Book Review: "Modern Romance" by Aziz Ansari and Eric Klinenberg

Modern RomanceAziz Ansari’s book, Modern Romance, came out this past Tuesday—something I’ve been anticipating since watching a commercial for the book on YouTube two weeks ago (watch it here). “Hi, my name’s Mike, and if you’re sitting there watching this tape smoking your cigarette, well, hit the fast forward button ‘cause I don’t smoke and I don’t like people who do smoke.” Sold.

Anyway, as Aziz says in the commercial, Modern Romance is not a book of humor essays, but something “much deeper, much more engrossing.” And honestly, it was so gripping that I read most of it on my way to a wedding this past weekend (appropriate, I know). Aziz teamed up with sociologist Eric Klinenberg of NYU to compile a huge body of research, gathering interviews, focus groups, and empirical data from other researchers to analyze love in this technological age. They explore romance in different areas of the world as well as online dating, texting, sexting, the paradox of choice, cheating via technology (shout out to Anthony Weiner!), and much more. Also, there are graphs! Lots of graphs!

Not only is Modern Romance incredibly well researched, as evidenced by the citations at the end of the book, but it is also hilarious. I could only read it in Aziz’s voice: “Unlike phone calls, which bind two people in real-time conversations that require at least some shared interpretation of the situation, communication by text has no predetermined temporal sequencing and lots of room for ambiguity. Did I just use the phrase “predetermined temporal sequencing”? Fuck yeah, I did.” There is room for both academic terminology and jest, which is seriously awesome and doesn’t make the book some droning research paper that no one wants to read.

Admittedly, I felt a bit self-conscious reading this book in public because of big bold letters of things like “ARE WE 'HANGING OUT' OR GOING OUT ON A DATE?” and “THE PROBLEMS WITH ONLINE DATING.” It was like a marquee screaming READ ME! I’m sure someone saw one of these section titles and thought, That poor girl is reading a self help book about romance. I hope she finds someone someday.

It never crossed my mind that I could read this book and it would give me some things to think about in my own dating life, as I was really just interested in the social science of it all, but Modern Romance has given me things to consider. I think so many people should read this book—fans of Aziz, fans of Klinenberg, anyone looking for a lover in this day and age (or just connection in general), pop scientists, Millennials, everyone. Not everyone actually, but still, I really want you to read this book.

Leslie Michaels is currently a Level 3 improv student at the DCH Training Center. She spends her spare time riding her bicycle, playing Ultimate Frisbee, or hanging out with her boyfriend, Netflix. She still questions whether she’s a dog person or a cat person.