Mini book review: Going Solo
Have just finished *Going Solo,* the new book by NYU sociologist Eric Klinenberg. This book is getting a lot of press in the US, and it’s easy to see why. Rates of living alone have skyrocketed since the 1970s, and this is the first book to assess the demographics and put people at ease about solo living.
There are a lot of good things about this book. It’s incredibly well-researched, and it does an admirable job of dismantling stigma. If you live alone and like it, and are tired of people asking if you’re “OK” on your own, then this is the book for you.
The only problem I had with this book was that people didn’t seem to have any problems. As a result, most of the text felt a bit bloodless to me. No one was lonely — or, if they were, loneliness was a fleeting, temporary problem. Most people had good jobs, nice apartments, lots of friends. Reading about them was a bit of a snooze.
I felt that the book finally came to life when Klinenberg got around to discussing people who were on the margins: namely, single men living in hostels, and the very elderly, facing old age alone. Klinenberg himself seems more interested in these people than he does in his happy singletons. (Klinenberg’s previous work was on the elderly dying alone in heat waves, and it’s easy to see where his sympathies really rest.)
So, verdict: a great book on stigma, and on the reasons why living alone is on the rise. This is also a *terrific* book on the subject of urban planning (since Klinenberg’s argument is that we need more high-density neighbourhoods where singletons can walk easily and meet others like themselves.) If you’re looking for a book about loneliness, look elsewhere. And if you’re seeking a book about solitude, my money is still on Anthony Storr’s *Solitude* — a beautiful piece of writing on the rewards of being alone.
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