Five minutes after opening Aziz Ansari’s debut book I felt compelled to tweet:
“I started @azizansari’s book expecting to be thoroughly charmed. Then he started talking research methods & data and now I am in love, ok?”
This book didn’t just meet every expectation I had going in, it went so far beyond anything I had imagined that I was blown away.
And that rarely happens.
If you hadn’t already gathered, I am a fan of Aziz Ansari. I was endlessly fascinated by his performance as Tom Haverford in Parks and Recreation, a character who doesn’t have a lot of redeeming qualities, but whose charm Ansari nevertheless managed to bring through.
Tom, you slimy charmer, you.
His stand-up is sharp, smart, and truly contemporary in a way that I have not seen anyone else pull off – Ansari speaks for the social media generation, those of us for whom the internet has simply been a fact of life. He has a distinct voice, one that I really appreciate and find pretty consistently funny. So of course I wanted to read his book.
The good news part one: my expectations were met! Ansari’s authorial voice is clear and present throughout Modern Romance. Although he admits in the introduction that he had been reluctant to write a book, because stand-up is really his medium, his personality and especially his humour have translated seamlessly into the written form – I honestly found myself reading the book in his voice, knowing just the tone he would have delivered many of the lines in. And if the book had only been that, I would have been more than satisfied.
But it was so much more than that.
Modern Romance is a book about the contemporary dating scene, where more and more people are meeting online, and even when we do meet in person, we do most of our communicating through the internet or our phones, by writing instead on talking. This is a major topic of Ansari’s stand-up, also, and so I thought I had a pretty good idea of what I was in for.
But the book is not just an extension or a translation of Ansari’s stand-up material. It is actually the culmination of a multi-year sociological study that Ansari undertook with Eric Klinenberg, examining modern dating behaviours, comparing them to the way dating worked for older generations, and taking in quantitative and qualitative data, all coming together into some very real perspectives and advice on navigating the world of modern romance.
Ansari takes you with him through the research process and findings, speaking always in layperson terms, and injecting his personal brand of humour into the discussions in natural and relatable ways.
It’s a great book, an engaging and enjoyable read, and one that just might make you learn something!
If you’ve read the book, I’d like to know:
- What did you find most surprising about the study’s findings and advice?
- What are your thoughts on Ansari’s combination of humour and social science? Did the comedy add to or take away from the book’s overall content? Were you annoyed by all that data getting in the way of Ansari’s wit? Or did work for you?
- Do you have experience with online dating? Do you feel like the book reflected your experiences?