Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “On the Nature of Human Romantic Interaction” as Want to Read:
On the Nature of Human Romantic Interaction
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

On the Nature of Human Romantic Interaction

3.65 of 5 stars 3.65  ·  rating details  ·  152 ratings  ·  27 reviews
Winner of the Paris Review Discovery Prize for best first fiction and anthologized in The Best American Short Stories 2002, Karl Iagnemma has been recognized as a writer of rare talent. His literary terrain is the world of science, with its charged boundary between the rational mind and the restless heart. In Iagnemma's stories, mathematicians and theoreticians, foresters ...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published June 29th 2004 by Dial Press Trade Paperback (first published 2003)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about On the Nature of Human Romantic Interaction, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about On the Nature of Human Romantic Interaction

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 309)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Judging from the jacket blurb and trade reviews, this book managed to attract a certain amount of publicity when it first appeared, by claiming the "geek engineer writes about human emotions" slot. "Strong first collection from a robotics researcher who knows that ... heart is as important as math" gushed Kirkus Reviews. Other reviews just couldn't steer clear of their own math metaphors (though they really should have): "Iagnemma's fiction can make even the most ardent math-hater appreciate the ...more
Xujun Eberlein
Read my review of this book on
I had heard of this book on PBS and it seemed like it was beeing (over)hyped simply because it was written by a science nerd and not an artsy lit type. "How curious, that scientist is trying to make art! Let's watch." I didn't want to read something because it was "good, for an engineer". I'd rather read something that was just good.
Anyway, my parents got it for me for my birthday. In the end, I'd say it is a solid collection of stories and worth reading but I don't think it would be getting as
Bri Ana
Iagnemma's writing is at it's most delicate and humane within the title story of a academic trying to make sense of longing through mathematical theory and again when this formula is revisited in "Zilowski's Theorem."

The rest of the stories are unremarkable, reliant on historical context rather than content.
I felt traumatized and disillusioned with women after reading this book.
Some good, some not so good. One of the highlights was definitely "Kingdom, Order, Species," a great story about a wayward forester and her quest to find the researcher that led her to forestry. The title story was the best tale in the collection and what led me to the book in the first place. I liked hearing about young academics, seeing their passion for their studies adjacent to their amorous malfunctions.

Unfortunately, the stories concerning colonial settlements were simply less engaging. "C
Bill Gray
Karl Iagnemma is one of those rare folk who excels simultaneously in the arts and in science. His short stories enjoy serious critical consideration, and he is also an MIT graduate working in robotics. The stories are meditations, as the title says, on the nature of human romantic interaction. They are eminently readable and uniquely constructed.
Jun 11, 2007 Carrie marked it as to-read
I learned about him from Nova and I've been using the PBS segment in my freshman writing class to introduce my students to the idea of being "wholly brained", that some of us aren't just either logical or creative, but rather, a combination of the two. Iagnemma works at MIT creating robots that explore Mars, but I'm interested to see what his heroic couplets sound like.

Here's the segment:
Brie Klein-fowler
Impressive collection of short stories. Don't look for a happy ending here, but prepare to thoughtfully examine men of women in science in love. As the wife of an engineer, I appreciate the dichotomy of science and romance in a series of poignant stories.

Perfect read on a cold, snowy day as most of the stories are set in Upper Michigan on bone chilling days.
I only read this for one short story, "The Phrenologist's Dream," since some of my research is on 19th century British phrenology. Amusing. Nothing brilliant (although it is an interesting concept to write "love stories" from within a scientific perspective, as all of the stories in this collective are).
Christina Aguilar
there are 8 stories in the book. i only liked 3. they're supposed to be emo, but i somehow found it hilarious when the narrators talk about how they're failures at love. the other 5 are just weird and disappointing and did not make any sense to me. one of the narrators is a failed engineer :)
This is an absolute favorite book. A group of short stories that give incite into the intersection between romantic love and love of science in usual and quirky ways. I love it's uniqueness and it's take on passion. Each story feels very different so it's like many books in one.
Mary Mcinnis Meyer
This book is written by a man with the aptitude for roaming both Mars itself (hello genius robot guy) and men from Mars and women from Venus. The perfect example of the rare, left-right brain. I've got a penchant for this kind of thing. Yes. Just a huge effing yes.
i can't even remember what made me pick up this book in a bookstore. i was in a strange mood that day. it had just come out. i was surprised by it and totally loved it, though perhaps it may seem a bit strange to some and a little bit of a quirky read.
I really enjoyed these short stories, they were bizarre. I had learned of the author and his book while watching television, apparently the author is a mechanical enineer and this books proves that someone with a scientific mathematical mind can be creative!
fantastically geeky stories. on maybe the third page you're provided a venn diagram and some math equations describing love. very precise descriptions and observations in the romantic relationships of his characters
A couple duds (the colonial settlement story confused and bored me, frankly), but the rest make up for it by far. Must read. My favorite is "The Confessional Approach," but I lingered on each of them heavily.
Editrix (Amy Lewis)
I enjoyed this more than I was expecting to. The language was nuanced, and at times downright lovely, and the mix of historical fiction with contemporary settings consistently held my interest.
Stephen Dorneman
Lyrical short stories, about love, loss, and... science, by a great writer who happens to also be an MIT research scientist, perfectly bridging C.P.Snow's Two Cultures. Read this book.
Lacy Phillips
Fantastic series of short stories drawing from many disparate disciplines of science and many eras of history. I am in awe of the author's range.
Beautiful short stories. Even though the theme and even basic plotting of the stories was really similar, each one still felt fresh.
Sean Woznicki
Not a lot of character depth, but definitely love discussed from a unique perspective: through the eyes of scientists and mathematicians.
"This is an indisputable fact: there are many, many people around here who love things that will never love them back."
wonderful short stories by MIT engineer, all with backdrop of science and mathematics
I really liked this book, the short stories were really nerdy but interesting.
Caitlin Zera
Lovely book
Pretty boring.
Tammy Korolnek
Tammy Korolnek marked it as to-read
Jul 26, 2015
Frank Liang
Frank Liang marked it as to-read
Jul 12, 2015
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The Varieties of Romantic Experience
  • Novels and Other Writings : The Dream Life of Balso Snell / Miss Lonelyhearts / A Cool Million / The Day of the Locust / Letters (Library of America)
  • Stained Glass Elegies
  • Animal Crackers
  • Descent of Man: Stories
  • A Bit on the Side
  • Red Ant House: Stories
  • The Springs of Affection
  • Harmony of the World: Stories
  • Pu-239 And Other Russian Fantasies
  • Transactions in a Foreign Currency
  • India's Unending Journey: Finding balance in a time of change
  • My Life in Heavy Metal: Stories
  • Half in Love: Stories
  • The Book of Samson
  • Bear and His Daughter
  • A Model World and Other Stories
  • Under the Red Flag: Stories
Karl Iagnemma was raised in suburban Detroit and attended the University of Michigan, where he studied mechanical engineering and began writing fiction. He did graduate work in robotics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and wrote much of his first book, On the Nature of Human Romantic Interaction, as a Ph.D. student. His short stories have received numerous awards, including the Paris ...more
More about Karl Iagnemma...
The Expeditions Mobile Robots in Rough Terrain: Estimation, Motion Planning, and Control with Application to Planetary Rovers Expeditions (Les) The DARPA Urban Challenge: Autonomous Vehicles in City Traffic Field and Service Robotics: Results of the 7th International Conference

Share This Book

“This is an indisputable fact: there are many, many people around here who love things that will never love them back.” 8 likes
“I made a quick calculation: a 180-pound man, falling thirty feet under an acceleration of 32.2 feet per second square—I drew the shade and turned away from the window and closed my eyes.” 1 likes
More quotes…