As a self-professed mega-fan of rom-com novels and films, I was thrilled when Amazon announced their upcoming Modern Love TV series, based on the long-running New York Times Modern Love column. Premiering on Oct. 18, the series boasts a star-studded cast (Anne Hathaway, Tina Fey, Dev Patel and Andrew Scott are just four of the show's featured actors) and will feature eight anthology-style episodes about love in all of its many forms — romantic, familial, platonic, sexual, and for oneself. Whether you're a long-time reader of Modern Love or are just discovering the column, now is the perfect time to catch up on some of the greatest essays before the show premieres.
In the revised and updated version of the Modern Love book (first published in 2007) editor Daniel Jones compiled 42 of the columns best essays. In his introduction to the book, Jones writes:
"I suppose if we are going to try to define what a love story is, we should begin by defining what love is, but that can be even more slippery. Our definitions of love, too, tend toward the flowery treatment. From where I sit, however -- as someone who has read, skimmed, or otherwise digested some one hundred thousand love stories over the past fifteen years -- love, at its best, is more of a wheelbarrow than a rose: gritty, and messy but also durable. Yet still hard to put into words."
Below are seven of my favorite of the 42 essays that appear in the Modern Love book, a great refresher for seasoned readers and a perfect precursor to the series for new fans, too:
'You Might Want to Marry My Husband' by Amy Krouse Rosenthal
In this March 2017 column (published just 10 days before she died of ovarian cancer at age 51) author Amy Krouse Rosenthal wrote a moving letter to her husband, Jason Rosenthal, in the hopes of finding him a new partner:
"Here is the kind of man Jason is: He showed up at our first pregnancy ultrasound with flowers. This is a man, who, because he is always up early, surprises me every Sunday morning by making some kind of oddball smiley face out of items near the coffee pot: a spoon, a mug, a banana. This is a main who emerges from the minimart or gas station and says, 'Give me your palm.' And voila, a colorful gum ball appears. (He knows I love all the flavors but white.) My guess is you know enough about him now. So let's swipe right."
'The Race Grows Sweeter Near Its Final Lap' by Eve Pell
Although Eve Pell's Jan. 2013 essay has not been officially confirmed as part of the Modern Love series, clues from the trailer highly suggest its inclusion. In it, Pell wrote of her late-in-life marriage to a Japanese American widower named Sam:
"Old love is different. In our 70s and 80s, we had been through enough of life’s ups and downs to know who we were, and we had learned to compromise. We knew something about death because we had seen loved ones die. The finish line was drawing closer. Why not have one last blossoming of the heart?"
'When Eve and Eve Bit the Apple' by Kristen Scharold
In this Nov. 2016 essay, writer Kristen Scharold wrote about coming out as queer and leaving her Evangelical church when she meets and falls in love with a woman named Jess:
"I felt my cramped religious framework of false dichotomies and moral starkness beginning to collapse. What once seemed like a bleak choice between losing my soul or losing my most cherished friend was in fact a lesson that true love is the only thing that could save me."
'When the Doorman is Your Main Man' by Julie Margaret Hogben
Hogben's Oct. 2015 essay (also seemingly included in the Modern Love series trailer) focused on the unique friendship she shares with her doorman, Guzim, and how his support helped her embark on the journey of single motherhood with courage:
"I became fodder for gossip: Who was the father? Did I dump him, or did he dump me? Valid questions, sometimes asked to my face, sometimes not. But down in the lobby, Guzim was there with no dog in the race. I wasn’t his daughter, sister or ex. I wasn’t his employee or boss. Our social circles didn’t overlap. Six days a week, he stood downstairs, detached but also caring enough to be the perfect friend, neither worried nor pitying."
'Rallying to Keep the Game Alive' by Ann Leary
Leary's Sept. 2013 essay about the almost-end and subsequent reunification of her marriage to actor Denis Leary is a moving look at a modern marriage (and another essay that, though currently unconfirmed, also seems to be included in the Modern Love trailer.) She wrote:
"When we met, I was 20, he 25. We were too young and inexperienced to know that people don’t change who they are, only how they play and work with others. Our basic problem was, and is, that we are almost identical — in looks, attitudes and psychological makeup. Two Leos who love children and animals, and are intensely emotional and highly sensitive and competitive with everybody, but especially with each other."
'Now I Need a Place to Hide Away' by Ann Hood
In her Feb. 2017 column, author Ann Hood wrote about The Beatles fandom she shared with her young daughter, Grace, who died suddenly of complications from a virulent form of strep when she was just five years old:
"It is difficult to hide from the Beatles. After all these years they are still regularly in the news. Their songs play on oldies stations, countdowns and best-ofs. There is always some Beatles anniversary: the first No. 1 song, the first time in the United States, a birthday, an anniversary, a milestone, a Broadway show. But hide from the Beatles I must. Or, in some cases, escape."
'Take Me As I Am, Whoever I Am' by Terri Cheney
Terri Cheney's Jan. 2008 essay, which has been confirmed as the inspiration behind the episode of the Modern Love series starring Anne Hathaway, is about the author's experience with rapid-cycling bipolar disorder and how it affected her dating life. Cheney wrote:
"In love there’s no hiding: You have to let someone know who you are, but I didn’t have a clue who I was from one moment to the next. When dating me, you might go to bed with Madame Bovary and wake up with Hester Prynne. Worst of all, my manic, charming self was constantly putting me into situations that my down self couldn’t handle."
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