Just read: Aziz Ansari's 'Modern Romance'

Just read is a blog where I blog about something I just read. Here are all of the entries. And here are all of the entries that are specifically about books (i.e. IRL books, not like comic books, you know?). And here are all the entries that are specifically about audiobooks which are read by their author.

Well, I'm putting this under my "just read" moniker but... I have to admit that I didn't actually read this book. Aziz Ansari read it to me and I listened. A while ago, I realized that I stopped listening to books on Audible (after having gone through a few late last year) and that I'd amassed something like nine credits without paying attention. So I canceled my subscription and used up all my credits on one specific type of book:

  1. Aziz Ansari - Modern Romance (read by Aziz Ansari)
  2. Tina Fey - Bossypants (read by Tina Fey)
  3. Neil Patrick Harris - Choose Your Own Autobiography (read by Neil Patrick Harris)
  4. B.J. Novak - One More Thing (read by B.J. Novak)
  5. Nick Offerman - Paddle Your Own Canoe (read by Nick Offerman)
  6. Nick Offerman - Gumption (read by Nick Offerman)
  7. Amy Poehler - Yes Please (read by Amy Poehler)
  8. Rainn Wilson - Bassoon King (read by Rainn Wilson)

I theorized that listening to books by funny people, read by those funny people, would be not just funny, but funnier than reading their books on the printed page in my own little voice in the back of my head. So far, this idea has a perfect, 100 percent hit rate (currently one book in). Listening to Aziz Ansari read Modern Romance was enjoyable and funny, as expected -- and beyond the surface level enjoyment, hearing an author read their own work lets you notice emphases, pauses, etc., where the author wants you to notice them, which affects the way you digest their work (in a positive way, IMO). 

It helps that Modern Romance is interesting and well presented, front-to-back. Ansari takes a close look at dating in the digital age, which means he delves deep into how people are using websites like OK Cupid, apps like Tinder, and day-to-day communications like texting and instant messaging to meet new people, plan first dates and throughout their dating lives. He gets deep into things people think about but rarely discuss, like the length of time between text messages, and dissects societal stigmas, like those that have historically been attached to meeting a long-term boyfriend or girlfriend online. Those stigmas, he says, are rapidly disappearing as more and more people meet, date and marry partners they met online.

The book also compares how the current generation is dating compared to our parents or grandparents, and investigates dating cultures around the world in cities like Tokyo, Buenos Aires and Paris. Most of the information throughout Modern Romance was pieced together by a mixture of Ansari's personal experiences, focus groups he conducted from around the country and world, threads in a sub-Reddit he created for the project, research studies by professors and sociologists, and from Ansari picking members of the crowds from his stand-up appearances to share their own stories. His partner in writing the book, sociologist Eric Klinenberg, more than pulls his weight when it comes to this portion of the work.

These mixed sources -- from the most scientific to the most personal -- create a gripping narrative around the issues and topics Ansari dissects. There's never a moment where Ansari is listing so many research studies that your eyes (or ears) begin to glaze over the information, because it's not long before he's applying a ridiculous accent to some person's real-life experience that they told him about in a research group or on stage at a show. He makes up weird voices for these people throughout the audiobook, which is probably a good enough reason for me to recommend that format over the new paperback that's about to be released. Ansari's background in comedy manifests itself regularly, like in one of my favorite quotes:

In a sense, we are all like a Flo Rida song: The more time you spend with us, the more you see how special we are. Social scientists refer to this as the Flo Rida Theory Of Acquired Likability Through Repetition.

Modern Romance also isn't too long. You're never concentrated on one topic for a terribly long time, which keeps the pacing nice and allows you to sit through portions you might find less interesting than others without much fretting. Even when we get into seemingly endless territory like the rise of dating websites and apps, the stories and information are presented in an admirable fashion. More difficult-to-talk-about topics, like "dating fatigue" with these websites and apps or the prevalence of cheating with so many digital options, are presented in an objective light with a surprising amount of research group anecdotes to back them up. 

Overall, I didn't just enjoy the book -- I felt like I learned a lot from it, too. Though I'm in a serious relationship, it was totally obvious how useful all this information would be if I were trying to navigate the world of digital dating; to borrow a favorite word of Ansari's, this book will definitely help bozos learn how to be less bozo-like while trying to meet new people. It made me want to recommend the book to all my single friends, but also to all my married or in-a-relationship friends -- it's just straight-up interesting enough for any person in their 20s, 30s or 40s to find it a good use of time. 

Also, PS: Aziz called me lazy several times throughout this audiobook because I wanted him to read to me rather than me reading this for myself. If Aziz is reading this, which he isn't, I'd like to point out that I'm not lazy; books are just kinda heavy and I need to save my energy for ordering delivery on my iPhone rather than shopping for groceries.

Modern Romance is available as an IRL book and an e-book on Amazon. It's also available on Audible; if you click this link, you can get a free trial of Audible that includes two free audiobooks. Even if you cancel your trial, you'll get to keep these two books. Also: clicking on any of the Amazon links in this post, and purchasing something from them, provides a small percentage kickback to the author of the blog you just read.