Anthropologist Helen Fisher is the author of Why We Love, Anatomy of Love, and The First Sex. Here she chooses six favorite books that illuminate the traits that all humans share.
Nisa: The Life and Words of a !Kung Woman by Marjorie Shostak (Harvard University Press, $18). Chronicles the world of a mid-20th-century !Kung Bushmen woman living in a hunting-gathering band in southern Africa, much as our ancestors did millenniums ago. Yet Nisa’s childhood crushes, teen romances, and marriages, philanderings, and divorces are no different from those of many young women (and men) in industrial societies.
The Mating Mind: How Sexual Choice Shaped the Evolution of Human Nature by Geoffrey F. Miller (Anchor, $15). Proposes that many human attributes, including our facility for language, our intelligence, curiosity, and sense of morality—even our urge to sing, dance, draw, and joke—evolved “by moonlight” as our forebears strove to impress and win preferred mating partners.
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The Hidden Life of Dogs by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas (Pocket, $13). Depicts love at first sight, compassion, and profound attachment between two huskies named Misha and Marie. With this book I came to realize how much humanity shares with many mammalian cousins.
Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe (Bantam, $6). A page-turner and a pivotal book for understanding human cruelty.
As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised as a Girl by John Colapinto (Perennial, $14). Toppled centuries of beliefs about the malleability of “maleness” and “femaleness.”
The Complete Works of William Shakespeare
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