It used to be that you could find a suitable mate through family, friends or activities out in the community that brought you in contact with people who shared something in common with you — whether it be a mutual acquaintance or a mutual love of softball. If you were desperate, you could always turn to the classifieds section for some long walks on the beach, pina coladas, and getting caught in the rain.

By comparison, dating in the 21st century is pretty complicated. While some can still find love the old-fashioned way, many of us — particularly those of us who are well north of 40 — are too busy and too tethered to the demands of work, family and always-on technology to do much face-to-face socializing, so we settle instead for social media scrolling.

The same can be said about online dating. Last year alone, 30.4 million Americans used online dating services; almost half say they met or know someone who met a romantic interest using such platforms; and the industry garnered $912 million in revenue. And that was before Covid-19 brought many singles’ love lives to a screeching halt. For some, online dating has become a very literal activity, complete with virtual dates and (let’s admit it) virtual sex.

So how can we best navigate dating in such a strange, new world? We’ve gathered together several books on modern dating, ranging from funny “war stories” to straightforward advice to wonkish takes on finding love in the era of big-data matchmaking. Happy hunting!

Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari and Eric Klinenberg (Penguin) 

There seems to be a theme in much of Ansari’s work: navigating life as a young, single, modern man. His Netflix show, Master of None, explored these themes, delivering thoughtful, funny, and smart takes on race, dating, gender roles and so much more — like First Date,” where Ansari’s character, Dev, goes on multiple Tinder dates that start to blend together. Ansari’s book, Modern Romance, gives an even more in-depth take on what it means to date in our modern world. Combining research and anecdotal evidence, Ansari and collaborator Eric Klinenberg break down romance, from attraction to dating to love. The result is a laugh-out-loud book that’s as unique as it is informative. Rachel Carter

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I Had a Nice Time and Other Lies…: How to Find Love & Sh*t Like That by The Betches (Gallery Books)

Sometimes you just need a little tough love. Enter: The Betches, creators of the popular website In this book, they offer some much-needed dating advice for those single people who find themselves lost in the modern world of Tinder, OKCupid, Hinge, etc. This is not your mother’s self-help book with positive affirmations and subtle advice. No, this guide is for the young, hip and snarky, and it doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to navigating the dating scene. —Rachel Carter

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He Said What?! Tips to Filter Out the Mixed Signals, Scamsters, and Schemers to Find Mr. Right by Katie Beringer (LML Publishing)

When Beringer’s husband passed away from cancer, she was suddenly, sadly, alone for the first time in nearly 30 years. Meanwhile, the world of dating had changed radically. Undeterred, she jumped heart-first into online dating and soon discovered that the road to modern love is paved with many perils for the romantically naive … but there are still marvelous men out there if you are persistent. Beringer’s conversational, witty and somewhat bawdy dating guide chronicles her adventures with scamsters and schemers — men who were looking for money, a hook-up, a green card or something other than love — as well as the tips and tactics she learned along the way to quickly identify and purge these Mr. Wrongs so she could find her Mr. Right. Read our full review here and our interview with the author here.


The Man’s Guide for Online Dating Success by Darel Ison (Gatekeeper Press)

From the other side of the gender equation comes this dating guide. Online apps like Tinder, Match, Bumble, and Coffee Meets Bagel have changed the dating game for men, too. And many can’t make it off the bench. But Ison has been successfully online dating for over 20 years. He has gone on hundreds of dates and made his share of mistakes, so you won’t have to. This book follows his best — and worst — online dating adventures and shares the formula he’s perfected for connecting with women. Ison gives readers advice on mentally and physically preparing for the online dating world. He introduces best practices for the most popular dating sites and apps, helps daters draft a standout profile, and attract women’s attention. Read our full review here.

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Data, A Love Story: How I Cracked The Online Dating Code To Meet My Match by Amy Webb (Plume)

Hilarious, heartwarming and uplifting, this is the tale of one woman’s relentless data crunching in search of her one true love online. After yet another disastrous date, Webb was preparing to cancel her JDate membership when epiphany struck: her standards weren’t too high, she just wasn’t approaching the process the right way. Webb, who specializes in big data, used her knowledge of algorithms and her ability to analyze keywords and photos to hack her online dating profile — with surprising results. Then began the deluge — dozens of men who actually met her own stringent requirements wanted to meet her. Among them: her future husband, now the father of her child.

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The Romantic Economist: A Story of Love and Market Forces by William Nicolson (Atria)

Nicolson, a young British student of economics, decides to apply economic principles to his floundering love life. Having been dumped again for perhaps being too eager, too emotionally available, Nicolson is convinced that principles such as supply and demand, or game theory, can turn him into a more date-able man. The book is not exactly a formula for success in relationships, but it is a rather sweet story of a man who tries to make sense of his dating life, and what he learns along the way. It will surely get you thinking about how you approach relationships, and how you might change that approach in the future. —Melissa Duclos

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