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The Science of Kissing: What Our Lips Are Telling Us    by Sheril Kirshenbaum order for
Science of Kissing
by Sheril Kirshenbaum
Order:  USA  Can
Grand Central, 2011 (2011)
* * *   Reviewed by Bob Walch

It might be far more than you ever wanted to know about this subject, but Sheril Kirshenbaum delves into every aspect of one of man's most enjoyable activities.

The author explores kissing's history and evolution, its incarnations across species, and its effects on our bodies. The complicated biological and chemical processes that are involved in this act may not interest all readers, but other aspects of the book, such as what makes a great kiss, what not do to when kissing another person and what the future holds for kissing, probably will.

As you delve deeply into osculation, the scientific term for kissing, you'll learn about pheromones, the importance of smell in the act, and the role color and lip size play in making males want to smooch with females.

Humans and other creatures kiss for multiple reasons. Kirshenbaum explains that, 'There are kisses of joy, of passion and lust, of love and endearment, of commitment and comfort, of social grace and necessity, of sorrow and supplication.'

And, just as there are many types of kissing, there are many theories about how kissing may have emerged. Four such theories, with a basis in scientific literature, are discussed in the book. While some of these theories are linked to feeding experiences in early childhood, others touch upon the practice of smelling another individual of the species as a means of recognition.

The most intriguing idea links the behavior of kissing to a complex connection between color vision, sexual desire and the evolution of human lips.

Kirshenbaum , a science writer and regular contributor to NPR's Science Fridays, also has fun with her topic and shares some offbeat trivia she has collected about the topic. Much of this material is highlighted in special boxes at the end of each chapter.

For example, you'll learn that the longest kiss on record dates back to 2005 and lasted 31 hours, 30 minutes, and 30 seconds. Also, in 2009 in Mexico City on Valentine's Day, 39,897 people kissed simultaneously, setting another world record.

For those who feel squeamish about puckering up and sharing a little saliva, there's a name for that fear: philematophobia! And men should pay close attention to this little tidbit: 'Women depend heavily on taste and smell and pay close attention to teeth when evaluating a partner.'

Here's another an interesting little piece of information: A German study found that men who kissed their wives before leaving for work lived, on average, five years longer, earning 20 to 30 percent more than peers who left home without a peck good-bye.

Even more bizarre was this additional finding: 'Not kissing one's wife before leaving in the morning increased the possibility of a car accident by 50 percent.'

With Valentine's Day just around the corner, you might want to get a copy of this book to learn more about this most enjoyable activity and, perhaps, refine your technique!

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