 followers
August 3, 2017
I could write almost every page of this book a five-star review. bell hooks, African-American feminist author of the revelationary The Will to Change , creates another visionary work with All About Love. She argues for the importance of love in our private and public lives in powerful and innovative ways. At first the title of this book made me roll my eyes a little, in a "oh yay, a book that's all about love, how cliche" kinda way. But from the very first page, hooks offers piercing insights into the importance of love and how our predominant culture fails to teach us how to love. For example, a quote early on in the book, about how love and abuse cannot coexist:

"When we understand love as the will to nurture our own and another's spiritual growth, it becomes clear that we cannot claim to love if we are hurtful and abusive. Love and abuse cannot coexist. Abuse and neglect are, by definition, the opposites of nurturance and care. Often we hear of a man who beats his children and wife and then goes to the corner bar and passionately proclaims how much he loves them. If you talk to the wife on a good day, she may also insist he loves her, despite his violence. An overwhelming majority of us come from dysfunctional families in which we were taught we were not okay, where we were shamed, verbally and/or physically abused, and emotionally neglected even as were taught to believe that we were loved. For most folks it is just too threatening to embrace a definition of love that would no longer enable us to see love as present in our families. Too many of us need to cling to a notion of love that either makes abuse acceptable or at least makes it seem that whatever happened was not that bad."

This book will challenge readers and make many of us uncomfortable. hooks interrogates normalized mediums of love in our society - romantic love, the nuclear family, etc. - and shows how these default systems can lead to problems. She touches on such an important and thought-provoking set of topics, including: how the media almost never portrays healthy, communicative relationships, how capitalism and patriarchy ruin love by forcing women to provide emotional labor while men do not, and how we take friendships for granted because of romance. Throughout all of this, she illuminates a path toward a more loving relationship with yourself and others, so we can all work toward a more loving society. A powerful quote about friendship:

"Most of us are raised to believe we will either find love in our first family (our family of origin) or, if not there, in the second family we are expected to form through committed romantic couplings, particularly those that lead to marriage and/or lifelong bondings. Many of us learn as children that friendship should never be seen as just as important as family ties. However, friendship is the place in which a great majority of us have our first glimpse of redemptive love and caring community... Often we take friendships for granted even when they are the interactions where we experience mutual pleasure. We place them in a secondary position, especially in relation to romantic bonds. This devaluation of our friendships creates an emptiness we may not see when we are devoting all our attention to finding someone to love romantically or giving all our attention to a chosen loved one."

Overall, an inspiring book I wish more people would read. I did disagree with hooks's analysis a few times (e.g., I do not think you have to be spiritual or religious to experience love, I perceived her interpretation of the Monica Lewinsky affair as simplistic and slut-shaming) but by and large hooks articulated so many ideas that have always percolated in my mind, just in a coherent and compelling way. Other reviewers complain that hooks does not support all of her arguments with research; while I respect that complaint, we also must keep in mind that the research we produce reflects the values of our time, and hooks is way ahead of 2017 (i.e., the land of Trump's America). I hope that we can all learn from hooks's wisdom and practice the art of loving with ourselves, each other, and the world around us. I will end this review with one last quote about viewing love as an action:

"This same politics of greed is at play when folks seek love. They often want fulfillment immediately. Genuine love is rarely an emotional space where needs are instantly gratified. To know genuine love we have to invest time and commitment... Many people want love to function like a drug, giving them an immediate and sustained high. They want to do nothing, just passively receive the good feeling. In patriarchal culture men are especially inclined to see love as something they should receive without expending effort. More often than not they do not want to do the work that love demands. When the practice of love invites us to enter a place of potential bliss that is at the same time a place of critical awakening and pain, many of us turn our backs to love."
Profile Image for Iamshadow.
148 reviews23 followers
March 2, 2016
While there were a couple of bits of this book I liked (hence the two stars), on the whole, this is a thumbs down for me.

Firstly, it was incredibly heterocentric. While the book at times acknowledged gay people existed, that didn't change the tone throughout. The only two gay people mentioned were a graffiti artist who did a work the author admired that was apparently commentary on the (then current) AIDS crisis, and a lesbian who on the author's advice maintained contact with her toxic, homophobic family. Apparently that was the right thing to do, because they've 'improved' over time. Sorry, lady, reality check. Queer people do not exist as diversity lessons for straight people. Cutting people who hate us is often GENUINELY a matter of survival. Just because the family structure is somewhat maintained does not justify the acid erosion of homophobia, up close and personal, on the individual. If you're in that situation, just get the fuck out.

Secondly, apparently, abusers are that way because of the patriarchy - because they had horrible childhoods and/or society made them do it. Oh, and empathising with them and forgiving them is the one true way to being awesomely full of joy and self-esteem. This, I would have thrown the book at the wall about, if I had a physical copy. While toxic masculinity and the patriarchy are actual things, these sentiments fail to acknowledge that some people out there hurt people because they like hurting people. My abuser had an idyllic childhood. He hurt me because he is a sociopathic sadist with a taste for little girls. He wasn't made that way by his parents or society - he did it because he wanted to, and he has no guilt for what he did. He's probably out there doing it to some other kid right now. Empathise with him? What would that teach me? Nothing. Forgive him? Listen. One of the most self-esteem building things I ever taught myself was that I didn't have to forgive. That honouring my experience was more important, and acknowledging that NOTHING justified the hurt I went through was more powerful than just giving him back my power again by saying it didn't matter, that it was excusable. It DID matter. And all trying to forgive him would do would be to put my own needs last, yet again.

Thirdly, she spent a whole whack of the middle complaining about kids today and modern society and how back before the '50s, materialism didn't exist (whut), whining that current day relationships are 'disposable as Dixie cups if someone's needs aren't being met' while almost in the same breath saying how great and important it is that people have the freedom to leave unhealthy relationships (confusing), and managing to victim blame Nicole Simpson and call Monica Lewinsky 'a prostitute' and a 'a fake victim' while rationalising that Bill Clinton couldn't keep it in his pants because of some childhood sad or something, like we should feel sorry for him for taking advantage of a woman decades younger than himself that he was in a huge position of power over (just plain tasteless, and really not the kind of thing I expected from someone labelled as a feminist with a speciality in male dominance) .

Lastly, despite acknowledging that organised religion is not the answer for everything, this book went weirdly heavily Christian at times, notably when the author wrote some whole section about angels being real and how the story of Jacob and Rachel was about him growing as a person, somehow. All I could think was, I remember that story, and it is LITERALLY about a man buying women like cattle. It's about trade - work in exchange for women. It's not about love at all. Oh, and because I actually don't believe in a soul or angels, I'm spiritually dead or not even human or something, IDEK. Way to go, there. Yes, I'm an atheist. Yes, I somehow manage to be a good, kind, empathetic, loving person despite not believing in God. Fancy that.
Profile Image for Ciara.
Author 3 books341 followers
November 20, 2008
i find it astonishing that so many people i otherwise respect & admire got so into this book. i would love to try an experiment where this book is re-released under some nobody's name, rather than bell hooks, & we can see how people respond to it when they aren't actually responding to the whole bell hooks association. i have LOVED a lot of hooks's books. this was a big pile of crap, & not just that, it ushered in a whole generation of terrible crappy books written by bell hooks. there has been a serious upswing in the importance of love & jesus in hooks's books in the last several years, & a serious downswing in interesting political thought. maybe i am biased because i am not a christian? & because i am not interested in lovey-dovey mega-positivity? it works for some people, but it's not my thing. i just HATED this book. not only was it boring & unsatisfying, it didn't even make any sense. you could start reading it from the back, & read every sentence backwards, or you could cut all the words out & scramble them together & piece them together into a whole different book, & it would say the same thing: yay for love! love is a revolutionary force! it's so important to work on being loving! this is now what i am looking for when i pick up a bell hooks book (full disclosure: it'snot what I am looking for when i pick up ANY book). blech. i just didn't get this book. major disappointment.
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
3,852 reviews35k followers
January 2, 2022
bell hooks, born Gloria Jean Waltins, in 1952, an American author, professor, feminist, and social activist, recently died — [December 15, 2021]— I had never read her work until this book “All About Love”.
The name bell hooks is borrowed from her maternal great-grandmother.
bell published more than thirty books….
Her focus was on race, capitalism, oppression, class, gender, art, history, sexuality, mass media, and feminism.

There have been thousands of books written about love— Both fiction and nonfiction—
but as I began my reading … I was ‘overwhelmingly’ surprised how ‘heavy-hearted’ and down-right painful this book’ ABOUT LOVE was.

bell didn’t waste any time — Instantly she was addressing the confusion between love and abuse (childhood abuse—confused with parental love).
I never expected that when I picked this to read
….(originally simply curious about contributions bell left behind)….
that what was inside it — was ‘what-was-inside-it’.

It’s not light reading ….
but articulated brilliantly… it’s emotionally felt….
examining personal and societal trauma….
… recognizing that abuse - power-control cannot coexist with love — in families- church- with friendships - in community - and with self-love ….
This fact doesn’t ‘sound’ eye-opening….
rather, [intellectually speaking] … it’s easy to say, “of course-that’s common sense”….
But….bell manages to touch on things in our relationships that are rarely discussed opening every window and door into our souls of humanity.

Its no accident that 5,307 people on Amazon rated this book 5 stars.
As Maya Angelou said…
“She provides refreshing spiritual treatise that steps outside the confines of the intellect and into the wilds of the heart”.

“The word ‘love’ is most often defined as a noun, yet we would all love better if we used it as a verb, writes bell hooks as she comes out fighting and on fire in ‘All About Love’”.

“When I was a child, it was clear to me that life was not worth living if we did not know love. I wish I could testify that I came to this awareness because of the love I felt in my life. But it was love’s absence that let me know how much love mattered”.

“Disappointment and a pervasive feeling of brokenheartedness led me to begin thinking more deeply about the meaning of love in our culture”.

“It is far easier to talk about loss than it is to talk about love. It is easier to articulate the pain of love’s absence than to describe its presence and meaning in our lives”.

“Contemplating the practice of love in everyday life, thinking about how we love and what is needed for ours to become a culture where love‘s sacred presence can be felt everywhere, I wrote this meditation”….
“As the title ‘All About Love’: New Visions indicates, we want to live in a culture where love can flourish. We yearn to end the lovelessness that is so pervasive in our society.

“I was brought up to believe that love was rooted in blood relationships. Love was not a choice. The love I learned about was bound by duty and obligation . . . My family taught me our culture’s rules and beliefs about love . . . even with the best intentions our parents often confused love with what we would now call abuse”.

“Self-love cannot flourish in isolation. It is no easy task to be self-loving. Simple axioms that make self-love sound easy only make matters worse. It leaves many people wondering why, if it is so easy, they continue to be trapped by feelings of low self-esteem or self hatred. Using a working definition of love that tells us it is the action we take on behalf of our own or another’s spiritual growth provides us with a beginning blueprint for working on the issue of self-love. When we see love as a combination of trust, commitment, care, respect, knowledge, and responsibility, we can work on developing these qualities or, if they are already a part of who we are, we can learn to extend them to ourselves”.

“Many people find it helpful to critically examine the past, particularly childhood, to chart their internalization of the messages that they were not worthy, not enough, that they were crazy, stupid, monstrous, and so on. Simply learning how we have acquired feelings of worthiness rarely enables us to change things; it is usually only one stage in the process.
I, like so many people, have found it useful to examine negative thinking and behavioral patterns learned in childhood, particularly those shaping my sense of self and identity. However, this process alone did not ensure self-recovery. It was not enough. I share this because it is far too easy to stay stuck in simply describing, telling one’s story over and over again, which can be a way of holding on to grief about the past or holding onto a narrative that places blame on others”.

What a phenomenal force bell was in her lifetime —

In the area of reflection, reading parts of this book can feel despairingly uncomfortable … it can also be healing.

I’m reminded by words from Ekardt Tolle:
“To end the misery that has afflicted the human condition for thousands of years, you have to start with yourself and take responsibility for your inner state at any given moment. That means now.

Profile Image for Ashley Ward.
46 reviews
February 13, 2012
My book club chose this book in honor of Valentine's Day. It's the first (and probably now only) book I've ever read by Bell Hooks, and I was excited to read it. When I checked it out of the library along with a huge stack of other books, the librarian pulled it out and said, "Oh, this book is SO good." Which made me even more excited to read it.

If she had stopped after the first two chapters, I probably would have recommended it as a worthwhile essay to read. I liked that she really took the time to find a definition of love that spoke to her, and I liked the one she came up with (essentially, defining love as the will to extend one's self to nurture one's own or another's growth). I also really liked the chapter on loving parenting.

Unfortunately, the eleven chapters that came after that completely ruined the book for me. I felt like she was really talking down to me, and I got very frustrated with the fact that she kept drawing sweeping conclusions about love in a pseudo-academic way, without actually citing any references or giving any concrete examples. For example, she espouses nothing but complete honesty with those you love, and completely denounces keeping "secrets" or any other form of privacy, without paying any attention to the potential consequences to a relationship when one member decides to completely remove their filters.

And she missed so many potentially brilliant opportunities to generate more interesting discussion. For example, when she described President Clinton as engaging in "deceitful behavior" because of a "fundamental flaw in his self-esteem", and then stopped there, completely neglecting to discuss the reasons why the Clintons stayed together despite his very public affair. What Bill and Hilary Clinton do for each other as an extraordinarily powerful couple, and whether or not the ways they help and hurt each other could or should be construed as love, would have made a much more interesting chapter on commitment.

Profile Image for julieta.
1,099 reviews17.1k followers
June 28, 2022
I enjoyed this book very much. I felt it a little closer to self help than essay, but I also think love is necessary, and to live life with an open heart is pretty difficult, but important. I had read a book of very feminist essays by bell hooks, but this is a different tone completely.
Profile Image for Talkincloud.
148 reviews3,107 followers
April 19, 2022
Mam wrażenie, że „All About Love” bell hooks znalazła mnie sama, w najlepszym możliwym momencie. Potrzebowałem kogoś, kto wyjaśni mi czym jest (lub powinna być) miłość, bo zdarzają się w moim życiu chwile, gdy zapominam. Ta lektura była jak rozmowa z przyjaciółką. Autorka rzuca tutaj zdaniem, które uderzyło we mnie mocno — „nie możesz mieć tego, czego nie potrafisz sobie wyobrazić”. Co jeśli w życiu człowieka dzieje się tak, że od najmłodszych lat wmawia mu się kłamstwa na temat miłości — zjawiska teoretycznie czystego, pięknego i budującego. Bo tak miłość powinna na nas działać — rozwijać nas — i każdy w głębi serca wie na jej temat wszystko, co powinien, aczkolwiek świat brutalnie morduje (media nie są tutaj bez winy) tę prawdziwą i niezmienną ideę miłowania, która na pierwszym miejscu stawia miłowanie siebie. hooks zgłębia to, w jaki sposób władza i patriarchat na przestrzeni wieków zburzyły (i wciąż burzą) wartość tego najpiękniejszego uczucia.

Kiedy kochamy, pozwalamy mówić naszym sercom. Musimy zmierzyć się z niezrozumieniem miłości i faktem, że to, czego nas nauczono na temat jej natury, nie ma żadnego sensu w przełożeniu na codzienną rzeczywistość. Miłość i przemoc nie mogą koegzystować. Jak sama autorka definiuje miłość? Jako „wolę do poznawania, poszerzania swojego jestestwa w celu karmienia własnego, bądź czyjegoś, rozwoju duchowego”.

Nie wystarczy mi miejsca na to, co mógłbym napisać o tej pozycji. Stała się jedną z najważniejszych książek, które mam na półce i podziałała na mnie uzdrawiająco. Z bell hooks sporo mnie łączy i nie mogę się doczekać czytania jej kolejnych książek. Liczę, że kiedyś pojawią się na polskim rynku.
Profile Image for Natalie.
150 reviews177 followers
December 23, 2011
I really wanted to like this book, because I like bell hooks, her ideas and what she stands for.

But, my god! I found myself having to scan page after page in a half-read because I couldn't bare the self-help dialogue that she was engaging in. Furthermore, I found myself absolutely cringing over the books she referenced, not to mention how many times she quoted The Road Less Traveled.

Yes. I felt like some kind of academic snob while reading it, each time I would roll my eyes and skip ahead.

Yes. I feel like an even bigger asshole writing this all here for public viewing.

Having said that, I did take something big from this book, and that was hooks' idea that we need to have a working definition of love, before love can come about in its it truest form. I think in saying this, she articulated something that we all know intellectually, but in a way that really translates.

For this, it was worth the read.
Profile Image for bookmateriality.
40 reviews
May 22, 2020
I really love bell hooks, but this may be closer to a 2.5 - disliked the religious undertones, the (at times) generalising statements, and lack of rigour (rigour that I was expecting in an ‘exposition’ of the concept of love). It started off well, with some clear and illuminating statements, but I found it inconsistent. The final third of the book seemed to resonate. I found myself experiencing polarised emotions - underlining whole sections, and then laughing at others. I didn’t find hooks’s explications radical, perhaps because much of what she says is similar to what she writes in The Will to Change (which I read a few years ago). I imagine that I would have thoroughly enjoyed this more if it had been my first reading of anything hooks, early in my teenage years.
Profile Image for Prerna.
215 reviews1,207 followers
June 15, 2022
I'm certain that I lack something in terms of intellectually absorbing optimistic writing. As much as I like bell hooks, (and I love watching her talks and interviews, I just can't get enough of those) I simply get bored of her writing. This book, for instance, seemed downright utopian and preachy. I can't remember the number of times I had to reprimand myself while reading it because I caught myself rolling my eyes. I don't mean to be disrespectful to bell hooks, but you know that stupid Eagles song? Love will keep us alive? That's what this book reminded me of. I spent more than half my childhood listening to that song and I always hated it. It never did and never will make sense.

Not to say this book doesn't. I can see why it would be a very beautiful reading experience to some people. It's just me. I've developed an aversion to anything optimistic and bright. The self-help tone and my-brother-in-Christ sort of religious anecdotes certainly didn't help either.

I did really like hooks' association of alienation and lack of love in the modern world with capitalism and consumer-centred culture, but hooks didn't delve deeper into it. I think this book could have benifited from a more thorough analysis of the material conditions that led us here.

This book has valuable lessons and the sort of insights that only bell hooks can provide. I'm just an insensitive prick who gets easily bored.
January 28, 2023
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While there were certainly many pearls of wisdom scattered in bell hooks’ essays on love, I found many of the observations and conclusions she makes to be simplistic and at times even presumptions. Within these 13 chapters, bell hooks interrogates love (what does it mean to love someone? how does love look?) against the backdrop of her contemporary America. In a capitalistic society that promotes consumerism and individualism, where does love fit?
I did find the first few chapters to be insightful and relevant: hooks writes about the false ideas of love promoted by the media, which either present us with an idealized vision of familiar and romantic love or romanticize abusive dynamics and patterns of behavior. She writes at length about how within many families children are subjected to confusing notions and versions of love: from abusive parents telling their children that they are abusing them because they love them or treating them as property/things. Here she also touches on lying, why and how we lie, how we teach children not to lie but we lie ourselves, or how women may choose to lie in order to navigate patriarchal structures. I did find some of what she wrote on lying to be a bit ...not quite sanctimonious but her understanding of the act of lying seemed a bit sanitized, in that there wasn’t much room for nuance. Sure, the dichotomy between lies and truth can be very black and white, but I do believe that truth telling should not always triumph over lying and that lying isn't always inherently wrong/bad.
hooks writes about self-love, differentiating this practice from the narcissism and self-centeredness we associate with it. She also writes about consumerism, faith, honesty, and loss. hooks attempts to clarify the multivalent nature of love and why we find it so difficult to talk about it.

Sadly, we then have essays that pretty much killed my initial enthusiasm for hooks’ writing. I understand that these relatively short essays don't allow for much depth but I found hooks' exploration of class, consumerism, and status as well as her take on unequal power dynamics simplistic at best...from implying that Nicole Simpson was responsible for her own murder because she was unwilling to quit her "superficially glamorous lifestyle" to viewing the Clinton–Lewinsky affair as wholly consensual and saying that Lewinsky "prostituted" herself to the media. The way she wrote about people who are in relationships with addicts or abusive individuals or whose children are involved in criminal activities also struck me as shallow and moralistic. The disappointment and later on anger that I felt at hooks’ misreadings and generalizations of these dynamics and situations made me wish I’d never picked up this book in the first place. I may not know what love is but I know that I am not keen on hooks' definitions of love.
Profile Image for Roxana.
9 reviews26 followers
January 28, 2017
I have to say I had mixed feelings about this book. I found it eye-opening at times, but other times I simply couldn't connect with it at all, and couldn't quite move past some gender generalisations that the author so passionately claims herself to stand against.

It did make me think about the meaning of love and the context of love more widely, yet I still can't agree with some of the principles on which this book is based and the idea that unless love follows certain rules (e.g. "there is no fear in love"), it cannot be true love.

To me, it's just so much more complex than that, and I don't think there's any one person who holds the absolute truth about it. This is precisely the beauty of it, the fact that our perception of love - because I honestly think it is a matter of perception - changes ever so slightly with new relationships - romantic or otherwise, and that we gain new insights each time, without ever grasping the full meaning of it.

In the end, despite the popular appeal of this book, the position adopted by the author often seemed to me rather limiting, constraining, and not something I personally agreed with. 2.5 stars/5
Profile Image for Traci Thomas.
511 reviews9,280 followers
January 26, 2022
I’m not smart enough for all this brilliance but just like with love there is time to unpack and understand. This book is so important. A few sections were hard to follow. Also a lot of importance was laid on religion/the spiritual which didn’t click for me.
Profile Image for El.
1,355 reviews504 followers
May 14, 2016
What did I just read?

hooks is an incredible person and an incredible writer, but I think the hooks I used to know, and the hooks I want to know now are two very different people. That's okay, because I am in support of people growing and changing and becoming, whatever, their most authentic selves. But I was surprised by this book.

I would say the first half or more really did work for me. hooks writes here about LOVE, the power of LOVE, the way LOVE is viewed in our western culture, the problems some people have with LOVE, etc. etc. She touched on topics that made sense to me. What especially worked for me was a section on Commitment that talked about the workplace, and since I work in a place that doesn't not necessarily foster a loving environment all the time, which I recognize more now that I've removed myself from some of the larger negativeness, I found what she had to say about love in the workplace especially profound. She recognizes that most people think a loving workplace is a thing of myths, but I do believe it can exist, but that so many people are wrapped up in gossip and not showing their true selves, so it's next to impossible for any love to grow out of that. I don't think she necessarily expects people to hold hands and sing Kumbayah all day long - she understands that with love comes work, hard work, it doesn't come easily.

And that's the true basis of this book. There's this idea that any true love is a magical thing that comes along, and then our lives are perfect and no work is required. Many people are dissatisfied in perfectly good relationships because they realize they still have to work, and so it must not be true love, right? Wrong, and that's what hooks is trying to help readers understand.

But then at some point, there was a shift in tone, and suddenly we're reading about religion and angels. Yes, angels. And the Bible. I understand that there is feminism in Christianity, or so some claim, but I'm not sure I buy it because, well, that ain't my shtick. But to each their own. This book was published in 2000 but the references to popular culture or politics are much more related to the 1990s.

While most of the book involved talk of spirituality, once it crossed over into talking about straightforward religion, I started to feel my eyes glazing over. Spirituality is one thing, as far as I'm concerned, because it can be whatever it means to each individual. But religion is usually of an organized establishment, and my experience means something very specific to me, so love in that context is basically the same thing I've heard most of my life from everyone else - that to be religious means to LOVE and then those same people turned around and beat their children after church because of the smallest infraction. That's what I witnessed, though thankfully not in my own household.

In any case. There's this attitude that love and the ability to love others comes from that very specific source of spirituality, which I disagree with. I am not religious, I do not believe in the same things a lot of other people believe in, but I am capable of love, I am capable of compassion, I am capable of having morals, all without believe in God. I believe in being a good person, which transcends religion - or at least it should.

Still, I can't deny that hooks had some decent things to say throughout most of the book, even if it was a bit self-help-y, even though hooks very specifically discussed how different her book was from other self-help books. She allows there's an issue in most self-help books about gender stereotypes and how they perpetuate those issues in our society, that idea that men are from Mars and that women are from Venus, and all that jazz. Those ideas or problematic in numerous ways, and I feel this was hooks' way of addressing the previous literature.

Bottom line: What worked for me here really worked for me; what didn't work for me really didn't work for me. I would not recommend this book to anyone reading bell hooks for the first time - this is probably not the place to start, unless all of what I wrote about above regarding Christianity is something you're interested in.

In any case, it's a short book, easy to read. It's not very complicated, but if you're looking for answers, there aren't that many here beyond stop thinking true love is all about rainbows and lollipops. You're going to fall in love and you're going to have to work at it. Get over the idea that relationships are easy-peasy. But she also said some good things about what it means to be in a loving relationship, and I think all of that is work reading. So maybe just read the first four or five chapters? Yeah, maybe do that. Stop reading when she starts talking about angels. Unless that is your thing.
Profile Image for lizzie.
29 reviews135 followers
July 14, 2020
Some friends recommended this book to me because I was going through something traumatic, and I think they were really right. bell hooks talks about love in a way that's so healing. Love is universal, tangible, and transformative. And it comes in so many forms. Also, love isn't about an absence of pain or grief, but something that lives alongside it and makes being alive more bearable. Love is also remarkably different from abuse and the two can't exist at the same time. Love is about communion, care, attention, and choice; rather than something perfect that may fall upon you. Truly a healing read.
Profile Image for Misty.
133 reviews47 followers
January 3, 2021
This book is a GEM!!!
If I were to highlight pages or write notes, I’d be highlighting and rewriting the entire book.
There were so many a-ha moments for me. I picked this book up at a time where I needed it most.

I look forward to rereading and reflecting.
Profile Image for Meike.
1,445 reviews2,193 followers
September 22, 2021
This is a tough one: bell hooks is a pioneer of the idea of intersectionality, but the book, published in 2000, already feels dated - which might be a good thing, as the topics discussed have become more mainstream. hooks' ethics of love touches upon subjects like gender-specific child-rearing and violence against children, love as action, toxic masculinity and self-care, and I suppose at least the two latter concepts haven't been a thing in the year 2000. So in a way, hooks was at the forefront of some ways of thinking that are by now central to the discourse about leading a good life.

The downside is that there is not much to discover that seems strikingly new, and the spiritual angle the author sometimes takes might put some people off (I also found it a bit much). hooks' also employs some highly speculative kitchen psychology (why did Bill Clinton behave as he did?) and comes up with some undercomplex solutions to complex problems (is lying really always wrong?). Looking at it from a historical perspective though, I can see how this became an important text in feminist theory.

I listened to the new German audio book version Alles über Liebe: Neue Sichtweisen, which btw has a great narrator.
Profile Image for Nathan "N.R." Gaddis.
1,342 reviews1,312 followers
June 27, 2019
Yes. Please do read this. Make yourself better make the world better. You can trust bell hooks.

eta :: just couldn't not add this. Those giving the one=and two stars, those folks need love too. Be kind.
Profile Image for Tao.
Author 49 books2,097 followers
April 2, 2021
"We do not need to have endless anxiety and worry about whether we will fulfill our goals or plans. Death is always there to remind us that our plans are transitory."
Profile Image for Margot.
144 reviews12 followers
September 12, 2017
This book was not for me.

I admit to not being a big fan of self-help books. I'm sure that they can be a great help to people, but I've given them a few tries and ended up annoyed each time. Sadly, 'All About Love' is no exception. The preface and first two chapters were promising. I especially liked the bits about abuse and love being unable to co-exist, as well as hooks' thoughts on how toxic masculinity influences relationships. The repeated claim that love is an action, not just a feeling, really resonated with me.

It was all downhill from there, though. The overall novel is incoherent and vague. Hooks makes various general statements on society, how women and men behave (containing a serious amount of gender essentialism, by the way) and relationships in our current society. None of these statements are supported by facts or studies. If we're lucky, hooks may include a personal anecdote or refer to one of the numerous (mostly unsourced) quotes, but that's as far as the scientific/academic angle of this book goes. I was expecting a bit more theoretical support to substantiate all of these claims.

About halfway, there is a chapter on divine love. I got the feeling hooks was trying to come across as neutral as possible, but if so, her attempts mostly failed. There's an undercurrent here of the idea that spiritual love is the solution to the lovelessness in our capitalist society. While she does not equate spiritual love to organized religion, I still find this whole reasoning a little biased, considering what we know of history and religion. Hooks is a religious person, I'm not. I guess we'll just have to agree to disagree. Yet at least this chapter still sticks to general references to 'spiritual' love, which can be interpreted pretty broadly. The final chapter abandons this neutrality and inexplicably assumes the existence of angels. I'm not sure what this added to the novel, and I knocked off half a star for this final chapter alone.

Furthermore, the overall tone of the novel came across as rather condescending to me, with the Christian references only adding to the sermon-like quality of the writing. Hooks' attitude towards poor people is inconsistent. They're presented either as a romanticized ideal of people who are able to love even without wealth (vs. the lovelessness in our capitalist society), or addicts who cannot love because they are obsessed with wealth - something they lack. Meanwhile, the references to LGBTQ people are sparse, with hooks' own lesbian sister being brandished as a lesson on forgiving homophobic family members, because if you're lucky they might one day respect your identity! Yeah alright, miss me with that.

Let me conclude by saying that this novel did contain some gems. There were some genuinely interesting insights which I would have loved to read more about. I'm sad to say though that they were lost in what became a hate-read for me. 'All About Love' is a self-help book which contains no practical solutions, only generalizing statements and quotes from books which I would have probably preferred reading. I'll leave you all with one of the most baffling quotes of this novel, when hooks goes full-on preacher mode and criticizes Monica Lewinsky's giving in to greed:

"Concurrently, [Lewinsky] manipulates facts and details, and ultimately prostitutes herself by selling her story for material gain because she is greedy for fame and money, and society condones this get-rich-quick scheme. Her greed is even more intense because she also wants to be seen as a victim. With the boldness of any con artist working the capitalist addiction to fantasy, she attempts to rewrite the script of their consensual exchange of pleasure so that it can appear to be a love story." (124)
Profile Image for Lisa.
94 reviews156 followers
July 30, 2020
A book all about love. And how it should be the basis of everything. And how loveless our society currently is. Therein lies the rub.

bell hooks has some insightful ideas about how love should permeate all of our actions. Work should be lovely too. Hell, taking out the garbage can be lovely. Her definition of love includes the idea that you be invested in the spiritual growth of another/others. It's a concept that hit home for me.

Ultimately, though, this book went into some weird spaces that seemed too gender-essentialist or preachy to my fluff-allergic self. A case of diminishing returns, then, but one I am happy to have read. The fact that I've brought it up in conversation more than once this past week is also telling.

Love more, people! I love the dude grumbling on the metro this morning that everyone else gave a wide berth. Sometimes people yell at me and I smile inappropriately because I can't hide how much I love them and want to help ease their pain. I've had arguments with a friend over whether or not it's ethical to love Hitler. So maybe I'm an easy sell here, but there was still new food for thought.

If loving humans seems difficult, you can start by hugging a tree and grow from there! Ok, enough hippie preaching from me. I suppose it's contagious. Peace, friends.
Profile Image for Emily.
65 reviews10 followers
March 18, 2016
Though I gave this book three stars, it was a very important read for me. I learned a lot from bell hooks about choosing love, about re-vitalizing our dedication to honesty, accountability, and hope. Growing up in a dysfunctional family and as a recovering codependent, I related very well to nearly 70% of the text's offerings and many of the author's own experiences, and I believe that I grew and developed as a person while completing this read. I would recommend this text to everyone.

I am unable to rate this book higher for a few reasons: 1) As an agnostic with atheistic tendencies who was raised Catholic, hooks concentrates on too many Christian and biblical expressions of faith for my taste. These made me hold the book at arm's-length for portions that I believe I otherwise would have been able to embrace very readily. My desire for less discussions of God is not a judgment, but a personal preference. 2) bell hooks is known for writing about many subjects in ways that are more intellectually accessible for people of many different privilege and education backgrounds, which I applaud. My reservation with this particular text is that, in my opinion, she represents too many generalizations as fact without citations. To her credit, she tends to minimize the academic formatting of her works to make it more accessible for her vast readership, but I have a personal preference for additional footnotes and/or endnotes where appropriate. 3) Lastly, though this text was introduced by the author with full transparency regarding its expression in an ideal world, there were definitely a few moments when I believed her suggestions for returning to and/or embracing love were not realistic enough to be put into practice at all times. As a recovering codependent who has spent many years steadily improving in therapy, I have come to realize that there are definitely some boundaries that individuals have every right to set for themselves and the interactions they have with others, even if those boundaries render the true openness hooks advocates for to be somewhat compromised.

Profile Image for Emily.
172 reviews195 followers
June 2, 2009
Casually leafing through bell hooks's All About Love: New Visions a few years ago in a bookstore, I was drawn by her idea that love should be regarded as a verb, not a noun. Traditionally, our culture thinks of love as a thing, a passive feeling of tenderness or affection that comes over us, into which we fall involuntarily, something instinctual over which we have little control. hooks argues, on the contrary, that love is a chosen action, something we must constantly affirm and on which we must continually act. Drawing on the work of M. Scott Peck and Erich Fromm, she defines love as an act of will: "the will to extend one's self for the purpose of nurturing one's own or another's spiritual growth." Love, under this rubric, is an active process, a daily practice of "care, commitment, trust, knowledge, responsibility, and respect," transmitted through honest communication. Love is work, hooks argues, but work which can be learned: a crucial point for the masses of people in our society who feel a lack of love in their lives, but also feel powerless to change that. The art of loving, she argues, is not taught in our society (despite the many how-to courses on every aspect of sexuality), but it ought to be. We are all taught that we should instinctively know how to love well, and that, lacking that knowledge, or having developed it imperfectly, we are stuck in a monstrous state. hooks argues, I believe truthfully, that this is nonsense. Like all crafts, the art of loving is something we must learn and work at in order to do well.

I connected deeply with hooks's definition of love as a verb, as generous action. It mirrored my own experience of relationships in which people truly nurture one another, how much work that is and also how rewarding. I also liked the way in which her definition of love explicitly excludes abusive relationships - there can be no nurturing of anyone's spiritual growth in a situation where abuse is happening. hooks astutely points out that while abusive or neglectful relationships can, at times, involve care, they can never be truly loving in the larger sense. This considerably narrows the field of relationships which can be called "loving," but I think such a narrowing is useful. So often we're exposed to the idea that abuse or neglect can coexist with love, and I like hooks's distinction between care - a precious aspect of human relationships in its own right, and one she clearly values - and the larger, mutually nourishing set of actions and feelings that make up genuine love. Although I don't read many social theory or self-help books, the first few pages of her opening chapter were enough to convince me to buy All About Love that very day.

I had no idea, though, how much the book as a whole would challenge my thinking. When I picked it up again, I started with hooks's preface, in which she talks about our society's simultaneous obsession with and discomfort around love. She references many books in the self-help tradition, as well as other authors writing about love. I was feeling an intangible discomfort as I read, and I hadn't thought to examine it until I ran smack up against this passage:

Yet whenever a single woman over forty brings up the topic of love, again and again the assumption, rooted in sexist thinking, is that she is "desperate" for a man. No one thinks she is simply passionately intellectually interested in the subject matter. No one thinks she is rigorously engaged in a philosophical undertaking wherein she is endeavoring to understand the metaphysical meaning of love in everyday life. No, she is just seen as on the road to "fatal attraction."

I was thunderstruck to realize that, despite my professed feminism and attempts to reject sexism, the discomfort hooks describes here is exactly what I was feeling as I read. I was made uncomfortable by references to self-help books and admissions of lovelessness, because I associate them with a traditionally feminine lack of intellectual rigor, the stuff of "chick lit" and daytime television. Do I believe, intellectually, that the philosophical examination of love is less worthwhile than an exploration of, for example, violence? Of course not. Do I believe that the traditionally feminine should be shunned? No. But so pervasive is internalized sexism, that I do apparently carry around these beliefs on a subconscious, emotional level. Throughout my reading of the rest of hooks's book, I had to keep reminding myself of this realization, and thinking carefully about what underlay my reactions. It was a very valuable, if uncomfortable, exercise.

All About Love's chapter on honesty also forced me to think about the practice of lying in new ways. I've become pretty inured to to idea of telling a plethora of "little white lies" throughout the day; I think introverts in our society are especially encouraged to do this. I construct a falsely outgoing self, which I present in most casual interactions throughout the day. Instead of declining invitations on the grounds that I need more alone time (the truth), I sometimes invent "other plans" that keep me from accepting, out of a fear of hurting my friends' feelings. As hooks points out, we expect all people to do this to some extent:

Lies are told about the most insignificant aspects of daily life. When many of us are asked basic questions, like How are you today? a lie is substituted for the truth. Much of the lying people do in everyday life is done either to avoid conflict or to spare someone's feelings. Hence, if you are asked to come to dinner with someone whom you do not particularly like, you do not tell the truth or simply decline, you make up a story. You tell a lie. In such a situation it should be appropriate to simply decline if stating one's reasons for declining might unnecessarily hurt someone.

I was initially hostile to the idea that this kind of everyday lying is harmful to our ability to love. I do believe, despite the general truth that "honesty is the best policy," that there are times when lying is the most appropriate and generous - yes, loving - course of action. But when I press myself, I realize that these times are in the tiny minority, and mostly involve death-bed scenarios. And when I think about the most satisfying, validating interactions I've had, even with strangers, they've often involved the choice to be honest rather than invent an excuse. I'm specifically remembering a time when I was traveling alone in England, and was asked out on a date by a stranger. I knew I didn't want to go, and a series of excuses immediately presented themselves: I had a ticket to a sold-out show, I was really tired, I was going to meet friends, my boyfriend was the jealous type, and so on. But instead, I responded simply, just as hooks suggests: I smiled and said "Oh, no thank you. But thanks for asking." I think my smile and directness sent a clear message while still seeming kind. He wasn't compelled to ask "Well, what about tomorrow night?" or any other follow-up question, and he seemed disarmed by my directness. We parted on friendly terms, and I could enjoy my solitary wanderings with a sense of empowerment, rather than guilt. Memories like this make me wonder how lying has come to seem like the only option to so many people, myself included.

And, as hooks points out, the detrimental effects of widespread duplicity are much more serious than this. Messages in the mass media and popular culture (particularly TV, movies, and "romance guildes" like The Rules) teach us that women are expected to be manipulative and deceitful in order to "snare Mr. Right," whereas men are expected to be untruthful in their denial of a need for love and affection. Such behavior becomes normalized: just part of the mass of small, "natural" lies we're expected to tell in the course of a day. Of course such socialization impedes peoples' ability to connect honestly with one another. Seen in this larger context, and despite the fact that my primary relationships are already very open, honest and loving, hooks has convinced me to take a long, hard look at my impulses toward dishonesty for the sake of ease or social comfort.

Not every chapter in All About Love was as mind-blowing for me as the first few. There were places I disagreed with her, and a few distracting generalizations that made me wonder about the research backing her up. She claims, for example, that "most" American adults did not have genuine love modeled for them in their families of origin, but instead received a dysfunctional combination of care and abuse or neglect (which was apparently the case in her own family). Having grown up one of the lucky ones, raised by parents who modeled constructive, truly loving practices for me and taught me self-love, boundary-setting, and the need to take responsibility for my actions, I wonder what the statistics are on how many people get what I had as a kid. I'm ready to believe hooks's claim that a majority go without, but since I would have guessed differently, I'd like to see some figures confirming it.

Nevertheless, All About Love was thoughtful, well-written, and provocative. It gave me a solid framework in which to think about the act of loving, and even changed my behavior, which I can't say about many books, even fantastic ones. I'm sure I'll be returning to hooks's thoughts on love frequently in the future.
Profile Image for preru (ᵔᴥᵔ).
49 reviews131 followers
January 25, 2023
5 stars / 5 stars

"To return to love, to get the love we always wanted but never had, to have the love we want but are not prepared to give, we seek romantic relationships. We believe these relationships, more than any other, will rescue and redeem us. True love does have the power to redeem but only if we are ready for redemption. Love saves us only if we want to be saved."

will update and formulate a proper review later on <3 i really am grateful for having read this book at this give time, i feel like i really needed it <3
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