all about love by bell hooks

I’m so sorry for how late this review is, guys. To be honest, this quarantine has been taking its toll on me and I haven’t felt 100% like myself in months. My reading has slowed down, my daily routine is gone, and I’m still having trouble accepting life at home for the foreseeable future. I refuse to be one of the inconsiderate people who chooses to go out and live life as if there isn’t a pandemic going on, but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t tempting. I would love for life to go back to normal, but I can’t do that at the expense of other people. It took me over two weeks to finish this book, but I’m finally here with a review! I used so many sticky tabs to mark up the pages of this book because there is so much great information here. I’m trying to be more intentional about learning how to love, and I think this book is a great start for anyone else who’s trying to do the same. 

The Rundown

all about love is a research-based book that details love in all its forms. The author provides a new definition and framework for looking at love, and gives instructions on how to practice love in several different areas. She also shares some of her personal life experiences and gives insight on the way that she learned how to love. The book comes from a feminist and religious perspective. 

Length: 237 pages

Additional Sections: Preface and Introduction (intro is a must-read)

Genre: Non-fiction/Self-help

Year Published: 2000

The Good Stuff

all about love is split into 13 chapters on love. hooks discusses childhood, spirituality, friendships, self-love, romance, and much more. She also encourages readers to use a new definition of love, and to recognize that love has several components beyond emotional affection and physical/emotional care. Here were some of my favorite sections:

The chapter on childhood love lessons is probably my favorite one. I enjoyed hooks’s discussion on how so many of us didn’t learn what love truly is during childhood, and that she talked about how to be a loving parent. I don’t have any children yet, but it’s very important to me to have a loving household and to do my best to not be the source of my children’s anxiety or insecurity when they’re growing up. I will definitely refer back to this chapter whenever I do become a mother, and it confirmed for me that I do not want to spank my kids. It was refreshing to read her alternatives to spankings, and I think she provided a well-rounded chapter on how to parent from a place of true love, not just care and occasional affection. 

One of my favorite chapters was the one on romance and the idea of true love. Even though hooks has suffered significant trauma and pain in her past romantic relationships, I like that she wasn’t cynical about love. She emphasized the idea that we should all strive for perfect love, and she used the definition of perfect as “willing to refine.” I really enjoy that definition of perfection, and I appreciate her constant reminder that love is something that must be practiced every day. I think reading this book has helped me to be a better partner, and I think this would be a great book for people in relationships to read together. 

I’ve heard of the idea of love as a healing power before, but this book added another layer of perspective to it. I think many of us go through life seeing messages that tell us we must go through suffering and pain to be able to give and receive love. I appreciated that the author partially debunked that narrative and clarified that suffering does not have to include violence or abuse of any kind. Dysfunctional families are not a necessary evil, and you can be a fully-functioning adult without a rough childhood. She also spoke about how self-love and not judging yourself or others is where love really begins to heal, and I found that encouraging. I can be really tough on myself when it comes to mistakes I’ve made in the past, and this chapter reminded me to be kind to myself.

What I Would Change

Good grammar and spelling is important, especially when you’re writing a book. I can’t believe that this book is 20 years old and there’s still a big spelling mistake in the table of contents. I’ve criticized spelling and grammar in other books because it seriously brings down the integrity of the book, particularly when it’s non-fiction and the author is presenting themselves as an authority in that area. Every book has a few grammar and spelling errors, but this one has several. 

This book also came from a heavily spiritual/religious and feminist perspective. This isn’t necessarily a problem, but it seemed one-sided and sometimes contradictory, since most religions are inherently not feminist. hooks quotes the Bible several times throughout the book and it gets progressively more spiritual the further you go. I don’t think religion or spirituality is a bad thing, but I can imagine that it might be awkward to read if you’re not Christian. I also didn’t agree with hooks’s idea that women are better at all types of love. There was heavy criticism of men and their inability to be good at different types of love because of how they’re socialized. I do agree that women should be considered authorities on love in the same way that many men are, but sometimes it felt like the book would borderline on man-bashing. I think it’s important to remember that this is someone’s individual perspective on how we should practice love, but it isn’t the only way to practice it. 

Overall I think the book has so much good information, and it is 100% worth the read. I wouldn’t revere the book as absolute truth, but I think it’s a valid perspective on love with great insight on how we should practice it. I think it was so far ahead of its time considering that it’s 20 years old, and I would recommend that anyone who wants to learn about love should read it. 

Overall rating: 8.5/10

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