By Carrie Ichikawa Jenkins

“Jump-starts a serious conversation about the true meaning of love and its societal implications… [Jenkins’s] message to readers—‘think about love for yourself’—is clear, and her vulnerable voice is charming and relatable.”
—Publishers Weekly


What is love? Aside from being the title of many a popular love song, this is one of life’s perennial questions. In What Love Is, philosopher Carrie Jenkins offers a bold new theory on the nature of romantic love that reconciles its humanistic and scientific components. Love can be a social construct (the idea of a perfect fairy tale romance) and a physical manifestation (those anxiety- inducing heart palpitations); we must recognize its complexities and decide for ourselves how to love. Motivated by her own polyamorous relationships, she examines the ways in which our parameters of love have recently changed—to be more accepting of homosexual, interracial, and non-monogamous relationships—and how they will continue to evolve in the future. Full of anecdotal, cultural, and scientific reflections on love, What Love Is is essential reading for anyone seeking to understand what it means to say “I love you.” Whether young or old, gay or straight, male or female, polyamorous or monogamous, this book will help each of us decide for ourselves how we choose to love.

“A provocative start to a complex subject.”
—Library Journal

 “Required reading… Equally important to its subject matter, the book is a master class in how to think and why. Jenkins researches, questions, unpacks, considers, and examines… [she] uses her readable book to advocate for thinking both critically and in great depth as a form of self-protection and self-advocacy.”
Booklist, starred review

“This is a rich and thoughtful book, and Jenkins writes simply and engagingly about a subject on all our minds.”
– The Toronto Star

“The very suggestion love might be administrable is striking . . . Jenkins gets at something I think we all know deep inside but heavily resist, especially when in a relationship. It’s easier to be reasonable about love when you’re out of it.”
The Globe and Mail

“[Jenkins’] purpose is to put us on a path to understanding love; because, she writes, if we understand it, we can control it, and then change it . . . This is the potential future to which Jenkins alludes in her subtitle: we can make love more accepting. We can choose our own path while allowing other paths to take shape around us. Jenkins is hopeful that, with understanding, love can be whatever it wants to be.”
– The National Post

“Anyone feeling disenchanted or discomforted by the itchy constraints of traditional, heteronormative, monogamous, pair-bonded, procreative, romantic love will be well-served to read Jenkins’ accessible and incisive treatise on what love is. Within her argumentation is a well-placed critique of the misogyny and heterosexism woven throughout traditional philosophical and scientific discourse on love. Through a feminist lens, she studies these biases and reveals their links to contemporary beliefs about love and relationships, highlighting how these constructs ultimately constrain expressions of affection from the many possible configurations that, for some, may be more satisfying than the monolithic norm of monogamous, heterosexual love. Hers is a readable, entertaining, and poignant commentary on the current state of thinking, sure to ignite passionate conversation while working to dissolve the artificial boundaries limiting our experience of love.”
—Meredith L. Chivers, Associate Professor of Psychology, Queen’s University

 “This is a remarkable book, philosophically rich but also personal in a way that is rare.  It uses the almost cliched question what love is to draw the reader into a fascinating multidisciplinary exploration, drawing from science, history, philosophy, and politics.  It’s highly accessible to any reader, yet it also makes important original philosophical points—an extraordinary combination.  It’s a great introduction not just to its topic, but to what philosophy can be at its finest: rigorously argued and yet deeply relevant to the most important issues in our lives.”
—Jennifer M. Saul, Professor of Philosophy, University of Sheffield

 “Is love biological? Is love a social construct? Is it both? Does it matter? For anyone who thinks he or she “knows” what love is—or who insists it’s a mystery we can’t know and shouldn’t even try—Carrie Jenkins’ provocative, well-researched and highly enjoyable What Love Is and What it Could Be is a must-read. Jenkins gently but thoroughly strips away any preconceived notions of romantic love and instead offers the promise of a broader, more inclusive and, yes, more loving version of love.”
— Vicki Larson, journalist and co-author of The New I Do: Reshaping Marriage for Skeptics, Realists and Rebels

“This book is an invitation to think for yourself about what romantic love is and might be. Carrie Jenkins writes with great clarity and openness about a concept that matters to us all.”
—Nigel Warburton, author of A Little History of Philosophy


Basic Books, Spring 2017

Other books by Carrie Ichikawa Jenkins