Over the course of my lifetime, several noteworthy relationship guides have emerged from a generally uninspiring landscape. In the early ’90s, it was MEN ARE FROM MARS, WOMEN ARE FROM VENUS. If you came of age in the early aughts, you had HE’S JUST NOT THAT INTO YOU. Until now, that was my personal bible on matters of the heart (it’s EMPOWERING, okay?). But then, on a sunny day in June 2015, came the relationship book to end all relationship books: Aziz Ansari’s MODERN ROMANCE.
Ansari blew my mind with his fresh meditation on dating, so accurate and affirming of all my trials and tribulations navigating the harrowing dating scene in New York City, that it brought me to tears. Well, maybe not real tears, but my eyes were definitely watering as I attempted to hold back audible snorts of laughter while reading it on the subway.
For millennials—and people of all ages looking for love in the crazy, mixed-up world of booty-calling, swiping right, and the undue anxiety caused by a disappearing text bubble (this is a real phenomenon, folks)—Aziz Ansari has emerged as our unlikely champion.
He teams up with renowned sociologist Eric Klinenberg to mine fascinating data from people across the globe, and delivers this information with his signature wit. There is some really intriguing stuff here: statistical differences in how we have met our mates from generation to generation (before 1950, a shockingly high percentage of couples lived just blocks apart from each other before marrying) and anecdotal data about how dating culture varies from country to country (in Japan, where the birthrate, coming in at 222 out of 224 countries, the government incentivizes mixers and other events that encourage dating among younger generations).
Coupled with eye-catching graphics and stories from Ansari’s own dating life, this book achieves the impossible: it manages to be both highly informative and wildly entertaining.
The evolution of Ansari from run-of-the-mill goofball to love guru has been startling, but not altogether unexpected. His recent stand-up routines have included a popular bit in which he provides hilarious and insightful analyses of audience members’ text exchanges with potential paramours. Ansari’s hugely popular Netflix original series, “Master of None,” presents yet another new medium for the exploration of dating in the digital world. But to me, MODERN ROMANCE stands out from the rest as Ansari’s magnum opus.
If you’ve ever been single and frustrated by the embarrassment of riches presented by the online dating scene, this book will reassure you that you’re not alone in the struggle. Ansari even delivers a closing message of hope for those who have been unlucky in love: “History shows that . . . no matter the obstacle, we keep finding love and romance.” In other words: soldier on, my friends. Love could be just a swipe away.
Hilary Krutt is a former Off the Shelf staff writer. You can follow her on Twitter @Hkrutt.