Aziz Ansari & Eric Klinenberg
4 / 5
"Oh, shit! Thanks for buying my book. That money is MINE. But I worked really hard on this, and I think you'll enjoy it."
A hilarious, thoughtful, and in-depth exploration of the pleasures and perils of modern romance from one of this generation’s sharpest comedic voices
At some point, every one of us embarks on a journey to find love. We meet people, date, get into and out of relationships, all with the hope of finding someone with whom we share a deep connection. This seems standard now, but it’s wildly different from what people did even just decades ago. Single people today have more romantic options than at any point in human history. With technology, our abilities to connect with and sort through these options are staggering. So why are so many people frustrated?
Some of our problems are unique to our time. “Why did this guy just text me an emoji of a pizza?” “Should I go out with this girl even though she listed Combos as one of her favorite snack foods? Combos?!” “My girlfriend just got a message from some dude named Nathan. Who’s Nathan? Did he just send her a photo of his penis? Should I check just to be sure?”
But the transformation of our romantic lives can’t be explained by technology alone. In a short period of time, the whole culture of finding love has changed dramatically. A few decades ago, people would find a decent person who lived in their neighborhood. Their families would meet and, after deciding neither party seemed like a murderer, they would get married and soon have a kid, all by the time they were twenty-four. Today, people marry later than ever and spend years of their lives on a quest to find the perfect person, a soul mate.
For years, Aziz Ansari has been aiming his comic insight at modern romance, but for Modern Romance, the book, he decided he needed to take things to another level. He teamed up with NYU sociologist Eric Klinenberg and designed a massive research project, including hundreds of interviews and focus groups conducted everywhere from Tokyo to Buenos Aires to Wichita. They analyzed behavioral data and surveys and created their own online research forum on Reddit, which drew thousands of messages. They enlisted the world’s leading social scientists, including Andrew Cherlin, Eli Finkel, Helen Fisher, Sheena Iyengar, Barry Schwartz, Sherry Turkle, and Robb Willer. The result is unlike any social science or humor book we’ve seen before.
In Modern Romance, Ansari combines his irreverent humor with cutting-edge social science to give us an unforgettable tour of our new romantic world.
It me took forever to read this book! Or rather, it took US forever to read this book: I audiobooked it with Troy, and we started it when it was released back in June. But we tend to audiobook together only when we are taking long drives (and very occasionally, long walks), so we picked it up and put it down so many times! Luckily, it was pretty easy to do that, since this didn't have a continuous storyline - just a bunch of interesting chapters.
So I started listening to the audiobook (which, by the way, is an entirely different experience from the book - Ansari loves to talk to his listeners in asides, especially about how lazy we are for audiobooking!) because I always love to hear authors read their own work wherever possible. But I hit "pause" quickly - I realized that Troy would also love to listen with me, as we were both huge fans of Parks & Rec, and this was a different sort of celebrity book: instead of memoir, it was a study, and I knew that would appeal to us both. So be began to listen together, which then caused a 6 hour book to end up taking us 4 months to finish! Haha.
It might have also taken us so long to read because we were constantly pausing to discuss one point or another! It was a great conversation kindler. Ansari and Klinenberg study people from all ages and walks of life - from an old folks' home in Brooklyn to love hotels in Japan. They explore the world of online dating, of texting (and sexting!), and the huge changes that have taken place both in marriage expectations and in courting rituals in the past hundred years. It was fascinating to consider everything they studied. And Ansari infused the entire thing with his trademark wit, which made even parts that might possibly have come off as dry into humorous episodes!
I think this is a great book for our generation to read: it is important to remember we're all in this very odd, unprecedented moment of coupling together. You're not alone if you've received unsolicited "dick pics" or broken up with someone over texts. It's a strange new world we live in, and one where we are so much more conscious of our choices. Sometimes this can be overwhelming, but it is nice to know we're (mostly) all aiming for love rather than just settling down with some kid from the neighborhood. Or doing it for the donuts.
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