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The Rosie Project

A Novel



About The Book

The international bestselling romantic comedy “bursting with warmth, emotional depth, and…humor,” (Entertainment Weekly) featuring the oddly charming, socially challenged genetics professor, Don, as he seeks true love.

The art of love is never a science: Meet Don Tillman, a brilliant yet socially inept professor of genetics, who’s decided it’s time he found a wife. In the orderly, evidence-based manner with which Don approaches all things, he designs the Wife Project to find his perfect partner: a sixteen-page, scientifically valid survey to filter out the drinkers, the smokers, the late arrivers.

Rosie Jarman possesses all these qualities. Don easily disqualifies her as a candidate for The Wife Project (even if she is “quite intelligent for a barmaid”). But Don is intrigued by Rosie’s own quest to identify her biological father. When an unlikely relationship develops as they collaborate on The Father Project, Don is forced to confront the spontaneous whirlwind that is Rosie―and the realization that, despite your best scientific efforts, you don’t find love, it finds you.

Arrestingly endearing and entirely unconventional, Graeme Simsion’s distinctive debut “navigates the choppy waters of adult relationships, both romantic and platonic, with a fresh take (USA TODAY). “Filled with humor and plenty of heart, The Rosie Project is a delightful reminder that all of us, no matter how we’re wired, just want to fit in” (Chicago Tribune).

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for The Rosie Project includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Graeme Simsion. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


Professor of genetics Don Tillman’s life is turned upside down when he embarks upon the Wife Project in order to find a suitable mate for his quirky habits and demanding personality. When a psychology PhD student named Rosie walks into his office, she’s all wrong—her hair is dyed, her clothes are sloppy, she smokes, and she is habitually late. But then again, something is right about her . . . Don just can’t recognize it at first. As the Wife Project takes a back burner to Rosie’s own project of searching for her biological father, Don finds himself breaking all kinds of rules and breaking out of his routine in ways that are both uncomfortable and exciting. When a research trip takes them from Australia to New York City, and Don’s career is threatened by his allegiance to Rosie, Don must face the toughest puzzle of all—himself. In the end, Don must confront his long-held notions of what it means to love and connect with people, and what it truly means to open up and trust someone.  

Topics & Questions for Discussion 

1. Do Don’s Asperger’s conditions help him or hinder him? Does Don’s having Autism offer any advantages in his life?
2. Don goes through a number of spectacularly bad dates. What have been some of your own dating nightmares?
3. Where do you fall on the spectrum between structure and chaos in life? Are you highly rigid in your routines or very relaxed?
4. Do you agree with Don’s assessment that “humans often fail to see what is close to them and obvious to others”? (p. 88)
5. What do you think of Gene and Claudia’s relationship? Do you know anyone in an open marriage? Can it work?
6. Don says that the happiest day of his life was spent at the Museum of Natural History. Do you have a happiest day of your life? Or is there a special place where you are happiest?
7. As Don’s affection for Rosie grows, he becomes aware of his instincts overriding reason. What is the role of instinct versus reason when it comes to choosing a life partner?
8. Do you have anyone on the Autism spectrum in your life?
9. Don watches a number of movies to try to learn about romance, including When Harry Met Sally, The Bridges of Madison County, An Affair to Remember, and Hitch. What are your top five romantic movies?
10. Have you ever had a moment of breaking out of your routine and opening up in a significant way? Or has someone broken through your routine for you?
11. Is it smart to have a list of criteria for a potential partner or is it limiting?
12. Don gets in trouble with the dean for using the genetics lab for his personal project with Rosie. Is it ever okay to break the rules in order to help someone?
13. Do you feel happy for Don when he “eliminates a number of unconventional mannerisms” (p. 268) in order to win Rosie, or has he lost something?
14. Does Gene get his comeuppance?
15. Were you surprised at the ultimate revelation of Rosie’s biological father? Did you suspect someone else?

Enhance Your Book Club

1. Make your own questionnaire for a potential mate. List ten questions and rank them in order of importance.
2. Look at the website for Autism Speaks. Get involved! Plan a walk or join another event:
3. Cook Don’s balcony meal: lobster, mango and avocado salad, wasabi-coated flying fish roe and crispy seaweed, and deep fried leek garnish.
Don’s actual recipe is from Contemporary Australian Cooking by Teague Ezard (Hardie Grant)
Mango and avocado salad:
Flying fish roe:
4. Take a ballroom dancing class so you can be as good as Bianca.
5. Take the Aspie quiz:   

A Conversation with Graeme Simsion 

1. Do you have experience with Autistic people?  

I did a physics degree, worked for thirty years in information technology and taught at several universities. In these areas, technical skills are given more weight than social skills. So I met many people who I’m sure would have been diagnosed as being on the high-functioning end of the autism spectrum–had that diagnosis been common when they were younger. And I know a number of people with kids who have been diagnosed with Asperger’s /Austism.

2. What or who was your inspiration for Don?  

People I worked with and taught. There are plenty of Dons out there. One close friend struggled for many years to find a partner, and he provided inspiration for my first version of the story but the character and story have changed a lot since then. There is no ‘real Don’!

3. Do you love the Museum of Natural History as much as Don does?  

Not that much! But it’s one of my favorite places in New York.

4. Do you have any idiosyncratic “deal breakers” like Don with ice cream preference?  

I don’t think so, but I’ve been married for 24 years, so I don’t have a lot of recent dating experience (!) I really don’t like smoking, but dated a smoker for some time when I was younger. Back in those days, if I was really attracted to someone, I’d make a lot of concessions. Perhaps less so now.

5. What’s your BMI?  

22.5. I ran a marathon in 2010 and it was quite a bit less then–and even less after I ended up in hospital for a week. The story is at

6. Don is a bit of a foodie. You founded Pinot Now and have eaten at El Bulli. Can you talk about the role of food and wine in your life?  

I’m also a bit of a foodie and a wine lover. I cook a lot, and put quite a bit of effort into meals. I actually do jog to the local market, though not on a regular a schedule as Don.  

Cooking is a good opportunity for thinking (as it is for Don), and I enjoy the results. My wife and I drink a lot of wine – probably too much – and treat our travel as an opportunity to try restaurants and local produce. It’s a balance to the more intellectual business of writing.

7. How did you develop and dive into Don’s voice?  

I channeled a close friend who has a background in information technology–a very technical background. In the early drafts I could hear his voice, but over time Don developed his own mannerisms. I borrowed habits like “greetings” and expressions like “human sponge mode” from other colleagues and friends.

8. Do you feel that this is a story of triumph for Don?  

Absolutely. Don is the hero of the story in all senses. He sets out to do something that is a huge stretch and overcomes obstacles and his own limitations to achieve it – along the way learning some lessons about what he really needs. And he does this in a fundamentally decent way.

9. You have a background in data modeling. What is that exactly, and did your experience with it contribute to your portrait of Don and his Wife Project?  

It’s basically the job of specifying a database–describing in precise technical language what data is to be held and how it is to be represented. A bit like an architect describing to a builder exactly what needs to be built, after helping the client express their requirements and proposing a design. The discipline itself doesn’t feature in the book, but some of the people I met in the field–precise, highly organized people–contributed to my characterization of Don.

10. You also write, produce, and act in films. How is the process of writing for film different from writing a novel?  

Well, the acting was only one time! But I’ve produced numerous short films, and in fact wrote The Rosie Project as a screenplay before “sideways adapting” it into a novel. In screenwriting, at least for mainstream films, there is a strong emphasis on story–and story structure. It’s more formulaic than a novel, but it’s also a good discipline. In a romantic comedy you only have about 100 minutes, so you have to make every scene count. You see it in Rosie: it’s structured as a romantic comedy, and reads as a series of scenes. And it moves along pretty quickly. In a novel, you have the opportunity to describe the character’s thought processes – and in The Rosie Project that’s an important tool for comedy. On the screen you can use physical action and timing – which are not directly available to you on the page.

11. You own a Porsche, have solo-flown a Cessna, and walked the Camino de Santiago. Is adventure something you seek out in life?  

I’m not a physical thrill-seeker, but I enjoy challenges and achievement, and am very conscious that we only get one life. My wife drives the Porsche–most of the time I take the tram.

About The Author

Photograph by James Penlidis

Graeme Simsion is the internationally bestselling author of The Rosie Project, The Rosie Effect, and The Rosie Result, featuring Professor Don Tillman, as well as The Best of Adam Sharp and, with Anne Buist, Two Steps Forward. Graeme lives in Australia.

Product Details

  • Publisher: S&S/Marysue Rucci Books (June 3, 2014)
  • Length: 320 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781476729091

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Raves and Reviews

“Sometimes you just need a smart love story that will make anyone, man or woman, laugh out loud.”
San Francisco Chronicle

“Move over, Sheldon Cooper. There’s a new brilliant, socially inept scientist poised to win over a huge audience, and his name is Don Tillman, in The Rosie Project. . . . It’s not surprising that debut novelist Graeme Simsion has a background in science—The Rosie Project, already a success in Australia, seems almost precision engineered to keep readers turning pages. But unlike its unexpectedly lovable hero, this rom-com is bursting with warmth, emotional depth, and intentional humor.” (A–)
Entertainment Weekly

“It’s natural to be wary of a novel that’s been the target of such gushy praise. Publishers in at least thirty-eight countries have snapped up the rights to The Rosie Project, which has been touted as a ‘publishing phenomenon,’ an ‘international sensation’ and no less than ‘the feel-good hit of 2013.’ Well, squelch your inner cynic: the hype is justified. Australian Graeme Simsion has written a genuinely funny novel. . . . This is classic rom-com.”
The Washington Post

“Simsion’s attention to detail brings to life Don’s wonderful, weird world. Instead of using Don’s Asperger’s syndrome as a fault, or a lead-in to a tragic turn of events, Simsion creates a heartwarming story of an extraordinary man learning to live in an ordinary world, and to love. As Don would say, this book is ‘great fun.’”
USA Today

“An utterly winning screwball comedy. . . . If you’re looking for sparkling entertainment along the lines of Where’d You Go, Bernadette and When Harry Met Sally, The Rosie Project is this season’s fix. . . . This charming, warmhearted escapade, which celebrates the havoc—and pleasure—emotions can unleash, offers amusement aplenty. Sharp dialogue, terrific pacing, physical hijinks, slapstick, a couple to root for, and more twists than a pack of Twizzlers—it’s no surprise that The Rosie Project is bound for the big screen. But read it first.”

“Filled with humor and plenty of heart, The Rosie Project is a delightful reminder that all of us, no matter how we’re wired, just want to fit in.”
Chicago Tribune

"Another great favorite: The Rosie Project, a hilarious novel by Graeme Simsion. It’s truly one of the funniest and most poignant novels I’ve read, and when you’ve finished it, there’s an excellent sequel as well."
—Nicholas Kristof, New York Times Newsletter

The Rosie Project opens as strongly as any comic novel I’ve read in a long time. . . . The book roars at high speed to its conclusion. . . . A highfunctioning but emotionally illiterate guy like Don makes a perfect unreliable narrator. . . . Happily, Simsion doesn’t give Don an unbelievable emotional makeover. Our man just learns to live by a more complicated algorithm.”
Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

“One of the year’s most promising and original novelists.”
The Wall Street Journal

“Funny, touching, and hard to put down, The Rosie Project is certain to entertain even as readers delve into deep themes. For a book about a logic-based quest for love, it has a lot of heart. . . . [an] immensely enjoyable novel.”
Booklist (starred review)

“Read-out-loud laughter begins by page two in Simsion’s debut novel about a thirty-nine-year-old genetics professor with Asperger’s—but utterly unaware of it—looking to solve his Wife Problem. . . . What follows are his utterly clueless but more often thoroughly charming exploits in exploring his capacity for romance. . . . This novel is perfectly timed.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Polished debut fiction. . . . Simsion can plot a story, set a scene, write a sentence, finesse a detail. A pity more popular fiction isn’t this well written. . . . A sparkling, laugh-out-loud novel.”
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“[A] bright, whip-snappingly funny romantic comedy. . . . Readers, too, will push eagerly through the narrative, and at the end they’ll have one thought: thank goodness there’s a sequel.”
Library Journal

“Don Tillman helps us believe in possibility, makes us proud to be human beings, and the bonus is this: he keeps us laughing like hell.”
—Matthew Quick, author of The Silver Linings Playbook

The Rosie Project is the best, most honestly told love story I’ve read in a long time.”
—Kristin Hannah, author of Fly Away and Home Front

“A world so original, in a story so compelling, I defy you not to read through the night. Read this glorious novel now, in the moment, where it lives.”
—Adriana Trigiani, author of The Shoemaker’s Wife

The Rosie Project is an upbeat, quirky, impertinent gem of a read. As the novel makes its logically irrefutable progression, readers will become enchanted by what may well be the world’s first rigorously evidence-based romantic comedy.”
—Chris Cleave, author of Little Bee and Gold

“This clever and joyful book charmed me from the first. Professor Tillman is an unlikely romantic hero but a brave, winning soul, and his quest to find a wife goes to show that rationality is no match for love.”
—Maggie Shipstead, author of Seating Arrangements

“Graeme Simsion has created an unforgettable and charming character unique in fiction. Don Tillman is on a quirky, often hilarious, always sincere quest to logically discover what is ultimately illogical—love. Written in a superbly pitch-perfect voice, The Rosie Project had me cheering for Don on every page. I’m madly in love with this book! Trust me, you will be, too.”
—Lisa Genova, author of Still Alice and Left Neglected

“With the demands of children and work, it’s rare that I find myself so caught up in a novel that I literally cannot put it down—not for food nor for conversation nor even for sleep. Charming and delightful, I was so enamored of The Rosie Project that I read it in a single, marathon sitting.”
—Ayelet Waldman, author of Red Hook Road, Bad Mother, and Love and Other Impossible Pursuits

“Although there are many laughs to be found in this marvelous novel, The Rosie Project is a serious reflection on our need for companionship and identity. Don Tillman is as awkward and confusing a narrator as he is lovable and charming.”
—John Boyne, author of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

“Charming, funny, and heartwarming, a gem of a book.”
—Marian Keyes, author of The Brightest Star in the Sky and This Charming Man

“I couldn’t put this book down. It’s one of the most quirky and endearing romances I’ve ever read. I laughed the whole way through. And now I want to meet Don!”
—Sophie Kinsella, author of the Shopaholic series and Wedding Night

“I wanted to race through The Rosie Project but had to make myself slow down from my usual reading pace, because of the number of sly jokes that I almost missed. A lovely, original, and very funny read.”
—Jojo Moyes, author of Me Before You

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