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The Science of Kissing: What Our Lips Are Telling Us

3.47  ·  Rating details ·  656 ratings  ·  137 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
Hardcover, 246 pages
Published January 5th 2011 by Grand Central Publishing (first published December 16th 2010)
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Jan 07, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 08, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Sep 11, 2011 rated it it was ok
Kissing for many of us may be a favorite pastime (sorry, baseball). From kisses on the cheek to full-on make out sessions; kisses exist in various forms in most of the world’s cultures. So, is it nature or nurture that developed kissing? What does it do chemically to the human body? What are the psychological ramifications? There are just some of the questions Sheril Kirshenbaum attempts to answer in, “The Science of Kissing”.

“The Science of Kissing” is, ultimately, a pop psych piece aiming to
Sep 27, 2017 rated it liked it
This book purports to write about several aspects of the science of kissing, from evolution to anthropology to psychology, sociology, and neuroscience. In reality, this book feels like a "Mary Roach-lite" book - aspiring to convey in layman's terms the complex research that exists, but without Roach's wit or ability to go in depth about the research and results without losing the audience.

The writing style is also lacking - it feels like a middle school essay: I'm going to tell you what I'm goin
Feb 28, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Feb 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Dec 26, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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 Davis
Jan 14, 2011 rated it liked it
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 it wasn't uncommon for leaders to kiss a hand, or other material to make that p
May 23, 2011 rated it it was ok
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.
Aug 07, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Sarah Beth
May 24, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 12, 2012 rated it liked it
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
KV Taylor
Feb 05, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Kim L.
May 31, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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'
Jan 12, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: science-reading
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.
Molly Ringle
Jan 24, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction

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.
Jan 12, 2011 rated it it was ok
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).
Jan 18, 2011 rated it it was ok
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!
Feb 08, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I was a bit disappointed in this book - I expected more out of it.

First: the citations weren't complete. There's a line which goes:

The majority of experts, though, seem to share Darwin's original view, especially when using his broad definition, which groups together kissing with practices that included "the rubbing or patting of the arms, breasts, or stomachs," as well as "one man striking his own face with the hands or feed of another."

Then she moves on.

This sort of throwaway line is annoying
Vanessa Princessa
I read this book thanks to Blinkist.

The key message in this book:

Kissing is part of our biology and evolution, which is why it’s so fundamental in both humans and animals. It strengthens our social bonds, makes us healthier and happier, helps us find suitable mates and encourages us to reproduce and further our species. Kissing is a lot more than just a nice feeling!

Actionable advice:

Build anticipation.

It might sound like something from a cheesy romance novel, but science backs it up. If you get
Rachel Jackson
Dec 08, 2019 rated it liked it
The Science of Kissing was a quick, cute book. I was curious to know why people kiss and what happens in their brains when they do, which led me to Sheril Kirshenbaum's book, which was interesting enough if not altogether thorough and detailed to answer those questions. She does tackle some evolutionary and cultural reasons for why humans kiss, and she talks some about the neuroscience behind why we as a general population seem to like kissing so much. Considering the book was only 200 pages and ...more
David Gamble
I think I just really wanted more out of this book. The science cited is good, but it's constantly leaving out huge portions of information- for instance, it's often on very narrowly defined groups like heterosexual couples in a four year age range. Furthermore, it takes these narrow bands of people and extrapolates that the information gleaned applies to all males and females, but leaves out homosexual partners, people not in partnership at all, more mature or elderly people, etc. The author of ...more
Pucker up, baby!

"The Science of Kissing" is a well-rounded and well-written book that covers all the bases of kissing. The science, and art, of kissing is explored from a biological, historical, and anthropological perspective. Neuroscience and pheromones, of course, are bandied about, but all written with a sense of humor and style that is easy for the general layperson to understand. There's a heavy bibliography in the back that backs up the author's research, but there are no ponderous footno
Sep 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
This book was really interesting. I found the topic fascinating. The chapters are fairly short, so it was a quick read. It wasn't loaded with a ton of jargon, so it's easy to understand. I liked the way the book was laid out into different parts. I found the chapter on what happens chemically in our bodies the most interesting. I would recommend this book if you want to learn more about kissing and its history.
Chris Webber
Oct 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
Kirshenbaum feels a little like Mary Roach in Bonk with her style of writing. Entertaining, whimsical at times. These are good things because I love Roach's books.

I didn't realize how many animals kiss. The author goes into lots of detail about how olfactories party into the dance of kiss.

Easy, interesting, anthropologic read.

Jun 27, 2017 rated it liked it
Pretty entertaining, more science-lite than I expected. Would have given it 4 stars but I just didn't learn that much since it only took a surface look at the historical, anthropological, neurological, and even physiological impacts of kissing (from a book with a 22 page bibliography!)
Jul 18, 2017 rated it liked it
It might sound like something from a cheesy romance novel, but science backs it up. If you get to know someone and foster anticipation with them before you kiss, you build up your dopamine, which creates a more rewarding experience when the kiss finally does happen.
Kristen Rudd
Dec 28, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, 2017
Cute, fun book. Found it at the library while perusing shelves. Read it in random moments. Thought it would be some good novel research.
Jan 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
very engaging! it had me from the first page right up to the last one.
Apr 15, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: abandoned, 2018
not sure I'll get back to this one. about 25% through and it doesn't feel like there is anything fresh or worthwhile here.
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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

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