I read a lot of books and it’s certainly no secret that I’m a self confessed nerd. I love to learn, and I regularly fall deeply into obsession with books and the exploration of ideas that they bring.
I don’t discriminate when it comes to book choice, though I’ve spent a lot of time perusing non-fiction and I’ve been inside out and upside down in the relationship section of self help.
This kind of makes sense, because the majority of my writing revolves around dating. Besides, if I’m going to pitch myself as an expert in relationships and self seduction, I have to know my shit.
The internet is a great place to find opinion pieces (like this one) but to give any informed advice you have to delve further into the origins of something so that your opinions are validated, debunked or defined by fact. Books are great for finding facts; measured, supported and evaluated facts that come from experiments with rats, scientific evidence and sociological findings.
And what does this have to do with relationship status? Love is a battlefield and sometimes you need all the help (fact and/or opinion) you can get to enlighten, empower and educate you.
Whether you’re single, broken hearted, taken or suffering from the intolerable monotony of a boring relationship here’s my favourite relationship-y books that I regularly reference:
Despite his reputation as a candid comedian, Ansari really delivers with Modern Romance. Not only is this book super funny (like laugh out loud funny) it’s culturally relevant and extremely considered and intelligent. Aziz takes on the mammoth task of completing a sociological and ethnographic study about how dating has changed as a result of technology. He goes into a great amount of depth about how our texting habits and changing demographics have impacted the way we view love, and finding a partner. How impatient and judgemental and elitist we’ve become. He cements himself as a proper researcher by taking his hypotheses to both Brazil and Japan to measure and contemplate the difference that culture makes on our experience in love. It’s the perfect amalgamation of fact and funny.
Read if: You want a combination of laughs and learning and if you’re single and want to know how your texting habits help or hinder your dating life.
Nikki Goldstein – Single but Dating
On the opposite end of the scale Dr Nikki Goldstein’s recent exploration of modern dating half divulges her own saucy interactions with men and half comments on the contemporary landscape of dating. While most traditional and heavy science-y or psychological inclined relationship books disregard modern dating experiences like Tinder and casual sex and emotional fuckwittage, Single but Dating embraces its fickleness wholeheartedly. Flaws and all. If this book was translated into fashion it would be your fur or feature piece; determined by trends but kind of sexy.
Read if: You’re single but dating and wondering if it’s normal to have phone sex before you meet someone in the flesh.
John Gray – Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus
This book is old, old school. It’s almost a rite of passage to read this if you’re considering even talking about relationships. Published back in 1992 Men are from Mars is a contemporary relationship manifesto and the metaphors cleverly woven into it by Gray have been replicated and recontextualised as the basis for many other pop culture pieces; film, art works, theatre, music.
Whilst Gray’s writing is based heavily on the stereotypes of men and women as different species because of our observed psychological profiles. The examples work for the point of the exercise; to highlight our differences so that we can better understand even when we cannot empathise. Gray explores such concepts as why men retreat and why women over deliver and feel unfulfilled. Although he does lean heavily on extreme examples and typifying behaviours it provides valuable insight into the fluctuating landscape of a relationship with more of a balanced view.
Read if: You really want to understand the psychological differences between men and women and their behaviours.
Gary Chapman – The 5 Languages of Love
This has a really ugly cover and looks like it’s come from a biblical book store so it makes sense that it may be off putting. Bear with me. This book and the concept behind it, I believe, has the potential to unlock the inability of men and women (in relationships) to really understand one another. It’s fairly common knowledge that men and women struggle to see eye to eye. A lot of this can be put down to our chemical and hormonal differences, but when it comes to behavioural issues Chapman has it nailed. He suggests that each individual gives and receives love in one of five ways. There are five love languages and each person connects with one more than the other four. Without this knowledge it’s extremely easy to misdirect our love and cause a relationship to break down through ‘lack of understanding.’ When this concept clicks – my god does the penny drop, and it will potentially change your whole outlook of a relationship. It’s an easy read and Chapman makes the learnings accessible through the use of relatable examples from his work.
Read if: You’re in a relationship and you’re constantly clashing with your partner about your needs and wants.
Daniel Bergner – What do Women Want
This book is extremely science nerdy but insightful and captivating. If you want to get intimately acquainted with the neurological differences between men and women and how this affects their interactions with the opposite sex then this is your bag.
With a similar context to Ester Perrel’s writing on eroticism and intimacy Bergner investigates female desire, arousal and sexuality.
Eye opening to say the least, Bergner dares to question common taboos like rape fantasies, the latent female desire, female Viagra (!) and the discontent of monogamy. There’s a few parts of the book that get heavy on the ‘we did these tests on rats’ type talk but hang in there because the outcomes and evaluations are delivered with a provocative rawness that you won’t find anywhere else.
Read if: You love to delve deep into the ‘why’, as supported by scientific evidence and crazy lab tests and can draw your own conclusions. Not for the fainthearted.
Zoe Foster – Text Book Romance
Textbook Romance was a major catalyst and fundamental pillar of knowledge in conceptualising ideas for my own writing (and book). It’s relevant, charismatic and encouraging. All young women should read it at least once. Flagged as the contemporary (Australian) version of The Rules, (ancient dating warfare manifesto) Textbook Romance delivers straightforward advice about everyday brain farts like ‘When should I text back?’, ‘What to do when he does nothing?’ and ‘When should I move in with my boyfriend?’ Foster gives a fantastic overview of the big picture (mental, emotional, spiritual and romantic) and poignant insight into the way women think and feel. She’s a strict purveyor of her modern day dating rules but it’s not without relevance, as she smoothly (and humorously) guides the reader into knowing her worth, elegantly bagging a date, boyfriend and eventually, life partner.
Read if: You’re a woman and want to learn to navigate the dating world in a more savvy way.
Esther Perel – Mating in Captivity
In my eyes Esther Perel is a goddess. She’s intelligent, articulate, savvy and transcends all preconceived notions of everything we’ve ever believed about men, women and our individual types of desire. A contemporary and educational authority on topics like sexuality, eroticism, desire, love and distance she paints a unique picture of partnership. Mating in Captivity focuses on the two contraindicating issues of eroticism and intimacy and how we struggle to straddle the internal demands for security whilst indulging our inherent sexuality. She discusses how humans strive to fulfil the need for closeness and security but in doing so smother our inherently animalistic and fundamental desires for eroticism as played out via sex.
Read if: You’re captivated by the notion of sex, your sex drive and anything to do with mental, emotional or physical turn on’s. Not for those who are particularly tied to the more traditional conventions of relationships.