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Relationship advice is easy to come by. But, just like a partner, good relationship advice can take a little more work to find. A good place to look when seeking advice is literature — but many advice books on the subject of dating and relationships can come off as hopelessly dated. In our post-Me-Too world, a stack of books by pick-up artists doesn’t exactly come off as endearing.
That doesn’t mean that every advice book on dating, sex and relationships is devoid of value. There are many books that provide genuine insights and helpful tips on building real relationships, sustaining the relationships you have and strengthening your sex life. These can start by helping you understand what your needs are or give you the tools to better communicate.
There are also dating and relationship books that can help you understand the modern world of dating and romance, sans the advice. Some books take a psychological look into the world of online dating, for example, while others provide anonymous first-person accounts of love and loss. Either way, these books will hopefully help you understand dating and relationships better.
1. Modern Love, Revised and Updated
A WINDOW INTO OTHER’S EXPERIENCES
Modern Love is the New York Times‘ endlessly popular column where readers submit true stories of their own romantic experiences. It even got turned into a scripted TV show. But if you don’t have a subscription to the Times, this book collects some of the best essays from the series over the course of 15 years. Some stories are heartening, some are heartbreaking, but they all offer an interesting glimpse into the way real people have dealt with love.
2. The 5 Love Languages Singles Edition
THE RESURGENT CLASSIC
The idea of love languages is so ubiquitous that you might have assumed it was created out of thin air like alchemy. But it actually came from this book. If you’ve ever felt like your partner misunderstood you so gravely that it was as if you were speaking a different language, maybe you were. That is, you were speaking different love languages. As The Atlantic explains, the love languages concept has become somewhat warped, such that people focus on their own love language. But author Gary Chapman encourages people to try to understand the love language of their partner. The love languages theory naturally won’t resonate with everyone, but it’s an interesting and enduring angle on relationships.
3. The State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity
If talking about sex in happy relationships can feel taboo, discussing the thorny subject of infidelity can seem completely verboten. This book seeks to rectify that, by exploring a subject that’s both “universally forbidden yet universally practiced.” Author Esther Perel is a psychotherapist, and she takes an informed approach to this thorny subject, using it as a gateway to better understand relationships.
4. Modern Romance
UNDERSTANDING DATING IN THE INTERNET AGE
While this book could have very well been a pithy account of a famous comedian’s own dating life, Aziz Ansari took a decidedly more difficult approach. He teamed up with psychologist Eric Klinenberg to take a deep dive into the world of modern dating, replete with charts and statistics. Of course, Ansari supplies his own humorous angle on the subject, injecting a dose of his own life and experience into the book. Even though it was released in 2015 (Hinge wasn’t even born yet) it still has interesting insights on relationships in the modern age.
5. She Comes First
MODERN SEX ED
When it comes to sex, many men are afraid to ask for help. But when your lessons are learned through woefully inadequate public school sex-ed and websites you open from an incognito browser, it’s understandable to not know everything. This book goes deep — almost obsessively — into cunnilingus and female pleasure. Will this book singlehandedly close the orgasm gap? No. But you have to commend the effort.
6. Questions for Couples Journal
Every couple is different, and this book lets you and your partner do some of the work of understanding each other, instead of just offering blanket prescriptions. This interactive book provides 400 questions for you and your partner to answer. Sure, some of them may feel a little ice-breakery. But they’re interesting and unique enough that you may not have thought to ever ask them. The questions will work for couples at any stage, whether you’re on your third date or third decade.
7. The Joy of Sex
A REVISED CLASSIC
The Joy of Sex is the most famous book on the subject of sex (well, after the Kama Sutra). It was originally published in 1972 and was revolutionary at the time. Unsurprisingly, some parts of the original book are dated in 2020. That’s why the inclusion of a woman’s perspective — as well as someone who’s writing in the internet age — is a vital addition to this classic.
8. Savage Love
Dan Savage may bill himself as America’s most popular sex columnist, but that doesn’t mean he takes anything too seriously. With a witty and irreverent eye, Savage is willing to tackle any sexual subject in his column. This book compiles some of Savage’s favorite essays up to that point. It was published in 1998, so some ideas will certainly be outdated, but Savage’s fearless approach is entertaining today. And his work with LGBT youth through the It Gets Better Project is commendable.
9. All About Love: New Visions
Bell Hooks is a leading feminist author, and this book, originally published in 2000, weaves together her understanding of love with cultural criticism. Ultimately, she asserts that love isn’t passive, arguing that “we would all love better if we used it as a verb.” The book may to some feel didactic or overly broad, but there are insights that hold to today.