All about love : new visions

by bell hooks

Paper Book, 2001


Family & Relationships. Sociology. Nonfiction. HTML: A New York Times bestseller and enduring classic, All About Love is the acclaimed first volume in feminist icon bell hooks' "Love Song to the Nation" trilogy. All About Love reveals what causes a polarized society, and how to heal the divisions that cause suffering. Here is the truth about love, and inspiration to help us instill caring, compassion, and strength in our homes, schools, and workplaces. "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. Here, at her most provocative and intensely personal, renowned scholar, cultural critic and feminist bell hooks offers a proactive new ethic for a society bereft with lovelessnessâ??not the lack of romance, but the lack of care, compassion, and unity. People are divided, she declares, by society's failure to provide a model for learning to love. As bell hooks uses her incisive mind to explore the question "What is love?" her answers strike at both the mind and heart. Razing the cultural paradigm that the ideal love is infused with sex and desire, she provides a new path to love that is sacred, redemptive, and healing for individuals and for a nation. The Utne Reader declared bell hooks one of the "100 Visionaries Who Can Change Your Life." All About Love is a powerful, timely affirmation of just how profoundly her revelations can change hearts and minds for the better.… (more)



Call number



New York : Perennial, 2001.

User reviews

LibraryThing member emily_morine
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
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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.
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LibraryThing member ecataldi
I don't know if I'm just too cynical or what but this book didn't move me near as much as I desired it to. There are thirteen chapters in this collection, each an essay on a different aspect or characteristic of love. From community to greed to forgiveness to justice, each mini essay tried to tie
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in the author's experiences with those of renowned scholars, philosophers, and poets. It's not that I didn't enjoy it, I just found it at times repetitive and wandering. I'm not disagreeing with the author on any of her laments or hope for love, I just found my brain drifting away as I tried to focus on reading this. One passage that really stood out to me was, "Many of choose relationships of affection and care that will never become loving because they feel safer. The demands are not as intense as loving requires. The risk is not as great. So many of us long for love but lack the courage to take risks." A very thoughtful, insightful, feminist, and analytical approach to viewing and understanding love.
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LibraryThing member bookscantgetenough
I really enjoy reading bell hooks but man this book... For the first couple of chapters, I was really into it but then at a certain point, it felt like she kept going on a tangent and then remember that she was talking about love and then tried to tie the tangent back to the necessity of love in
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today's world. I ended up not being able to finish the book because of that. May I just need a break or something...
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LibraryThing member Hanuman2
Fond memories of this book: love is a verb not a state of feeling.
LibraryThing member Berly
An easy read, and I don't agree with all of it, but certainly very thought provoking. Great for discussion or contemplation. I used half a tin of book darts! 4.0

Here are two quotes: "Psycholanalysts...critique the idea that we fall in love, (but) we continue to invest in the fantasy of effortless
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union. We continue to believe we are swept away, caught up in the rapture, that we lack choice and (is) action, 'essentially an act of will...To love somebody is not just a strong feeling--it is a decision, it is a judgement, it is a promise. If love were only a feeling, there would be no basis for the promise to love each other forever. A feeling comes and it may go....'

"'Love is an act of will--namely, both an intention and action. Will also implies choice. We do not have to love. We choose to love.'" (p. 172)

Here's the second quote:

"Committed love relationships are far more likely to become codependent when we cut off all our ties with friends to give theses bonds we consider primary our exclusive attention. I have felt especially devastated when close friends who were single fell in love and simultaneously fell away from our friendship....The more genuine our romantic loves the more we do not feel called upon to weaken or sever ties with friends in order to strengthen ties with romantic partners. Trust is the heartbeat of genuine love. And we trust that the attention our partners give friends, or vice versa, does not take anything away from us--we are not diminished." (p. 135)

Chapters include:
Childhood Love Lessons

Definitely worth reading.
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LibraryThing member mbowen
I never finished this book, although I intend to. It was just too much. Once again, bell has hit deeply on a personal level. Unfortunately, I took it a little too personally. The first thing I did after finishing a few chapters is told my wife that I finished the book and then gave it to her to
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read. She never did, and so I got angry.

It's not much of a surprise to me that hooks would write a book such as this. Knowing her and Cornel West as a reader, I expect them to deal with essential questions of love. I'm not sure that I agree with their approach, however. And quite honestly, I much prefer the way such ethical issues are handled by two other great writers, the Dalai Lama and Stephen L. Carter.

Nevertheless, hooks is quite instructive in her own provocative way, and if nothing else, does justice to my own gut revulsion against 'Mars & Venus'. hooks gets a little too referential, quoting this author and giving credit to that article. It spares her from writing a bit more fluidly and expansively, but that's better than footnotes.

I'll keep the book on the shelf and maybe come back around to it after a while, but I won't use it as a primary source, and I certainly won't push it on other folks, especially not the wife.
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LibraryThing member noodlejet22
bell tells us about love. That love is a verb, something that we have to do. The main thing that I took away was that there are different types of love and that love is a choice. No more falling in love if it's a verb. Great book that is in direct odds with all the messages we hear and everything
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that we have been raised to think. a mind workout (a good mind workout).
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LibraryThing member tvgrl
I like this book up to a point...and then it got kind of goofy. I liked it enough to give it to my boyfriend for his birthday. I like how she writes about loving relationships between men and women that are not sexual but are romantic and meaningful and don't necessarily have to be perceived as
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threatning to a long term partnership or marriage.
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LibraryThing member AliceaP
All About Love: New Visions by bell hooks (pseudonym of Gloria Jean Watkins) was the March book from the feminist book club on Goodreads called Our Shared Shelf started by Emma Watson. The title is exactly what this book is about i.e. the study of love in a new light. Each chapter is about a
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different aspect of love like romantic, community, spiritual, etc. She's definitely a liberal feminist (which makes sense with the book club) so her insight is skewed in that direction (if that is an issue for you). There is a religious bent to this book so if that's not your cup of tea... Sociology, least I thought so until now. I don't know if it was the subject matter or the writing style but I found this book to be a bit of a bore and a chore. There were certain moments where I was like "ah yes this is good" but they were far outweighed by the feeling of "how many more pages til the end?" unfortunately.

Thoughts I had while reading this book:
•This could have been an article or an essay.
•I would have preferred this to have been approached in a more scientific (specifically hard sciences) way.
•A lot of this is common sense.

In conclusion, I wasn't a huge fan of this. I didn't hate it but I don't think I'll be seeking this author out for any more of her books in the future. You win some, you lose some. *shrugs*
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LibraryThing member Bodagirl
It took me awhile to warm up to this book ( I really liked chapters 8 - 11) and then the final chapter killed it.
LibraryThing member pnkweetzie
I have never read a book on love before, I had always thought them to be useless and probably coming from a point of view I don't embrace. When bell hooks wrote this book, I had to put my prejudices about relationship books aside for her, and I am glad I did. I was pleased at the sensitivity and
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well-rounded approach she takes to the foundation of love in our society and relationships. It would have been nice to have less of a heteronormative point of view, but she is a heterosexual women, so I guess I can understand.
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LibraryThing member lisapeet
I think I was pretty much the only person in our book club who didn't care much for this, which makes me think I'm just the wrong audience. I don't care for self help literature much, and I was hoping for something a bit more political. Some of her statements, especially around greed, rang really
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false, though of course I can't speak to her interpretation of her own experience and I realize she was looking at this through a relationship lens rather than a socioeconomic one. But the places where she separated out greed from poverty really tossed me out of the mix.

I did like the chapter on loss and grieving, where she talked about how mourning long and hard is an appropriate reflection of the love you felt for someone. I absolutely believe that, but it's always good to hear the sentiment from someone else. She had some interesting stuff to say about love and power, also, but again—wrong book for me just now. I just wasn't in the mood.
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LibraryThing member streamsong
bell hooks is a well known black feminist writer, but I had not read anything by her so I jumped into a recent group read.

I was a bit disappointed because this one was less about feminism per se and started out feeling more like a self-help book. I do understand, though, that learning how to love
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yourself and others can be a form of feminism. This one examined the concept of love – not the romantic, falling-into-love of the western world but a more philosophical analysis of all the type of love one can enjoy – starting out with the way to honor and understand yourself and ending with love of God/spiritual love.

Lots of food for thought, here. I ended up reading several chapters more than once and think I should revisit parts of it periodically as a sort of meditation.

Not everyone's cup of tea, but I'll give it four stars.
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LibraryThing member RebMarAra
I found this book to be emotional, thought-provoking, and insightful while not being inaccessible or hard to get through. In fact, I finished reading within a few days even though I was annotating! (which usually makes me take longer to finish a book)

I particularly liked how hooks discussed love
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in all different types of contexts and not just in the typical romantic context that we are used to. Furthermore, reading bell hooks’ writing made me feel like I was being given advice from an extremely loving and kind lady who I had never met before but who was still able to tap directly into my soul. She just told me a lot of what I needed to hear!

I did have a few issues with the book however, such as the occasional reliance on gender binaries and heteronormativity which reveals the book’s age. Furthermore I found some of what could be considered hooks’ advice to be too abstract and not entirely realistic or plausible. She had great ideas for what the world could look like but this vision was somewhat vague and seemingly unachievable. Finally, there were things like her mention of her multiple residences or her characterization of who I assume to be Monica Lewinsky which slightly bothered me but luckily weren’t overpowering enough to give me an overall negative impression of the book or it’s author.
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LibraryThing member KallieGrace
Coming from a deeply religious background, this was at times a refreshing take and at times a confusing regurgitation on love. The first few chapters were the best I think, establishing that our understanding of love starts immediately in childhood, and that children having no rights in our country
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are often the targets for abuse. And love and abuse cannot coexist. Similarly, love and power/domination cannot coexist, so having a partnership where one is domineering over the other (i.e. traditional gender-role marriage) cannot be fulling loving.
I was not as enamored of the reflections on culture and love, where she often says something along the lines of "nowadays we are too greedy to love" or some such sentiment. I really don't think human nature has changed that much over the centuries. I think the rich always strive to maintain power and the poor struggle to survive. The expressions of greed or security may have shifted, but in a book on a subject as timeless as love, I think the focus should be a bit wider than the current infatuation with violent media (for example).
There is a lot of biblical rhetoric in here, which I am very familiar with. And while I still subscribe to Love=God and take comfort in scripture, I am curious to know what her full background in religion is, and if she untangled the racism and patriarchy espoused by the same churches that preached those scriptures. I find that many get it backwards, taking what they can construct of God from scripture to be what love is, while we should be learning to love and be loved to find who God is. It seems like hooks is on the right side of that, but it feels like a piece missing from the narrative once biblical references are introduced.
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LibraryThing member Lavender3
I will start by saying I choose this book after Bell Hooks's death. I had never heard of her nor read any of her work. I was aware of "Ain't I a woman," but I had no idea it was her. I read "All about love" in 2022. I suppose I am currently 22, and I have never been in romantic love. It has not
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been reciprocated. Usually, it is pretty one-sided. I hope to reread this book in a decade to see where I am. I love friends and family, even strangers that should fulfill me, but it fades. People are often not consistent in the love they claim to have for me or show me. Aside from my family, even with them, If I were honest about who I am, they would not love me, and I can live with hiding myself from them. One day they will die, and that is just the truth. Two years ago, in my first relationship, I had someone so incompatible with me in love with me, and no matter what, I felt nothing. I learned though I regretted having sex with this person because every time was so wrong, I felt nothing but deep disgust for the entire experience. I completed every task that my family required of me. I had a heterosis norm relationship for a year. Now that my feelings have grown on a spectrum, I fear it has made it more difficult for me. I don't give off the vibe. I want to be seen for my true self and have a great love life. But at this point, I want to have incredible sex. Yes, I am young with my whole life ahead of me, but I also have goals and things I don't have much time for. With my program and possible health issues progressing, I wish there was more I could feel besides dread and suspicion. Dating in this day and age is awful. I have been scared that I cannot use the apps. I know no one in my location is for me with my current situation. Therefore traveling, leaving, and living all over to work in my dream field do and have all the things I was not allowed to. My freedom is my love. Even if others never see me, I see myself. I deserve to live to the fullest. I love this book, and I am sad Bell Hooks is gone, but I will take her advice and keep going.
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LibraryThing member BibliophageOnCoffee
Despite several logical fallacies, the overall message of this book feels true and important. I'm glad I read it.
LibraryThing member wellreadcatlady
You know how you repeat a word and it loses all meaning and distinction, well this book did that with the word love for me. The word appears in just about every sentence. Yes the book is about love, so it's expected. There was a lot I agreed with in All About Love, but a lot of it I felt was Bell
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Hooks saying this is how she lives her life and feels so we should all too. Sometimes difficult topics were over simplified and made to be about love. It's a interesting read and she makes some good observations, but too much of it feels like those damn millennials rants.
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LibraryThing member redcedar
hooks is not only an activist for change, she is an activist and a believer in the right to and power of love - and her recent trilogy on the subject explores this eloquently. when i was in california back in february, a friend recommended these to me, and i’m so glad. definitely these are some
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of the best and most progressive books i have read on defining, understanding, and looking for love within the patriarchal morass we often find ourselves in. love, she posits, is subverted by popular notions of love on television and in the movies - and it is a radical act to reclaim love, and to be open to it, and to live it. i found these books hopeful and moving and they made me realize my own rights to love free of coercion and violence, and that this is as worth a goal as any.
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LibraryThing member JRobinW
Every human needs this book.


Original publication date



0060959479 / 9780060959470

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