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An insightful, charming, and absolutely fascinating memoir from the author of the popular New York Times essay, “To Fall in Love with Anyone, Do This,” (one of the top five most popular New York Times pieces of 2015) explores the romantic myths we create and explains how they limit our ability to achieve and sustain intimacy. What really makes love last? Does love ever work An insightful, charming, and absolutely fascinating memoir from the author of the popular New York Times essay, “To Fall in Love with Anyone, Do This,” (one of the top five most popular New York Times pieces of 2015) explores the romantic myths we create and explains how they limit our ability to achieve and sustain intimacy. What really makes love last? Does love ever work the way we say it does in movies and books and Facebook posts? Or does obsessing over those love stories hurt our real-life relationships? When her parents divorced after a twenty-eight year marriage and her own ten-year relationship ended, those were the questions that Mandy Len Catron wanted to answer. In a series of candid, vulnerable, and wise essays that takes a closer look at what it means to love someone, be loved, and how we present our love to the world, Catron deconstructs her own personal canon of love stories. She delves all the way back to 1944, when her grandparents first met in a coal mining town in Appalachia, to her own dating life as a professor in Vancouver, drawing insights from her fascinating research into the universal psychology, biology, history, and literature of love. She uses biologists’ research into dopamine triggers to ask whether the need to love is an innate human drive. She uses literary theory to show why we prefer certain kinds of love stories. She urges us to question the unwritten scripts we follow in relationships and looks into where those scripts come from in the first place. And she tells the story of how she decided to test a psychology experiment that she’d read about—where the goal was to create intimacy between strangers using a list of thirty-six questions—and ended up in the surreal situation of having millions of people following her brand-new relationship. In How to Fall in Love with Anyone Catron flips the script on love and offers a deeply personal, and universal, investigation.


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An insightful, charming, and absolutely fascinating memoir from the author of the popular New York Times essay, “To Fall in Love with Anyone, Do This,” (one of the top five most popular New York Times pieces of 2015) explores the romantic myths we create and explains how they limit our ability to achieve and sustain intimacy. What really makes love last? Does love ever work An insightful, charming, and absolutely fascinating memoir from the author of the popular New York Times essay, “To Fall in Love with Anyone, Do This,” (one of the top five most popular New York Times pieces of 2015) explores the romantic myths we create and explains how they limit our ability to achieve and sustain intimacy. What really makes love last? Does love ever work the way we say it does in movies and books and Facebook posts? Or does obsessing over those love stories hurt our real-life relationships? When her parents divorced after a twenty-eight year marriage and her own ten-year relationship ended, those were the questions that Mandy Len Catron wanted to answer. In a series of candid, vulnerable, and wise essays that takes a closer look at what it means to love someone, be loved, and how we present our love to the world, Catron deconstructs her own personal canon of love stories. She delves all the way back to 1944, when her grandparents first met in a coal mining town in Appalachia, to her own dating life as a professor in Vancouver, drawing insights from her fascinating research into the universal psychology, biology, history, and literature of love. She uses biologists’ research into dopamine triggers to ask whether the need to love is an innate human drive. She uses literary theory to show why we prefer certain kinds of love stories. She urges us to question the unwritten scripts we follow in relationships and looks into where those scripts come from in the first place. And she tells the story of how she decided to test a psychology experiment that she’d read about—where the goal was to create intimacy between strangers using a list of thirty-six questions—and ended up in the surreal situation of having millions of people following her brand-new relationship. In How to Fall in Love with Anyone Catron flips the script on love and offers a deeply personal, and universal, investigation.

30 review for How to Fall in Love with Anyone: A Memoir in Essays

  1. 5 out of 5

    Nat

    I let the title for this collection of essays fool me for a second there, thinking it would be some self-help junk about the magic of love and all its promises. It's far from it, actually. “I hated this way of talking about love, but I caught myself doing it, too. The right choice, the right person, the right kind of love, the one. Was it moral rightness or narrative rightness—a good person or a good story?” In a series of candid, vulnerable, and wise essays that takes a closer look at what it mea I let the title for this collection of essays fool me for a second there, thinking it would be some self-help junk about the magic of love and all its promises. It's far from it, actually. “I hated this way of talking about love, but I caught myself doing it, too. The right choice, the right person, the right kind of love, the one. Was it moral rightness or narrative rightness—a good person or a good story?” In a series of candid, vulnerable, and wise essays that takes a closer look at what it means to love someone, be loved, and how we present our love to the world, Catron deconstructs her own personal canon of love stories. She delves all the way back to 1944, when her grandparents first met in a coal mining town in Appalachia, to her own dating life as a professor in Vancouver, drawing insights from her fascinating research into the universal psychology, biology, history, and literature of love. Contrary to my first impression, Catron delves into the realities (not fantasies) of loving and being loved. The harms of romantic comedies in painting an unrealistic view of healthy relationships. (“When I tell people I think love stories make us worse at being in love, they are quick to agree.”) The author's family history on love, compatibility, and divorce. Plus, there's an emphasise on making the research inclusive with including LGBTQIA+ relationships. However, I do have to note that How to Fall in Love with Anyone wasn’t a particularly life-changing read for me, since I was already familiar with the subject of having the media glorifying the concept of love. But it was still fascinating to get to see this blend of memoir and reportage work so well in my favor. My favorite parts by far were when the grandmother and mother were in the mix, talking about their lives and loves. I do still wish that we would've gotten to spend more time with those two in the second half. “As she talked, her life veered from tragic to comic, sounding more like the plot of a good book than a real person’s experience. ” And a list of other things I appreciated were: • The many mentions and recommendations of great books the author read on the topic of love. (I've so far added Alain de Botton’s Essays in Love, which I'm eager to get into next.) • Another thing I cherished was the many feminist undertones, especially when talking about rom-coms: “Most of these stories rely on an inherent paradox: True love is the ultimate means of validation and personal transformation, and yet a virtuous woman should never pursue love directly. (Men in persecuted hero roles, on the other hand, are allowed—even expected—to woo their love interests.) Love is the means by which Cinderella and Vivian and Sixteen Candles’s Samantha get what they want: status, wealth, recognition. But these characters are rewarded for not seeking love, for cultivating silent crushes and earnest longing.” • Feelings of loneliness and uncertainness. “I understood how you could leave someone and feel lost without him, and still choose that loneliness over being with him.” • The media's infatuation with kismet aka meet-cutes. “Maybe instead of telling stories about how we met our partners, we should all share our stories about the limits of love—the times it disappointed us, the apprehensions it couldn’t soothe—and why we chose it anyway, or why we let it go. We don’t need stories to show us how to meet someone—we’ve got apps for that.” • And finally the notion of “if you can fall in love with anyone, how do you choose?” and so much more is explored in this book. All in all: I'm glad I decided to give a chance to How to Fall in Love with Anyone because the combination of learning about love from a scientific perspective with the author's self-deprecating humor was a win for me. Though, I would like to mention that the notion of experiencing so many breakups over the course of this book was a bit mentally and physically exhausting for me by the end. 3.5/5 stars Note: I'm an Amazon Affiliate. If you're interested in buying How to Fall in Love with Anyone, just click on the image below to go through my link. I'll make a small commission! Support creators you love. Buy a Coffee for nat (bookspoils) with Ko-fi.com/bookspoils

  2. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    Let’s just make this clear up-front – this is NOT a self-help or non-fiction book, it is a memoir. I’ve seen a couple of reviews that express disappointment that this wasn’t a list of helpful tips to find love. Those books are out there; this just isn’t one of them. Having said that, as someone who recently went through some epic heartbreak, I did find this book really useful in offering a bit of perspective and oodles and oodles of HOPE. Mandy Len Catron shot to fame in 2015 when her essay ‘To F Let’s just make this clear up-front – this is NOT a self-help or non-fiction book, it is a memoir. I’ve seen a couple of reviews that express disappointment that this wasn’t a list of helpful tips to find love. Those books are out there; this just isn’t one of them. Having said that, as someone who recently went through some epic heartbreak, I did find this book really useful in offering a bit of perspective and oodles and oodles of HOPE. Mandy Len Catron shot to fame in 2015 when her essay ‘To Fall in Love With Anyone, Do This’ was published in the New York Times Modern Love column. In it, she details an experiment she undertook with an acquaintance (full disclosure: an unattached acquaintance who she fancied and who clearly fancied her), where they asked each other a list of questions formulated by psychologist Arthur Aron some 20 years earlier, which were designed to make two people fall in love. As it happens, Mandy and the guy did end up falling in love and are (as far as I know) still together. But this book isn’t simply a repetition of that well known column; it is an in-depth memoir about the events that brought Catron to that point. She carefully unpacks the breakdown of her parents’ relationship while she was in her twenties, the way that her mother and grandmother experienced first love, and the breakdown – after ten years and at the age of thirty – of her own relationship. I found it both extremely readable and comforting. Finding oneself suddenly single at thirty can be shocking and disorientating (just trust me on this, OK?), and it was nice to hear a sane, level-headed voice explaining that a) heartbreak is not uncommon – in fact it’s almost universal nowadays and b) love is complex and nuanced and mediated by all kinds of cultural norms and chemicals – it’s OK to feel baffled by the whole thing! Part personal narrative, part anthropological study, part pop psychology, I found this an engaging and enlightening read. With thanks to the publisher for providing me with an ARC in return for an honest review

  3. 5 out of 5

    Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship

    This is an enjoyable and thoughtful book: part memoir, part essay collection. The author reflects on love through the lens of her own experiences and those of her parents and grandparents, but also discusses the subject more broadly, referencing scientific research and analyzing books, movies, and fairy tales. She writes well and candidly, digging into the complexities of relationships rather than trying to prescribe one-size-fits-all advice or hand out easy answers. It is in some ways a very pe This is an enjoyable and thoughtful book: part memoir, part essay collection. The author reflects on love through the lens of her own experiences and those of her parents and grandparents, but also discusses the subject more broadly, referencing scientific research and analyzing books, movies, and fairy tales. She writes well and candidly, digging into the complexities of relationships rather than trying to prescribe one-size-fits-all advice or hand out easy answers. It is in some ways a very personal book, particularly as the author discusses the end of her 10-year relationship, but she keeps it classy. In discussing her relationships, she writes about how she felt and behaved, rather than dishing on her exes. Rather than writing a traditional review, I’m going to list some of the ideas in the book that interested me: - This book began with a Modern Love article, about a relationship that started with the author and an acquaintance asking each other a series of questions that made a couple fall in love in a lab experiment. But the title is misleading: the questions may not have been designed to create romance (they’ve apparently been used in decidedly non-romantic contexts, like increasing trust between police and communities). And the author and her boyfriend didn’t immediately start dating after that night. Instead the questions allowed them to get to know and trust each other quickly, setting the stage for a relationship if they wanted to pursue it, which they ultimately did. - Some passages from the book suggest that Catron’s ultimate conclusion is that people ought to learn to love well rather than obsessing over finding the right person. But it isn’t so simple. She writes about a friend who, on the advice of a recently-married friend of his who champions choosing to commit for commitment’s sake, casts aside doubts about his relationship and proposes. But he backs out before the wedding, and the friend who gave the advice gets divorced a couple years later. The book never argues that if you just choose any decent person and treat each other well, the result will be lifelong marriage. It doesn’t give prescriptions about the ideal relationship, but rather things the author has observed along the way. - There’s a word for the assumption that the true goal of all relationships is lifelong marriage: amatonormativity. Looking this up online led me to an interesting article from someone for whom romance isn’t a goal at all; Catron is more traditional, but she was able to enjoy romantic encounters more when she valued them for their own sake, rather than considering everything that didn’t end in marriage a failure. - Historically speaking, our expectations for marriage have ascended Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. At one time marriage was mostly about economic stability, while we now expect our relationships to meet our needs for self-esteem and personal fulfillment. No wonder we struggle to find “the right person” while our ancestors managed to stay with the first person they were attracted to or the person their family chose. - There’s a lot in the book about love stories, and how they affect real relationships. Storytelling is humanity’s way of organizing information and making sense of interactions with others; we need to see patterns to recognize what’s going on. Many people acknowledge the more obvious discrepancies between love stories and the real world, like the idea that once the two of you decide to get together, everything else is “happily ever after” rather than requiring effort. - But some of the subtler refrains in love stories go unnoticed. For instance, the idea that love is a moral reward given to the most “deserving” people. For women, this often means being passive and “good,” i.e., pleasing those in authority, and not pursuing love directly. The idea that love will come on its own as a reward for quiet virtue led the author to quietly play the chameleon for years as a teenager rather than pursue what she wanted. - All this makes me wonder about the current crop of love stories for teens, which often portray abusive or controlling relationships as romantic. Perhaps we can neutralize the messages of these stories by talking about the issue, so kids don’t use assume that’s the way love works. But no matter how much we talk about it, some readers are sure to miss the conversation and drink in those assumptions. This isn’t addressed in the book – fortunately for her, the author doesn’t seem to have had any truly awful relationships. - People are very invested in their own love stories. A good “how we met” story can build social support for a relationship, which is healthy. But a meet-cute doesn’t predict the quality of the relationship, and some people get into bad relationships because their beginnings make great stories. - Relationship advice is often geared to justifying the advisor’s decisions. Listening to a lot of advice can be destabilizing, if it suggests all sorts of deficiencies in you or your relationships (who cares if your significant other doesn’t bring you flowers, if this isn’t important to you). Advice is also usually geared toward keeping people together – see amatonormativity above – and at avoiding ambiguity; if a seemingly great relationship breaks down, we want an explanation as to why. But in reality, falling out of love may be as mysterious as falling in love. In the end, though she’s in a happy relationship, it doesn’t seem like the author has it all figured out (probably nobody does), so this is definitely a personal reflection rather than an advice book. It didn’t knock my socks off, and the last chapter seemed off-base and elegiac despite containing nothing that needed an elegy. But it was enjoyable and interesting, smart and well-written. It’ll make you think a bit and won’t make you feel hopeless or inadequate, which seems like a good measure for a book about love.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    A really enjoyable read. I love thinking and reading about love (I've previously enjoyed On Love and The Course of Love, Alain de Botton's offerings on the topic), so this was a really thought provoking one for me. Not too scientific nor light-hearted, and I enjoyed the author's examples and writing. Recommended! A really enjoyable read. I love thinking and reading about love (I've previously enjoyed On Love and The Course of Love, Alain de Botton's offerings on the topic), so this was a really thought provoking one for me. Not too scientific nor light-hearted, and I enjoyed the author's examples and writing. Recommended!

  5. 4 out of 5

    Auderoy

    FAV QUOTES: In love, we fall. That’s how I fell in love with him in college, when we slept belly to back, my nose tucked against his neck, when the daytime was just a placeholder for the night. As far as I could tell, rightness and wrongness were only ever apparent in retrospect. If I believed love was mundane, I thought, maybe I could take away some of its power. Even if we didn’t always like each other that much, even if we forgot our promises to be kind and patient, it felt good to know someone as FAV QUOTES: In love, we fall. That’s how I fell in love with him in college, when we slept belly to back, my nose tucked against his neck, when the daytime was just a placeholder for the night. As far as I could tell, rightness and wrongness were only ever apparent in retrospect. If I believed love was mundane, I thought, maybe I could take away some of its power. Even if we didn’t always like each other that much, even if we forgot our promises to be kind and patient, it felt good to know someone as well as we knew each other. It felt good to be known. Maybe there aren’t many stories about ambivalent breakups because such stories do little to confirm our assumptions about the power of love. Instead, they render love an ordinary experience. I think many of us want to believe that love cannot be known, that the mysteries of the heart have to remain mysterious. A better version of love did exist. My job was not to choose a good person to love, but rather to be good to the person I’d chosen. Deciding to break up, I thought, was like learning a star had burned out in a distant galaxy, even though you can still see it in the sky: You know something has irrevocably changed, but your senses suggest otherwise. Everything looks normal. Better than normal, even, on a summer afternoon in a hammock. I’ve always thought of stories as records, as ways of remembering our lives. And I thought it was our duty to tell them, to keep the past alive in the present—to keep ourselves alive. I was too young to really understand poverty; I still believed that poor people were happier than the rest of us, because a world in which some people were both poor and miserable seemed too cruel to be real. As Alain de Botton says in Essays in Love, “The stories we tell are always too simple.” They fail to make space for the mundane, domestic, trivial, annoying parts of life. If life is hard for everyone, who are you to have everything you need and still say, “This won’t do anymore”? Occasionally a great shaft of sunlight pushed through the clouds and the dense deciduous foliage. There, you are always in the mountains, not on them. Our views of love—what we want from it, what we think it should feel like—are rooted in the context of our lives. This meeting was just one of many situations where I found myself waiting and listening, intent on figuring out who people wanted me to be before showing them anything about who I was. We’d found each other in the most mundane circumstances. But when we were together nothing was mundane: Everything felt meaningful. At twenty, telling someone what I wanted—not what I was supposed to want, but what I really, genuinely wanted—was the most terrifying thing I could imagine. He wanted his experience of the world to be beautiful, and this, above all, made sense to me. He was, from the first day of our acquaintance, one of those mercurial people whose attention feels like sunlight, something you don’t know you’ve been deprived of until it shines on you, something you’d be smart to store up for the months ahead. At twenty, I wanted a love story almost as much as I wanted love itself. And for a few years, having a good love story felt a lot like having good love. The Cinderella narrative is so ubiquitous—and so integrated into how we think about love—that it’s easy to dismiss. I spent years thinking someone would notice me eventually as long as I dedicated myself to being good and sweet and modest and basically unnoticeable. When I started my first serious relationship, I didn’t notice that my boyfriend’s goal was to become an interesting person through having interesting experiences; whereas I hoped to prove my worth by being loved by the most interesting person I knew: him. When I went on dates, I had to coach myself: My goal was not to make this stranger from the internet like me; my goal was to find out if I liked him. You are already interesting. Your life is already good. It’s okay to say exactly what you want, when you want it. And it’s okay to not know. People still used the phrase broken family then, and I just assumed we didn’t have it in us to break. We don’t seem to mind a little mystery in the process of falling in love. In fact, I suspect we prefer it. But endings are different. When love ends, we demand an explanation, a why. I understood why you might put off telling anyone about your separation: not quite because you feel embarrassment or shame (though likely you are experiencing both, deeply) but because you don’t want to be judged for a decision you have already spent months struggling with. You don’t want to be questioned about something you yourself have little confidence in. Maybe all our worry about how to find love and how to make it last is what keeps us from asking how to be good to one another—and how to love each other well. Sometimes, after he left, I would turn on the shower and cry loudly, just to get that impulse out of my lungs. I thought if I could hear how sad I was, maybe I could feel it a little less. I needed to believe love was an ordinary thing. And I have learned that in conversations about love, there’s often a subtext. Usually this involves the thing we want but are afraid to name, or the thing we want to know but are afraid to ask. It’s astounding, really, to hear what someone admires in you. I don’t know why we don’t go around thoughtfully complimenting one another all the time. I know the eyes are supposedly the windows to the soul, but the real crux of this moment, should you ever find yourself trying it, is not simply that you are seeing someone, but that you are seeing someone seeing you. I resolved to be like that, to let love in, even if I wasn’t sure I was ready. We all want to be known. We want to confess our greatest accomplishment and our most terrible memory. We want to be heard. No love story is a short story. And maybe the best thing about encountering more diverse stories is simply this: They broadened my sense of what was possible. As we swayed on the pavement, my head on his shoulder, we were only mimicking romance, trying on conventions to see how they felt. When I am out to brunch with friends and Mark walks by with the dog and waves hello, I blush at the sight of the two of them, worried my friends will see it on my face: such reckless happiness. I have learned a lot about love from a scientific perspective, but I have come to rely on a more fundamental realization: the knowledge that I can have a good, full life without any guarantees from love. There are so many ways to make a life. Instead of trying to make love last, I’ve decided to take ever after off the agenda. Most of us think about love as something that happens to us. We fall. We get crushed. Love didn’t happen to us. We’re in love because we each made the choice to be.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Harris

    I've been doing this more lately it seems with non-fiction books; reading authors who aren't experts in a field, but draw on studies to make a point. Problem is that they make their points at random intervals through their book. The rest is just stories about what the author has gone through. I am more interested in her idea of "how to fall in love with anyone" and not all the relationships she has had. There are some interesting studies she mentions which I will look up later. So the book is no I've been doing this more lately it seems with non-fiction books; reading authors who aren't experts in a field, but draw on studies to make a point. Problem is that they make their points at random intervals through their book. The rest is just stories about what the author has gone through. I am more interested in her idea of "how to fall in love with anyone" and not all the relationships she has had. There are some interesting studies she mentions which I will look up later. So the book is not a failure or anything. It just requires reading it with a discerning eye for what my appeal to you. Or if you simply like reading other people's love stories.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Bri (readingknitter)

    I had this book for a week and recommended it to more than 10 people before I had even finished it, which I think should be enough to convince you to add it to your To-Read list immediately! I knew about Mandy Len Catron from her 2015 viral piece in the "Modern Love" section of The New York Times. I loved the article -- I forced my friends to do the first chunk of the 36 questions with each other during the first night of a trip when they all met for the first time. While Catron's pieces for the I had this book for a week and recommended it to more than 10 people before I had even finished it, which I think should be enough to convince you to add it to your To-Read list immediately! I knew about Mandy Len Catron from her 2015 viral piece in the "Modern Love" section of The New York Times. I loved the article -- I forced my friends to do the first chunk of the 36 questions with each other during the first night of a trip when they all met for the first time. While Catron's pieces for the Times are fantastic, this book is something else. It's a better version of Aziz Ansari's Modern Romance and a more personal version of Moira Weigel's Labor of Love.  How to Fall in Love with Anyone details how the author has mythologized her parents' and grandparents' love stories and the effect that has had upon her own conceptualization and approaches to romantic love. She spends a chapter detailing the cultural scripts that Western culture passes down about love through romantic comedies or through what we're told embodies a "good relationship", who even "deserves" a "good relationship," and discusses that while we're told what the best end product is, we aren't often taught about how to love others well. In fact, I think this book could be more aptly titled How to Love Better, in order to better convey its contents and to be more alluring than the current title. The book made me think a lot about how we could all be better to each other, if we all decided to value loving better more often.  The author devotes multiple chapters to the love stories of her family, all situated within Appalachia, and details how the relationships allowed individuals to move beyond the circumstances they inherited. She contrasts these love stories with her own ten year relationship, which made me feel kind of queasy, simply because I identified with spending too much time in a relationship that slowly fizzled, unbeknownst to the couple, until its pulse flatlined. Eventually the book shifts into describing the relationships Catron enters after her first big relationship, including the one detailed in her viral Modern Romance piece. This reminds me of something I made my boyfriend do on one of our first dates, where we played a question asking game that encourage medium-to-deep conversations instead of the polite, small talk that often occurs. I don't remember the questions or the answers now, but I do remember the feeling of sharing a deeper version of myself than is traditionally expected on these early dates when I would try to present the shiniest version of myself. This book magically captures all of those feelings that I've felt and I loved LOVED loved reading while Catron ruminated on love.  That was easy to do because Catron spins many pretty phrases, as you'll see in the quotes that I've included at the end of my post. While I'm loaning this book out to a few friends (to underline their own favorite quotes), I've told them all that I want this book to be on my forever bookshelf (aka the highest honor I can bestow upon a book) so it absolutely must be returned to me. Unfortunately, the book doesn't include Catron's latest piece for "Modern Love," though she alludes to some of the content in the book. I've linked to it because I feel like it's worth reading too. Read all of her things -- each of them are special and wonderful and will sift through your mind for days.  "I think of the four of us as subject to the same flash flood, all senselessly bailing water into our own boats in hopes the others might end up on dry land." (p. 122) "Our views of love -- what we want from it, what we think it should feel like -- are rooted in the context of our lives." (p. 72) "But now I understand that there are always two breakups: the public one and the private one. Both are real, but one is sensible and the other is ugly. Too ugly to share in cafés. Too ugly, I sometimes think, to even write." (p. 134) "I didn't know what was real and what was scripted." (p. 16) "Nothing was funny, really, but we couldn't stop laughing the manic laughter of people who know it will be a while before they hear themselves laugh again." (p. 40) Disclaimer: I was provided with physical and digital copies of this book for free from Simon & Schuster. All opinions expressed in the review are my own and have not been influenced by Simon & Schuster. For more reviews, check out www.girlwithabookblog.com!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Hind H.

    I fell in love with this book. :') I fell in love with this book. :')

  9. 5 out of 5

    CaseyTheCanadianLesbrarian

    A very interesting but not quite fascinating memoir/essay collection about love, dating, and relationships. She writes about the dissolution of the college relationship she spent her twenties in, her parents' and grandmother's marriages, love stories in Western pop culture, and her newest relationship and its catalyst of 36 questions to discuss to fall in love with anyone (the original essay which was published in NY Times's Modern Love column). I appreciated that she discussed queer and poly re A very interesting but not quite fascinating memoir/essay collection about love, dating, and relationships. She writes about the dissolution of the college relationship she spent her twenties in, her parents' and grandmother's marriages, love stories in Western pop culture, and her newest relationship and its catalyst of 36 questions to discuss to fall in love with anyone (the original essay which was published in NY Times's Modern Love column). I appreciated that she discussed queer and poly relationships (she's straight and monogamous) in a way that didn't exoticize or fetishize. A good option if you've been wanting to read Aziz Ansari's Modern Romance but don't want to support his work anymore. This book has a very similar feel, although its scope is much smaller.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Aisha

    I have never liked books that start with HOW TO but I opened this book out of curiosity and started reading. I found it pleasurable and surprisingly it was a memoir I enjoyed. Love was always a question to me, a question without an answer! though, I liked love stories, maybe I watched/read such because I was trying to understand. “I thought love was supposed to be confusing and complicated but love is an ordinary thing. Love is an action. We fall in love because we choose to”. Maybe I feared love I have never liked books that start with HOW TO but I opened this book out of curiosity and started reading. I found it pleasurable and surprisingly it was a memoir I enjoyed. Love was always a question to me, a question without an answer! though, I liked love stories, maybe I watched/read such because I was trying to understand. “I thought love was supposed to be confusing and complicated but love is an ordinary thing. Love is an action. We fall in love because we choose to”. Maybe I feared love and marriage because of all the stories that we hear, they married for love and divorced few years later. I guess we fear love because we lack the experience, because all we know of it comes from romantic novels and movies. The idea of happy-ever after made me hate being in situations where couples fight even if it was a simple fight, but it startled my fantasy world where happy ever afters existed cause I liked to keep a picture of marriage being happy and refused to see anything else. But I came to realize that love is not everything in marriage and happy ever after is off the agenda and I can say now that I understand why people sometimes leave each other and find it a brave decision specially that we are as the author said “ in a culture that stigmatizes singledom and celebrate commitment”.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Shannon Wise

    Ugh. I am so on the fence about this book. It falls into the same category for me as "Eat, Pray, Love" and "Wild". While I had my own issues with those two books (really, who can afford to disappear for an extended period of time to get their shit together?), this one was a bit different. Mandy Len Catron writes about love in a series of essays. That is the first difference. This book isn't meant as one continuous discussion of a particular time. She bounces around to different points in her lif Ugh. I am so on the fence about this book. It falls into the same category for me as "Eat, Pray, Love" and "Wild". While I had my own issues with those two books (really, who can afford to disappear for an extended period of time to get their shit together?), this one was a bit different. Mandy Len Catron writes about love in a series of essays. That is the first difference. This book isn't meant as one continuous discussion of a particular time. She bounces around to different points in her life, but the organization is still linear. I suppose I'm on the fence about this book for two reasons. First has everything to do with the author's tone. The second has to do with me. Catron's tone throughout the book strives to be academic, but I couldn't help but feel at times it was a bit whining and needy. I did find interesting her reactions to love and to dating. She, like a lot of modern women, myself included, reacted to love and dating the way she thought everyone expected her to and not in a way that was genuine to who she was. We have spent so much time being told how to act and what to expect that we conform our thoughts to outside forces and don't allow that inside, we might feel differently. Most importantly, even if we do recognize that we feel differently about marriage, love commitment, etc., we do not feel comfortable or that it is ok with society that we show anything different than what is expected. And that is why this book bothered me. It made me think about my own feelings and expectations. The difference is that I am not a thirty-something year old woman. So some of what she says I find useful for women who are younger and in that phase of life. Overall, this book was okay. I would recommend it to people who are trying to figure out their version of love and relationships. I won this book from Goodreads and received no compensation in exchange for my review. The opinions contained herein, confusing as they are, are mine and mine alone.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Clara

    Let's be clear. The author doesn't, in fact, tell you how to fall in love with anyone. Remember: it's a memoir. Catron's voice quickly won me over, and I entered into her story much as I would into that of a friend, stopping occasionally as I read to nod my head or question her choices. For me, the meat of the book is in its second half, as Catron unravels the threads of the stories we buy into about what love should look like, and the ways in which we sabotage perfectly good relationships by co Let's be clear. The author doesn't, in fact, tell you how to fall in love with anyone. Remember: it's a memoir. Catron's voice quickly won me over, and I entered into her story much as I would into that of a friend, stopping occasionally as I read to nod my head or question her choices. For me, the meat of the book is in its second half, as Catron unravels the threads of the stories we buy into about what love should look like, and the ways in which we sabotage perfectly good relationships by comparing them to the conventional tropes of happily-ever-after. I especially welcomed Catron's desire to broaden the notion of "family." She suggests using the word to describe our reality, rather than struggling to fit our reality into the standard definition. It's almost impossible to become an adult without dragging along with you a heavy load of assumptions about love. How to Fall in Love with Anyone asks the reader to question the validity of those love stories. It's an insightful book that most people would benefit from reading.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Sohum

    When I downloaded this book, I had read Catron's essay in the New York Times; I found it, like most Modern Love essays, mildly maudlin, and I expected the book to be the same way. But the reality is that Catron's book is deeply self-conscious, and seeks to both account for and deconstruct the titular essay and its reception. That it calls itself a memoir may be a result of publishing, and of the fact that Catron relays the story of two romances in her own life over the course of these essays, bu When I downloaded this book, I had read Catron's essay in the New York Times; I found it, like most Modern Love essays, mildly maudlin, and I expected the book to be the same way. But the reality is that Catron's book is deeply self-conscious, and seeks to both account for and deconstruct the titular essay and its reception. That it calls itself a memoir may be a result of publishing, and of the fact that Catron relays the story of two romances in her own life over the course of these essays, but it is as much a work of cultural criticism and self-reflection. I am impressed.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jamila

    I can't express how genuine poignant and insightful this book was. I was literally underlining and placing sticker notes, i was so invested int his book. Granted there's a few things I didn't agree with the author about, but the book being her experience and regaling her struggle struck me. There's so much that I relate to and so much that I learned. And reading this book came at such an important time in my life. I can't express how genuine poignant and insightful this book was. I was literally underlining and placing sticker notes, i was so invested int his book. Granted there's a few things I didn't agree with the author about, but the book being her experience and regaling her struggle struck me. There's so much that I relate to and so much that I learned. And reading this book came at such an important time in my life.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Shagufta

    I read the authors' Modern Love piece and this was an enjoyable exploration of the ideas that have influenced the way she understands and approaches relationships. I read the authors' Modern Love piece and this was an enjoyable exploration of the ideas that have influenced the way she understands and approaches relationships.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Malcolm Everett

    Do I Love You? As a teenager, I was obsessed with defining love. How do you know when you’re in love? What are the different types, and how do you distinguish “real” love from infatuation or friendship? Is love real at all, or just a biochemical reaction? To what degree have books and movies created unrealistic expectations about romance? I rarely read the Modern Love column, but I remember Catron’s essay being a social media sensation that lived up to the hype, and this book’s existence came to m Do I Love You? As a teenager, I was obsessed with defining love. How do you know when you’re in love? What are the different types, and how do you distinguish “real” love from infatuation or friendship? Is love real at all, or just a biochemical reaction? To what degree have books and movies created unrealistic expectations about romance? I rarely read the Modern Love column, but I remember Catron’s essay being a social media sensation that lived up to the hype, and this book’s existence came to my attention after listening to the recent follow-up on the Modern Love podcast. How to Fall in Love with Anyone could be viewed as the “making of” story of that essay, as well as an expansion on the original message. “When it comes to love, we prefer the short version of the story. My Modern Love column had become an oversimplified romantic fable suggesting there was an ideal way to experience love. It made love seem predictable, like a script you could follow.” How We Narrate Our Relationships Catron explores various facets of love in a thought-provoking fashion, sharing stories of her grandparents’ early and lasting marriage, her parents’ late divorce, and her own complicated break-up with a long-term partner. She notes how the pursuit and purpose of marriage has evolved from generation to generation, becoming less about convenience and social stability, and more about being choosy and fulfilling high expectations (Aziz Ansari makes a similar observation in his book Modern Romance). As the author states, “our views of love—what we want from it, what we think it should feel like—are rooted in the context of our lives.” As the title somewhat implies, this book is not a straightforward memoir. Catron regularly brings in ideas from current research and dissects how popular media depict romantic relationships, namely the fairytale of Cinderella and the movie Pretty Woman. I had never stopped to consider why romance is the most devoured genre of literature, but Catron nails it in explaining how mirror neurons make us experience secondhand infatuation: “The pleasure of early-stage romantic love is so powerful, and so neurochemically intoxicating, that we can’t help but aspire to a real-life version of what we feel while watching a movie.” She also discusses the cultural norm of monogamous relationships, exploring definitions of love in the context of other sexualities and polyamory. It is human nature to struggle with concepts that aren’t absolutes; we dislike ambiguity and uncertainty because our brains crave order and explanation, which is likely why we’re so drawn to religion and creating cause-and-effect narratives for our lives. Catron cites Jonathan Gottschall in saying, “The storytelling mind is a crucial evolutionary adaptation. It allows us to experience our lives as coherent, orderly, and meaningful.” Personal Memoir or Academic Essay? The choice of title for this book is more a marketing ploy than an accurate label. This isn’t really a self-help or guide book, as it doesn’t aim to tell anyone how love can be manufactured or maintained, but it did make me reflect more deeply on my perception of love, both as a spouse and as a writer. Catron’s writing style was filled with detailed imagery and complex emotions; I could hear her voice through the pages. There is no feeling quite like connecting with a stranger through their words alone, and that’s precisely why I enjoy memoirs, especially when the author isn’t afraid to be truly vulnerable. Sometimes memoirs can seem self-indulgent because the author is presuming the importance of their own life and perhaps dramatizing their experiences to mine for deeper meaning that may or may not exist from an outsider’s perspective (I’d be curious to know what her ex-boyfriend, Kevin, thinks of this memoir, for example). We all participate in some form of self-mythologizing, but putting those thoughts in the public arena is somehow a different matter entirely. If you approach this book as a conversation with a friend, rather than a self-proclaimed expert talking down to you, then you will have a much more positive reading experience. Writing a New Narrative “The problem with most conventional love stories is that they fail to expand what we know about love. They limit. They prescribe. And it is very easy to consume the same story over and over as you go about your life without even noticing it.” For me, the primary takeaway from this book is being more aware of how I depict romantic relationships in my own fiction. As Catron says, “the abundance of how-we-met stories means we know a lot about falling in love—how it should feel and what we might say or do to influence its intensity and direction—but we don’t have many scripts for making that love last.” I want to go beyond the butterflies of the meet cute moment and show how affection can grow, change, and struggle over time. Love, even in fantasy, should capture reality.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Janet Hutchinson

    Ironic that I read this during valentine's week......I first read the essay in the Times a while ago. And was intrigued. This is a memoir of love (her parents, her sister, her own) and how love is represented in movies and media. I love books that alternate between anecdotes and research. And this one succeeds in presenting love in all its' realities. It is, by no means, a prescriptive “To fall in love, do this” - more a series of reflections on what love is, and can be, rather than what it shou Ironic that I read this during valentine's week......I first read the essay in the Times a while ago. And was intrigued. This is a memoir of love (her parents, her sister, her own) and how love is represented in movies and media. I love books that alternate between anecdotes and research. And this one succeeds in presenting love in all its' realities. It is, by no means, a prescriptive “To fall in love, do this” - more a series of reflections on what love is, and can be, rather than what it should be.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jill

    Not what I was expecting having read the author's Modern Love piece. Not terrible but not what I was expecting and author spends too much time pushing against her own article in a strange almost defensive way. Stories about her parents and relationship with her long term boyfriend most interesting. Not what I was expecting having read the author's Modern Love piece. Not terrible but not what I was expecting and author spends too much time pushing against her own article in a strange almost defensive way. Stories about her parents and relationship with her long term boyfriend most interesting.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Kayo

    Enjoyed author being so honest about her relationships and her struggle with love. Fun book Thanks to Netgalley and author for letting me read this book. While I received this book for free, it had no bearing on the rating I gave it.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Kara

    This is a memoir, not a self-help book, fyi. The title is kind of misleading. I really enjoyed this book of essays. I already know I will likely read it again in the future. Mostly listened to the audiobook, which was read by the author. I loved how she cited scientific research many times, pulling in historical and biological information about love and marriage to support her personal experiences and anecdotes. I didn't agree with everything in this book, but a great deal of it was incredibly h This is a memoir, not a self-help book, fyi. The title is kind of misleading. I really enjoyed this book of essays. I already know I will likely read it again in the future. Mostly listened to the audiobook, which was read by the author. I loved how she cited scientific research many times, pulling in historical and biological information about love and marriage to support her personal experiences and anecdotes. I didn't agree with everything in this book, but a great deal of it was incredibly helpful and insightful. It definitely made me think a lot about my views and experiences regarding love, dating, and marriage.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Maureen

    Absolutely a great memoir. Mandy Len Catron exams the way we can be loved, how we love and present it to the world. I loved reading this book. Highly recommended by me.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Basma

    I don't think this book was for me. I don't think this book was for me.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Alexandra

    this is a memoir and it's beautiful and fraught with heart-wrenching slap in the face quotes and life lessons that will make you think. Loved it. "He sits on the couch in his underwear and reads me an essay on Hamlet while I fry eggs and think how astounding it is that such a person exists and that he has chosen to love me. Some days I am silenced by the way he inhabits a T-shirt. And then I feel it again, that urge to look away for fear that he will see it in my gaze, how much I really want from this is a memoir and it's beautiful and fraught with heart-wrenching slap in the face quotes and life lessons that will make you think. Loved it. "He sits on the couch in his underwear and reads me an essay on Hamlet while I fry eggs and think how astounding it is that such a person exists and that he has chosen to love me. Some days I am silenced by the way he inhabits a T-shirt. And then I feel it again, that urge to look away for fear that he will see it in my gaze, how much I really want from him." "Eventually, I would come to see that I’d been thinking of moral rightness in love the wrong way. My job was not to choose a good person to love, but rather to be good to the person I’d chosen. Extraordinary love was not defined by the intensity with which you wanted someone, but by generosity and kindness and a deep sense of friendship. You had to love someone and like them." "The pleasure of abiding. The pleasure of insistence, of persistence. The pleasure of obligation, the pleasure of dependency. The pleasures of ordinary devotion. The pleasures of recognizing that one may have to undergo the same realizations, write the same notes in the margin, return to the same themes in one’s work, relearn the same emotional truths, write the same book over and over again—not because one is stupid or obstinate or incapable of change, but because such revisions constitute a life. What to do about the problem of love? These are the revisions of my life. But it is ripe with the pleasures of ordinary devotion." "The knowledge you have of another person’s body, that they have of yours; the shifts of sleep; the arches of feet; the scent of the skin at the back of the neck—there is a sweet intimacy in the acquisition of this particular brand of knowledge that must be divinely sanctioned. That this person could become a stranger, that his life could—no, will—keep going right along without you in it, that you will one day not know him, that he will not know you, that you may in fact become unknown, these are difficult propositions."

  24. 5 out of 5

    Faiaz

    This memoir was a relatively slow read as I felt at times it lacked the flow, but I liked the sharing of author's personal experiences and dilemmas more than the added tangential commentary and research in most chapters. "Problem of deservingness " was my favourite chapter because i resonated with the commentary on what culture teaches us falsely about love. Central idea of the chapter: the loved are not always virtuous and the virtuous are not always loved, contrary to what movies portray. Some This memoir was a relatively slow read as I felt at times it lacked the flow, but I liked the sharing of author's personal experiences and dilemmas more than the added tangential commentary and research in most chapters. "Problem of deservingness " was my favourite chapter because i resonated with the commentary on what culture teaches us falsely about love. Central idea of the chapter: the loved are not always virtuous and the virtuous are not always loved, contrary to what movies portray. Some of my notes/quotes from the book: There is no guarantee that a good person would make a good partner. "Talking about "rightness" seemed like a way of obscuring more subtle questions-not "Is there someone better for me out there?" but "Why is it so hard to be kind to the person I love?" It seemed like a way of ignoring the fact that we make bad choices all the time, that every life contains a healthy dose of disappointment, and that, even with our best efforts, outcomes can never be fully controlled." "In ordinary life, the reasons for leaving someone are not as clear as they are in our stories." "My desire to prove my own interestingness is what actually kept me from doing interesting things." "I wish I had been taught to indulge the pleasures of being alone." Love is NOT the reward for goodness. Eventually, I would come to see that I'd been thinking of moral rightness in love the wrong way. My job was not to choose a good person to love, but rather to be good to the person I'd chosen. Extraordinary love was not defined by the intensity with which you wanted someone, but by generosity and kindness and a deep sense of friendship. You had to love someone and like them.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Waverly Fitzgerald

    This is one of those charming books, so popular right now, where the author braids their personal life, along with reports (scientific research, psychological studies) from other other sources. Catron focuses mostly on research into relationships, including the work of John Gottman and uses a qustionnaire developed by Arthur Aron et al to develop intimacy. And like many other writers, Catron's book developed as a result of the popularity of her Modern Love essay describing the results of that ex This is one of those charming books, so popular right now, where the author braids their personal life, along with reports (scientific research, psychological studies) from other other sources. Catron focuses mostly on research into relationships, including the work of John Gottman and uses a qustionnaire developed by Arthur Aron et al to develop intimacy. And like many other writers, Catron's book developed as a result of the popularity of her Modern Love essay describing the results of that experiment. She analyzes family stories about relationships and fairy tales and the tropes of romantic comedies (particularly Pretty Woman) in her quest to understand how to find the right mate. It's also a Alain de Bouton from Essays in Love: The stories we tell are always too simple. She used one word I didn't know: hamartia (a fatal flaw in a hero leading to his downfall). I should know that! Books she mentions that sound interesting: The Invention of Dating by Moira Siegel, who says that dating didn't need to be invented until the twentieth century when young people were free to move around and live their lives free of the supervision of their parents And Minimizing Marriage by Elizabeth Brake who challenges amatonormativity, the belief that everyone "should be in a central, exclusive, amorous relationship" The New I Do by Susan Pease Gaoua and Vicki Larson, that Catron and her husband used to create a contract (a la Big Bang Theory's roommate relationship agreement) that spells out cleaning, dog-walking, money-splitting and even sex.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    I thought I’d given up reading stuff about love. But this is a memoir also, and really different. I could relate to Mandy’s examples from growing up in Appalachia from my growing up in southern Virginia, even though my memories are from the 50s and 60s. It’s telling that things didn’t change that much by the 70s. I don’t know as much as she about my mother and grandmother since they both died before I was old enough or detached enough to ask them many questions. But I certainly know the power of the I thought I’d given up reading stuff about love. But this is a memoir also, and really different. I could relate to Mandy’s examples from growing up in Appalachia from my growing up in southern Virginia, even though my memories are from the 50s and 60s. It’s telling that things didn’t change that much by the 70s. I don’t know as much as she about my mother and grandmother since they both died before I was old enough or detached enough to ask them many questions. But I certainly know the power of the rom-com Cinderella myth that has brainwashed us all for years. She does an excellent job of puncturing this while at the same time explaining its power. So where do we go from here? I like that she opens the conversation to unconventional relationships. This can go further but perhaps it’s too soon historically. Nevertheless, the list of questions is thought-provoking even if you have no partner with which to answer them. Many I have never thought about. Our society is astonishingly superficial. Time we began to go deeper. Time I began to go deeper at age 75. Bravo, Mandy. All the best to you and Mark. He sounds like a keeper.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Neshat

    I believe the title is not that relevant. Not sure what I like about her essays but maybe it was, her honest explanations of what she was thinking in each moment and then taking me through her thought process. The fact that the author is living in the same city as I am and familiarity with her location or mood references were strangely soothing! In the end, I felt like I was promised to understand a bit more than what I was offered. But overall I liked hearing her journal style stories on her ow I believe the title is not that relevant. Not sure what I like about her essays but maybe it was, her honest explanations of what she was thinking in each moment and then taking me through her thought process. The fact that the author is living in the same city as I am and familiarity with her location or mood references were strangely soothing! In the end, I felt like I was promised to understand a bit more than what I was offered. But overall I liked hearing her journal style stories on her own encounters, her sister, parents and grandparents' marriages along with the scientific experiments on the topic. "There is something appealing in our culture about this belief that there are larger forces that act on us and absolve us of agency over our behaviour. When it comes to love, maybe this is something that we want even though it's not very good for us. But simple stories are almost never actually simple. To generate love in a more scientific way, there's a counter-narrative — it's you and another person that can decide what it is that you want to make."

  28. 4 out of 5

    Mehrsa

    This book is not at all like the essay that inspired it. Not just in format (it's a memoir/research on love), but it's also different in vision and tone. The essay seemed to be optimistic about love and the way to cultivate it (as the title reflects). Love is attainable through a simple list of questions. Not quite that simplistic but sort of. I think that's why it's so appealing. The book has a totally different thesis and message. Not quite the opposite though it is more sanguine about falling This book is not at all like the essay that inspired it. Not just in format (it's a memoir/research on love), but it's also different in vision and tone. The essay seemed to be optimistic about love and the way to cultivate it (as the title reflects). Love is attainable through a simple list of questions. Not quite that simplistic but sort of. I think that's why it's so appealing. The book has a totally different thesis and message. Not quite the opposite though it is more sanguine about falling in love. More so, the book challenges the entire premise of "falling in love" and the stories we tell. She mines her own family for their love stories and concludes that everything has multiple versions. I enjoyed the essays a lot. I wish she had taken the thesis further. She prods and pokes at the story and cites a few experts, but I would have liked a bit more conclusiveness as opposed to just a series of questions and doubts.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Wendy Mihell

    Honestly, I really wanted to like this book but was a tad disappointed. I think I was expecting the book to have a heavier focus on the biology and psychology of love, but it truly is a memoir of the writer's own experiences. To be totally frank, I think that as a professor with expertise in the subject of love, the author is able to better market her own rather unremarkable love stories, which I think could have been really successful if there was a better balance of theory with lived experienc Honestly, I really wanted to like this book but was a tad disappointed. I think I was expecting the book to have a heavier focus on the biology and psychology of love, but it truly is a memoir of the writer's own experiences. To be totally frank, I think that as a professor with expertise in the subject of love, the author is able to better market her own rather unremarkable love stories, which I think could have been really successful if there was a better balance of theory with lived experience. The majority of the book reads as her personal and again, unremarkable, experiences in love. That being said, I really did enjoy the sections in which she discussed the generational experience of love and how she finds her mother's and grandmother's experiences differ from her experience. There were also a few interesting thought provoking moments, particularly in the beginning of the book. Overall, I don't know that I'd recommend this book. Two stars.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Sam Y

    I picked this up because I was looking for nonfiction (on any topic) in the form of a series of essays that combine personal anecdote with additional research to make more general points (the general style of Atul Gawande, one of my favorite nonfiction writers). I finished the book in two sittings, so it definitely kept me interested. I didn't agree with everything Catron argues (for example, that love being regarded as an important part of marriage is a very recent phenomenon -- just look at Jan I picked this up because I was looking for nonfiction (on any topic) in the form of a series of essays that combine personal anecdote with additional research to make more general points (the general style of Atul Gawande, one of my favorite nonfiction writers). I finished the book in two sittings, so it definitely kept me interested. I didn't agree with everything Catron argues (for example, that love being regarded as an important part of marriage is a very recent phenomenon -- just look at Jane Eyre), and a lot of her revelations were things I felt I already knew. I didn't really identify with her as a narrator most of the time, which might have contributed to my read of the book. There were some interesting points, specifically in the studies she cites, though. I thought the book was well-written, and regardless of whether it was groundbreaking, it definitely made me think about and acknowledge some of my assumptions about love.

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