Fans Of New York Times's "Modern Love" Column Will Fall Head-Over-Heels For These 16 Books
Since October of 2004 readers have been flocking to the New York Times — not for the latest breaking scoop or political analysis (which the daily has been printing since all the way back in September of 1851) but for the Times’ weekly Modern Love column. A highlight of the Fashion & Style section (at least, IMO) Modern Love features reader-submitted essays about navigating the ups and downs of love — often romantic, but not always — in our modern world. And, good news for Modern Love super-fans: a number of these 1500-word essays (approximately one in 10) have gone on to become books inspired by the Modern Love column.
Part of the appeal of Modern Love — other than the fact that we humans have been obsessed with love since long before even Shakespeare was a glimmer in his father’s eye — is the column’s no-anonymity policy, resulting in authentic, quirky, straight-forward, and genuine storytelling that tackles everything from adoption and illness to online dating and divorce, mid-life crises and long-distance relationships to unexpected deaths and unplanned (or, equally, over-planned) pregnancies. And that’s just scratching the surface.
Here are 16 books to read if you love the New York Times' Modern Love column — and seriously, who doesn’t?
'Without a Map' by Meredith Hall
Modern Love column: I Gave Him Up At 16. Could We Try Again?
Inspired by the Modern Love column that shared Meredith Hall’s story of reconnecting with the son she put up for adoption when she was 16-years-old, her memoir Without a Map begins with that unexpected pregnancy, and takes readers through the raw, terrifying, bruising, and inspiring journey that followed. After being kicked out of her mother’s house, Hall is taken in by her father and stepmother until her son’s birth and adoption. Hall then sets out on a soul-searching journey through the Middle East, grief-filled, broke, and alone. Years after Hall returns to the United States — and 21 years after she put her son up for adoption — the two reconnect in difficult, emotional, and sometimes surprising ways.
'Never Tell Our Business to Strangers' by Jennifer Mascia
Modern Love column: Never Tell Our Business to Strangers
Jennifer Mascia’s column, Never Tell Our Business to Strangers, is one of the more unique and unlikely Modern Love columns ever run — telling the story of how her parents met: her mother a high school English teacher in a correctional facility and her father an inmate, and their subsequent life on the run from her father’s criminal past (and sometimes, present.) Her memoir, of the same title, takes readers through Mascia’s seemingly magical childhood, albeit one with the long-buried horrors of her father’s true crimes, which Mascia must learn to reconcile with her image of the man she loved growing up.
'This Is Not The Story You Think It Is' by Laura A. Munson
Modern Love column: Those Aren’t Fighting Words, Dear
In Laura A. Munson’s Modern Love column, Those Aren’t Fighting Words, Dear, her husband has decided he wants to leave her — but she doesn’t buy it. Her subsequent memoir, This Is Not The Story You Think It Is, dives deeper. Challenged with her own unmet mid-life expectations, Munson has decided to surrender to life’s twists and turns, and find joy amidst the suffering, even when that suffering involves her husband repeatedly telling her he no longer loves her. Though months of patience and giving her husband space to make his own way through his own pain, Munson manages to keep her family intact while never giving way to the despair that is sometimes easier than the necessarily emotional work of surviving mid-life and thriving beyond.
'Lost Stars' by Lisa Selin Davis
Modern Love column: What Lou Reed Taught Me About Love
A rare YA title to follow a successful Modern Love column — one about young love, rough summers, and the power of classic rock — Lost Stars by Lisa Selin Davis introduces readers to 16-year-old Carrie, a young science nerd reeling from the death of her older sister, Ginny, who immerses herself in the world of Ginny’s school-skipping, music-obsessed friends. But when Carrie’s father tires of his teen’s wayward coping skills, he enrolls her in a summer work program with the nearby state park. There, Carrie connects deeply to nature, and to a boy named Dean as well.
'I’m the One Who Got Away' by Andrea Jarrell
Modern Love column: A Measure Of Desire
Inspired by a Modern Love column about her husband’s newfound sobriety and the effects of that sobriety on their sex life, Andrea Jarrell’s memoir, I’m The One Who Got Away, (out on September 5) dives into much deeper and unexpected territory. After a childhood spent on the run with her mother, from a physically violent and improbably T.V.-famous father, Jarrell reconnects with the man whose absence marked her childhood — discovering that many of her own life choices were inspired by Jarrell’s desire to prevent a repeat of her mother’s life in her own.
'My Foreign Cities' by Elizabeth Scarboro
Modern Love column: Giving Myself Consent To Let Go
This memoir began with a Modern Love column about Elizabeth Scarboro’s decision to let go of her ex-husband’s Stephen’s sperm, frozen before his death of cystic fibrosis when he was barely 30-years-old. My Foreign Cities takes readers deeper into their touching, exhilarating, and heart-breaking journey — the love and sense of adventure that Scarboro and Stephen shared from the time they met as teens through their brief marriage, with his inevitable death always on the horizon.
'What Shamu Taught Me About Life, Love, and Marriage: Lessons for People from Animals and Their Trainers' by Amy Sutherland
Modern Love column: What Shamu Taught Me About A Happy Marriage
Inspired by the most-shared Modern Love column in New York Times history, Amy Sutherland’s What Shamu Taught Me About Life, Love, and Marriage: Lessons for People From Animals and Their Trainers is a hilarious account of the author’s experience using the techniques she learned from exotic animal trainers to make her husband more agreeable: rewarding behavior she liked, and ignoring behavior she didn’t. The result was a calmer, happier, marriage — and, eventually, Sutherland’s husband caught on, and began using some of the training techniques himself.
'Confessions of a Latter-day Virgin: A Memoir' by Nicole Hardy
Modern Love column: Single, Female, Mormon, Alone
Inspired by a Modern Love that had readers buzzing and sharing — about going to Planned Parenthood, while still a virgin at 35 — Nicole Hardy’s memoir, Confessions of a Latter-Day Virgin tells the story of Hardy’s experience as a single woman in the Mormon church and in the larger world: her desire not to parent isolating her from marriage in the church, and her late-life virginity making it difficult for her to connect with men outside the church community. So she salsa dances, travels across the country, scuba dives in the Grand Cayman, and begins to find the middle ground between her personal desires and her connection to her faith.
'The Natural Laws of Good Luck: A Memoir of an Unlikely Marriage' by Ellen Graf
Modern Love column: Our Joy Knows No Bounds, Or Lanes
Divorced at 46 and having terrible luck with mid-life love, Ellen Graf takes a crazy leap of faith — traveling to China to meet the equally-lonely brother of a friend, a man with whom she has never communicated or even seen a picture of, and who speaks almost no English. Then, even more improbably, after just weeks they agree to marry. Inspired by the Modern Love column about their crazy courtship, The Natural Laws of Good Luck: A Memoir of an Unlikely Marriage is a hilarious and unbelievably sweet story about a cross-cultural marriage that succeeds despite the unlikeliest of odds.
'The Slippery Year' by Melanie Gideon
Modern Love column: A Diesel Engine Woke Up Our Marriage
Inspired by the Modern Love column about an old camper and rediscovering adventure mid-marriage, Melanie Gideon’s The Slippery Year explores the hilarious, heartwarming, and sometimes inevitably snooze-worthy ups and downs of a life lived alongside someone else. Navigating marriage and motherhood, Gideon embarks on a journey to bring a little zest back into her otherwise routine life in a way that is totally relatable.
'Moonface' by Angela Balcita
Modern Love column: Beneath the Modest Alter Ego, I See My Superhero
Romance and kidney failure don’t exactly go hand in hand — but try telling that to Angela Balcita, author of the memoir Moonface: A True Romance. Inspired by the column that begins with Balcita’s kidney disease during her freshman year of college, takes readers though her dialysis treatment and kidney transplant, and then dives directly into her romance with a man unafraid of her illness, Moonface picks up where Modern Love left off, following Balcita’s 15-plus year illness and kidney donation from her romantic and pragmatic partner, Charlie.
'How to Sleep Alone in a King-Size Bed' by Theo Pauline Nestor
Modern Love column: The Chicken’s in the Oven, My Husband’s Out the Door
How to Sleep Alone in a King-Sized Bed is Nestor’s Modern Love-inspired memoir about life in the wake of divorce. After separating with her husband following one too many gambling mishaps, Nestor finds her life slipping beyond her grasp. With two young daughters to care for, she begins to slowly rebuild that life: her career, her bank account, and eventually her belief in romantic love. Diving into her family’s long legacy of divorce, Nestor discovers the answers to family mysteries she’d not explored before, and begins to understand her own place in the complicated, tumultuous landscape of divorce.
'Wedding Toasts I’ll Never Give' by Ada Calhoun
Modern Love column: The Wedding Toast I'll Never Give
Inspired by the viral New York Times column of a similar name, Ada Calhoun’s Wedding Toasts I’ll Never Give is a memoir of marriage — the ups and downs, highs and lows, successes and failures, exhilaration and boredom, expenses, frustrations, hopes and disappointments and everything in between. Reminding readers that the fairy tale is an illusion and great romance comes with lots of hard work and a whole lot of patience, Calhoun tells stories of her own marriage with wit, honesty, and lots of relatability.
'How to Fall in Love With Anyone' by Mandy Len Catron
Modern Love column: To Fall in Love With Anyone, Do This
After writing a Modern Love column about her own relationship — one that began over the recreated experiment of psychologist Arthur Aron, who succeeded in making two strangers fall in love in his laboratory — Mandy Len Catron’s How to Fall in Love With Anyone is an essay collection about the myriad ways people fall in love and stay in love. Pulling on biological, psychological, sociological, and historical research, Catron’s collection looks at the myths and truths — and the true myths — of romance.
'My Lovely Wife in the Psych Ward' by Mark Lukach
Modern Love column: Out of the Darkness
Inspired by the Modern Love column about his young wife’s yearlong mental illness, Mark Lukach’s My Lovely Wife in the Psych Ward is the deeply passionate account of the couple’s journey through Giulia’s psychotic break and recovery — a journey that would be repeated twice more throughout their marriage, once after the birth of their son, and then again, a few years later. Through it all Lukach explores the fragility of the human mind alongside the resilience of true love and partnership.
'The Bright Hour: A Memoir of Living and Dying' By Nina Riggs
Modern Love column: When a Couch Is More Than a Couch
Written throughout the last months of her life, The Bright Hour is Nina Riggs memoir, inspired by a Modern Love column about purchasing her family a couch in the wake of her terminal cancer diagnosis. Riggs was just 37-years-old when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Within a year the cancer had spread to her bones, and Riggs and her family — a husband and two young sons — learned that it was terminal. Thus begins a journey through motherhood and marriage, love and friendship, as Riggs chronicles the small, everyday beauty found in the life that she has lived, and the time she has left on earth.