An “enticing . . . elegant and stylish” biography of the ancient Hindu manuscript that became the world’s most famous sex manual (The New York Review of Books) The Kamasutra is one of the world’s best-known yet least understood texts, its title instantly familiar but its contents widely misconstrued as a how-to guide of acrobatic sexual techniques. Yet the book began its life in third-century India as something quite different: a vision of a life of urbane sophistication, with advice on matters from friendship to household decoration. Celebrated, then neglected, the Kamasutra was very nearly lost—until an outrageous adventurer brought it to the West, earning literary immortality. In lively, lucid prose, James McConnachie provides a rare look at the exquisite civilization that produced this cultural cornerstone. He details the quest of explorer Richard Burton, who—with his coterie of libertines—unleashed the Kamasutra on Victorian society as a slap at its prudishness. And he describes the Kamasutra’s exile to the pornographic underground, until the end of the Lady Chatterley obscenity ban thrust it once more into contentious daylight. The first work to tell the full story of the Kamasutra, The Book of Love explores how a way of looking at the world came to be cradled between book covers—and survived.