There are few things in life more frustrating than realizing how clever someone else is.

Imagine being the guy that went to school with the kid that went on to invent the zipper. Sure, you’re happy—you’ve got a family, nice job, maybe even a 401k and season tickets to an MLS team of your choice—but you’re not the zipper guy.

The same applies for the best friend of the guy who invented those plastic things on the end of shoelaces (they’re called aglets, by the way… who knew?)

The common thread here, along with clever, is simple. Albert Einstein’s pals aren’t pissed off that they didn’t figure out the theory of relativity first. It’s about something, when encountered, you knew you had the brainpower to have thought of… but that you never would’ve.

Honestly, that was my first thought when I came across Aaron Goldfarb’s Guides. There’s two of them, one a Guide for the Single Man and, naturally, the other a Guide for the Single Woman. As the book’s opening so eloquently puts it, either book is “not a sequel, not a prequel, but an equal” and “can be read in either order or completely by themselves in order to learn the full story of two men and two women, and one night New York.”

I read that before I dug into both books and thought, “Fuck, that’s a great idea.”

I was annoyed, not at the idea (which, beautifully, is both very clever and very simple), but that I hadn’t thought of it and that I likely never would have.

…Before we go any further—let me just say this: yes, this review is for both books. Technically, as Goldfarb (or his publishers) have pointed out they are separate entities but you’re wasting your time if you don’t think you’re going to read one without the other. Carry on…

Each story follows one of two groups of friends, Les and Devin or Erin and Cheryl. Both start out the same—Les and Erin are fresh out of relationships and have sought out the companionship of their longtime buddies, their single partners-in-crime Devin and Cheryl, for a night on the town to booze away all that ails.

Both friends, Devin and Cheryl, attempt to use the night to teach their respective friend a thing or two. Devin, in many ways your stereotypical know-it-all lothario with a quick answer and even quicker story for everything, is desperately trying to explain to his broken-hearted pal Les what he’s been doing wrong all his life as it pertains to women. Cheryl, on the other hand, is trying to inform her newly single bud of all that comes with being a single woman, and how to do it best.

As you’d expect, their respective bar crawls intertwine and nights intersect. We learn more and more about each pairing—where they came from, how they got here and where they’re going—but that’s not the gem of these books.

In fact, even the surprise twist towards the end of each isn’t the best part (though, in fairness, it is a good one).

What makes these guides so fun to read is the ability to learn about the other side’s perspective. Whichever book you start with, the second you begin to read the other, you’ll notice all the droppings you missed. The clues, the hints, the overlapping stories and—better still—the opposing perspectives you hadn’t even considered and in most stories never get the chance to hear from.

Goldfarb does a fantastic job of weaving the stories together, despite keeping them under separate titles.

Sure, there are elements of the plots that are a bit too stereotypical (probably by design) and there are far too many word puns and double entendres for my liking… but it’s a relatable story told in a way I’d yet to read.

You see, we’ve all been around the block a few times when it comes to the fictional dating world. In literature, in film—most of the stories take the shape of a few, pretty recognizable archetypes. That’s not to say they’re not enjoyable. Like pop songs, it may not be hip to like them, but hey, they’re popular for a reason.

With all that said, when someone comes with a fresh take, two books telling the story of one night of dating and love in New York City, I’m in.

So, is it the cleverest thing I’ve ever come across in my whole life?

No, of course not.

But no one said you needed to re-invent the wheel to be clever. Just redefine it a bit.