Decoding Modern Love: 5 Books on 21st Century Romance

Why monogamy is good for your brain; love stories from 50,000 strangers; the beginner’s guide to online dating—and more

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Love Illuminated

by Daniel Jones; William Morrow


Daniel Jones, editor of The New York Times’s “Modern Love” column, has a number of philosophical questions: Should we actively search for love or leave it up to fate? Is love a feeling or a choice? In search of answers, he recalls some of the estimated 50,000 stories that have crossed his desk. While his collection doesn’t provide solutions, Jones does leave us with something else to ponder: Should we spend our time questioning love—or be content to marvel at it?


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Data, A Love Story: How I Gamed Online Dating to Meet My Match

by Amy Webb; Plume


After multiple miserable dates arranged on, data strategy expert Amy Webb turned to what she knew—numbers. She drafted a points system to rank compatibility and then she set her standards: a score of 700 earned the match a date, and anyone with a score of 1,000 or more was relationship material. It’s an incredibly detail-oriented, painstaking approach to online dating, and it worked—one match scored 1,000 points; they recently married. 


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Love @ First Click

by Laurie Davis; Atria


To find the right man you must first find the right dating site, contends online dating consultant Laurie Davis. She compares websites and offers advice on everything from selecting the perfect profile picture (no selfies, she warns) to safely moving the relationship offline.


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Love Sense

by Dr. Sue Johnson; Little, Brown


While some psychologists might prescribe therapy for the chronically clingy, Dr. Sue Johnson believes our brains are wired for emotional dependency. To prove her theory she cites a recent study that found women considered an electric shock most painful when they experienced the shock alone, slightly less painful when holding a stranger’s hand and least painful when holding their husband’s hand. Because of its pain-relieving benefits, she believes that a secure love is “an ordered and wise recipe for survival.”


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The Science of Happily Ever After

by Ty Tashiro; Harlequin


Ty Tashiro, a relationship expert for the Discovery Network, has bad news for women searching for Mr. Right: statistically, he will be very hard to find. For example, only 2 in 10 men are 6 feet tall or taller. Of those 10 men, only one would likely be considered “attractive.” Add in an income or education requirement and a woman looking for a tall, attractive, wealthy man will have a tough time finding a match. Rather than searching for one of these standard qualities, Tashiro suggests zeroing in on three traits (openness, conscientiousness and agreeableness, perhaps) will not only lead to a wider pool of options, but also to a more fulfilling long-term relationship.


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Next: 3 Books to Read in February 

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