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Lonely: A Memoir

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In a boldly honest and elegantly written memoir—the first on this topic—Emily White reveals the painful and sometimes debilitating experience of living with chronic loneliness. In the vein of popular favorites such as Girl, Interrupted and Manic, Lonely approaches loneliness in the way that Andrew Soloman’s The Noonday Demon approached depression, and lifts the veil on a mostly ignored populati In a boldly honest and elegantly written memoir—the first on this topic—Emily White reveals the painful and sometimes debilitating experience of living with chronic loneliness. In the vein of popular favorites such as Girl, Interrupted and Manic, Lonely approaches loneliness in the way that Andrew Soloman’s The Noonday Demon approached depression, and lifts the veil on a mostly ignored population who often suffer their disorder in silence.


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In a boldly honest and elegantly written memoir—the first on this topic—Emily White reveals the painful and sometimes debilitating experience of living with chronic loneliness. In the vein of popular favorites such as Girl, Interrupted and Manic, Lonely approaches loneliness in the way that Andrew Soloman’s The Noonday Demon approached depression, and lifts the veil on a mostly ignored populati In a boldly honest and elegantly written memoir—the first on this topic—Emily White reveals the painful and sometimes debilitating experience of living with chronic loneliness. In the vein of popular favorites such as Girl, Interrupted and Manic, Lonely approaches loneliness in the way that Andrew Soloman’s The Noonday Demon approached depression, and lifts the veil on a mostly ignored population who often suffer their disorder in silence.

30 review for Lonely: A Memoir

  1. 5 out of 5

    Camille

    The idea of this book was great. And I was sincerely hoping that the author was going to have some concrete steps for handling chronic loneliness. But ultimately, some of the points raised were even MORE isolating, like the fact that if you tell people you are lonely, they will see you as less intelligent, desireable, and attractive. That really isn't going to make anyone want to open up and break this "taboo" subject. In the end, the only way the author overcame her lonliness was, shocker, by m The idea of this book was great. And I was sincerely hoping that the author was going to have some concrete steps for handling chronic loneliness. But ultimately, some of the points raised were even MORE isolating, like the fact that if you tell people you are lonely, they will see you as less intelligent, desireable, and attractive. That really isn't going to make anyone want to open up and break this "taboo" subject. In the end, the only way the author overcame her lonliness was, shocker, by meeting an understanding and kind soul who was willing to put up with the neuroticism that can come along for the ride in the chronically lonely. The moral of the story, to me, was, "Suck it up and go out and try to meet people, even if it's hard, because you might, just might, find that person who will click and stick with you as you work to overcome your lonliness. But even still, you're pretty likely to be lonely forever." Unfortunately, while I think the author's heart was in the right place, this book did more harm than good for me.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Gwen Owen

    Disappointing. The author spends a LOT of time trying to differentiate between loneliness and depression, but I'm really not sure what her ultimate message is. She wants loneliness to be more recognized and acknowleged as a real thing, but then what? I'm not clear on what her goals are. The scientific parts of the book began to feel very repetitious to me, while the memoir parts were frustrating. She seemed to always want or expect others to help her, but she was so unwilling to say what she act Disappointing. The author spends a LOT of time trying to differentiate between loneliness and depression, but I'm really not sure what her ultimate message is. She wants loneliness to be more recognized and acknowleged as a real thing, but then what? I'm not clear on what her goals are. The scientific parts of the book began to feel very repetitious to me, while the memoir parts were frustrating. She seemed to always want or expect others to help her, but she was so unwilling to say what she actually needed or felt. The most sympathetic person to me was her mother, who seemed so desperately lonely herself, but the author was cold and rejecting of her. In the end, it's hard not to suspect that the author felt so lonely and isolated simply because she could not find herself in a comfortable, happy relationship - until she met her girlfriend. In the final pages, she says she still suffers from loneliness, but she does not really illustrate any evidence of that. The message becomes quite shallow at that point.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Mary

    The idea of this book is much better than the actual written piece. Loneliness is a problem that is becoming all too evident in modern society and kudos to the author for bringing this subject to light. However, it's badly in need of an editing job. It seems like she could cut about 100 pages out of the middle and still get the same point across. She tried to include all of her own conclusions regarding the research she found and in the end, it reads more like a rambling journal rather than a co The idea of this book is much better than the actual written piece. Loneliness is a problem that is becoming all too evident in modern society and kudos to the author for bringing this subject to light. However, it's badly in need of an editing job. It seems like she could cut about 100 pages out of the middle and still get the same point across. She tried to include all of her own conclusions regarding the research she found and in the end, it reads more like a rambling journal rather than a cohesive and concise argument. She never wraps up and offers solutions how people can combat loneliness, which left me pretty pissed for trudging through all her crap that should have been left at the therapist's office. I believe the author published this book one year too early - she's not even remotely out of the rabbit hole of her own journey. The solution to loneliness is not about entering a relationship - it's gotta come from the person inside.... otherwise, they're just going to be lonely in a relationship instead of single and lonely. Her solution was finding a girlfriend and even in the book it's a lame solution. It's a good book for realizing that this is a problem that's different from depression; however, it's a book best skimmed.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Brita

    "...it reads more like a rambling journal rather than a cohesive and concise argument." That was a comment from another poster...I have to say, thats what makes this book so great. For those that are suffering from loneliness, reading a book that explains things in ways that you may not have seen before is enlightening, but the fact that its like reading your own journal makes it that much more relatable. You begin to see loneliness as something real that you yourself could be dealing "...it reads more like a rambling journal rather than a cohesive and concise argument." That was a comment from another poster...I have to say, thats what makes this book so great. For those that are suffering from loneliness, reading a book that explains things in ways that you may not have seen before is enlightening, but the fact that its like reading your own journal makes it that much more relatable. You begin to see loneliness as something real that you yourself could be dealing with, and less as something that some writer somewhere is simply using as a subject to write a book about. I know a lot of people seem to think this book is a depressing read, but thats exactly the point. This is what lonely people deal with on a daily basis. It feels like depression, but its not. There is something different that you can't quite put your finger on. Bingo! Loneliness. This book made sooo much sense to me and I came across it at just the right time in my life. I haven't yet finished the book (I'm 3/4 of the way through) but just knowing that I am not alone in how I feel gives me the boost I need to work through my issue of loneliness. Everyone's situation is different and I don't need to know how the author has resolved (or not resolved) her problems. I know who I am, and I know my strength and that this is something I personally can get through. Others may have a harder time. But just having a name for it, and having it be 'out there' for myself and others to understand is a giant step forward.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Kathryn Brown

    The reason why I (like most people) enjoy reading memoirs is because I long for the sense of relating to another human being. I enjoyed reading this book and got a lot out of the author's own personal experiences. Over the past few years, I have noticed a sense of loneliness in myself, and when a friend mentioned this book, I immediately wanted to read it. I have a tendency to be independent - almost to a fault, but lately, I'm realizing that this part of my own nature doesn't entirely serve me The reason why I (like most people) enjoy reading memoirs is because I long for the sense of relating to another human being. I enjoyed reading this book and got a lot out of the author's own personal experiences. Over the past few years, I have noticed a sense of loneliness in myself, and when a friend mentioned this book, I immediately wanted to read it. I have a tendency to be independent - almost to a fault, but lately, I'm realizing that this part of my own nature doesn't entirely serve me well. I'm realizing that perhaps I am just desiring relationships with more depth that are founded on common interests, and relationship building takes a lot of time. Anyways, the author did a good job of weaving her own personal experience with scientific studies, which I appreciated since I happen to work in a scientific field. What I most appreciated about this book was the notion of stigma. Loneliness isn't something that anyone that I know is ready to own. I struggle with depression and have no problem claiming that, but loneliness is an entirely different matter. Over lunch one day at work, I even hestiated to tell my co-workers that I was reading this book, but then, I dismissed my initial reaction; I would only be perpetuating the stigma associated with loneliness. I like this quote: 'I know that lonely people have things to say about their loneliness -- about how it makes them feel, and behave, and think; about how they feel walking into a room or bar; about how strange it is to unplug the phone after a weekend of loneliness. So long as we stigmatize loneliness, however, we're not going to hear about any of this. So long as the state remains taboo, there's a big wide stretch of human feeling and experience we're simply going to miss.' Oh, the one thing that I am not so sure I liked about the book was the fact that the author's solution to her loneliness was in finding and meeting a partner. Perhaps I am still in my fiercely independent mindset, but still, I think that having a partnership is only one solution and that it's important to create a supportive social network, too. IMHO.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Sam

    I can't remember how I came across this book but when I read the blurb on it on felt a connection to the author as I too am single, in my early thirties, have a busy job, enough friends but still have moments where silence is louder than it should be. As a result I bought a copy and thought that this would give some insight into my situation, sadly though it did not. On one hand it has helped me realise that the moments of loneliness I feel is nothing compared to the chronic loneliness that many I can't remember how I came across this book but when I read the blurb on it on felt a connection to the author as I too am single, in my early thirties, have a busy job, enough friends but still have moments where silence is louder than it should be. As a result I bought a copy and thought that this would give some insight into my situation, sadly though it did not. On one hand it has helped me realise that the moments of loneliness I feel is nothing compared to the chronic loneliness that many others feel (mine is definitely more of an infrequent passing mood than a long-term thing, or it is at the moment anyway), despite my score of 30 on the UCLA Loneliness Scale at the start (I was probably in a low mood when I did that). On the other hand though this felt very much like White's therapy as she pours everything onto the pages of this book, every thought, doubt, fear and moment of clarity is laid out for all to see. Don't get me wrong, it is a brave thing to do but maybe not what people are expecting. Personally I was hoping for more insight, more advice, solutions or other little tidbits to help you through either short term moments or long term feelings. Instead White's cause and solution are both a bit of cliche and nowhere near as helpful as they could have been, and probably aren't even a solution as you can still be lonely in a relationship as well as out of one. Overall this was a disappointment, partly because of my expectations and partly because of the synopsis suggesting that this is something more than it really is. Of course this may well offer much more to those struggling to cope with chronic loneliness, even if it is just to know that you aren't the only one, especially as White includes statements from others she has spoken too as well as her own experiences. So if you find yourself curious about it, read it, it might just be what you need.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Susie

    Several years ago my husband and I moved to a new community. I felt very isolated and an overview of my life made me feel as if I have always been lonely, an outsider from my own family growing up, later to become more separated from my parents and siblings by distance, and then, with one of them, ostracization. Then, as a stay-at-home mom that was busy-busy with my kiddoes, I found it easy to neglect adult relationships. My husband was always busy with his job/outside interests. Later, I became Several years ago my husband and I moved to a new community. I felt very isolated and an overview of my life made me feel as if I have always been lonely, an outsider from my own family growing up, later to become more separated from my parents and siblings by distance, and then, with one of them, ostracization. Then, as a stay-at-home mom that was busy-busy with my kiddoes, I found it easy to neglect adult relationships. My husband was always busy with his job/outside interests. Later, I became an empty nester and went back to college riding a bus an hour both ways to get to the campus each weekday....feeling more and more disconnected. I chose to read this book to try to understand myself a little better, and to see if there were others that felt accutely lonely. I thought this memoir was intelligent and down to earth. I began to embrace the parts of me that had difficulty accumulating 'acquaintances' and really only wanted to make intimate friendships. I also felt encouraged to get out of my isolating routines and take a few risks. Whatever is said about the author's style, nothing can be said more profoundly than she is honest and looks at the issue unflinchingly. I am glad I read it.

  8. 4 out of 5

    The Angry Lawn Gnome

    Most interesting of all: the reactions this one generated in me. At page 25 I would have cheerfully hit the author offside the head with a 2x4; what with all the whining I was frankly muttering "STFU," "STFU," oh, and just please "STFU." At page 50 I was wondering why, oh, why I wasn't directing said 2x4 at my own skull? Nothing had seemingly changed in either narrative or tone, yet here I was turning page after page and neither putting the book down, offering myself any reason to continue with Most interesting of all: the reactions this one generated in me. At page 25 I would have cheerfully hit the author offside the head with a 2x4; what with all the whining I was frankly muttering "STFU," "STFU," oh, and just please "STFU." At page 50 I was wondering why, oh, why I wasn't directing said 2x4 at my own skull? Nothing had seemingly changed in either narrative or tone, yet here I was turning page after page and neither putting the book down, offering myself any reason to continue with this work or holding out any real hope that anything worthwhile would come forth from fishing in this pond. Yet persist I did. And either the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle began to fall into place, what had seemed like an out of tune and badly rendered cover version of Poor, Poor Pitiful Me took on an unexpected air of originality and thoughtfulness, or the memoir portion that had annoyed me earlier actually got interesting. Or something. So, as to the book itself? Honestly none of the ideas presented ultimately struck me as particularly original, but their manner of presentation rendered them far more

  9. 4 out of 5

    Alexis

    Four and a half stars. I really liked this book and couldn't put it down. It's part memoir, part scientific and analytical exploration of the state of loneliness. We're not talking about just being alone, but a crippling loneliness and isolation/alienation from fellow humanity. I thought this book was eye opening, honest and informative. Kudos to White for taking on such a taboo subject and for talking honestly about isolation and the human condition. I hope a lot of people read this daring work Four and a half stars. I really liked this book and couldn't put it down. It's part memoir, part scientific and analytical exploration of the state of loneliness. We're not talking about just being alone, but a crippling loneliness and isolation/alienation from fellow humanity. I thought this book was eye opening, honest and informative. Kudos to White for taking on such a taboo subject and for talking honestly about isolation and the human condition. I hope a lot of people read this daring work.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Katie

    Wow. I could relate WAY too much to this book. Reading it felt like looking at myself in the mirror. On one hand what I read bothered me, and yet it also comforted me....allowed me to reflect and obtain clarity on something I've struggled with for a long time. I recommend this book to anyone struggling with chronic loneliness.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Amy Meyer

    Title: Lonely Author: Emily White Pages: 352 Release Date: March 9, 2010 Publisher: Harper Publishing ISBN: 978-0061765094 Genre: Memoir; Non-Fiction Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Summary: Despite having a demanding job, good friends, and a supportive family, Emily White spent many of her evenings and weekends alone at home, trying to understand why she felt so completely disconnected from everyone. In this insightful and soul-baring memoir, White recounts her struggle Title: Lonely Author: Emily White Pages: 352 Release Date: March 9, 2010 Publisher: Harper Publishing ISBN: 978-0061765094 Genre: Memoir; Non-Fiction Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Summary: Despite having a demanding job, good friends, and a supportive family, Emily White spent many of her evenings and weekends alone at home, trying to understand why she felt so completely disconnected from everyone. In this insightful and soul-baring memoir, White recounts her struggle to comprehend and overcome her chronic loneliness, a debilitating condition that she contends deserves the same attention as depression and other mental difficulties. Interweaving her personal story with cutting-edge scientific research—as well as incredibly moving accounts offered by numerous lonely men and women—White provides a deep and thorough portrait of this increasingly common but too often ignored affliction. My Thoughts: Emily White, in her memoir Lonely, sets out to explain and de-stigmatize the little understood but wide ranging condition of loneliness. As she puts it, "to give voice to an experience that mattered, one that affected people far and wide". Though I found this book eye opening, informative and very well written, it was, at times, too clinical. It was during those parts of the book that I found myself overwhelmed by research studies. It took the book out of the realm of "memoir". Too often, for the majority of lay people looking to learn about loneliness as a condition, Lonely reads more like a scientific thesis or text book study. That's not to say there isn't a wealth of relatable and very human information the author provides about herself. It's when Ms. White is discussing her personal experiences that I found myself unable to put the book down. It left me wanting more. Her personal story is honest and raw. She admits to being nervous about leaving herself open and vulnerable in revealing her experience with loneliness, but she doesn't hold back which I found quite admirable. Ms. White was told by those closest to her that admitting to loneliness and writing about it is something to be embarrassed about, that it was trivial and "not real", making her candor all the more courageous. Reactions such as this also made Ms. White all the more determined to show the world that "there is nothing wrong with loneliness" and there's "no need for the shame and self-blame it creates". Ms. White started a blog about loneliness with the desire to find other lonely people. She occasionally shares their experiences coping with loneliness throughout her memoir. But, as with her own story, Ms. White only provides tidbits of their stories here and there to illustrate the findings of the research studies. It's because Ms. White didn't share more about her story or the stories of these other people that I was disappointed. In her zeal to make loneliness understood, Ms. White gets carried away explaining it in clinical terms. This makes those parts of the book dry and somewhat sterile. Her writing is so good and her story so compelling, the book would have held up just fine with more personal anecdotes less clinical references. I'm not saying it's not a good book. It is. It's just that, as a memoir, it might be mislabeled. When I am told a book is a memoir, I expect something akin to an autobiography. As I explained above, the book is (only) about 30% memoir, the rest being references to and citations from studies, scientific research, and accounts from other people. I would insist that anyone who wants to learn about loneliness as a real condition read this book. The author does achieve her goal of getting the reader to look at loneliness beyond the "mainstream" perception. Usually, someone sitting down to a TV dinner by themselves every night because they are socially inept. As if it's a choice. Like depression, it's a real problem. Unlike depression, there's no universal treatment or help for it, although that's coming, hopefully. Loneliness as a condition is unique and complex and shouldn't be trivialized. So read this book if you want to learn more than you ever imagined applied to loneliness, just be forewarned this is not some tell-all confessional but a smart and well researched book with a definite purpose. Ms. White is very good with research, but don't make the mistake that it's because of the loneliness. Loneliness and solitude are not the same, which she wisely makes us aware. However, it's unfortunate that too often Ms. White hides behind the fruits of the research, using it in an academic, impersonal manner when her own story is already quite captivating and inspiring. Emily White has a corresponding blog at which she blogs about loneliness, her cats and other aspects of her life. I won Lonely from Bookin' with Bingo and reviewed for TLC Book Tours.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Lynne Spreen

    Emily White, a successful, smart attorney, is suffering from something that looks like depression - only it's not. It's chronic loneliness even in the middle of a vibrant and peopled life. In the same way that grief and depression can be intertwined yet separate, White suspects that loneliness and depression can be unique, distinct states. Yet the medical/therapeutic community doesn't recognize it as such, and offers no relief. White, in trying to understand and overcome the condition, researche Emily White, a successful, smart attorney, is suffering from something that looks like depression - only it's not. It's chronic loneliness even in the middle of a vibrant and peopled life. In the same way that grief and depression can be intertwined yet separate, White suspects that loneliness and depression can be unique, distinct states. Yet the medical/therapeutic community doesn't recognize it as such, and offers no relief. White, in trying to understand and overcome the condition, researches the condition like a well trained attorney, and comes up with some surprising information. The book is less memoir than white paper on "the state" as White calls her chronic loneliness. She posits that loneliness can be a genetic condition much like depression, and backs up her theory with tons of research. As a memoir, the book would have benefitted from more anecdotes about White personally, but as a vehicle for presenting and describing the scientific support for her thesis, it's more than adequate. White explores aspects of loneliness that you might not have thought of, but that ring true. For example, she compares "passive company" (another person living in your house provides companionship whether or not you're interacting) with "active socializing" (going out for coffee with a friend). For a lonely person, the latter is a poor substitute for the former. Maybe the lonely person likes being home, or finds the setting up of a coffee meeting artificial and tedious, or can't afford the outing. Once one returns home, the whole experience can be more depressing than helpful. White not only presents numerous such revelations but also backs it all up with tons of research. The problem with the book is that, while it's a hauntingly deep look at chronic loneliness, it's not a self-help book. You won't find any cures between its covers. White didn't cure her condition, but she did enter a relationship that mitigated her loneliness. I rated this book four stars for two reasons: one, Emily White poured an incredible amount of effort into bringing to light important research on the condition, and two, the aspects of loneliness that she describes are so chillingly familiar that I give her credit for emotional resonance in her writing. What she has done with this book was to shine a very bright spotlight on a condition that isn't taken very seriously even though it can produce very serious - even fatal - outcomes. We should be grateful to her for that.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Nancy

    I found this book very powerful and personal. I read it in one weekend, in every spare moment I had(ironically, in-between visiting with some of my closest friends, which definitely helped shore me up for an intense read). Her thesis is that Loneliness is an affliction separate from depression or social anxiety(although sometimes coincident), that it can affect one's mental and physical health, and that we need to learn more about it, be able to talk about it as caregivers and as a society, and I found this book very powerful and personal. I read it in one weekend, in every spare moment I had(ironically, in-between visiting with some of my closest friends, which definitely helped shore me up for an intense read). Her thesis is that Loneliness is an affliction separate from depression or social anxiety(although sometimes coincident), that it can affect one's mental and physical health, and that we need to learn more about it, be able to talk about it as caregivers and as a society, and treat it as a unique disorder. There are a lot of gaps in our scientific/medical understanding of loneliness and social connection. The book references what few studies there are, but it's mostly personal anecdotes from the author and a group of volunteers she interviewed. The unavoidable pathos gets a little tiring, but a lot of it was incredibly resonant with my experiences, and it was exciting to see this put into words. It feels like there's an assumption that we *should* be able to be independent and not need anyone else's support or companionship to be happy, so it's often hard to talk about. But we are social creatures and we may be hardwired to feel threatened and vulnerable when we don't have connections and intimacy. The book doesn't offer a lot of hope or answers(the author's personal story ends on a hopeful note, at least!), but it offers an echo of what many people are experiencing and a strategy for understanding and talking about it. Even if you yourself haven't been there, it may be worth a read to consider the societal consequences of people being more isolated and disconnected, and try to understand the patterns and paradoxes of someone who's experiencing loneliness.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Heather

    Where has this book been my entire life?? This book is nothing short of incredible. Someone has finally taken the time to examine loneliness and advocate for it to be considered a separate chronic condition from depression, although the two conditions often operate hand-in-hand. The most shocking revelation is how much loneliness can significantly shorten your lifespan. Page after page, I find myself underlining my common experience of loneliness with the author. As I read, there's both a sense Where has this book been my entire life?? This book is nothing short of incredible. Someone has finally taken the time to examine loneliness and advocate for it to be considered a separate chronic condition from depression, although the two conditions often operate hand-in-hand. The most shocking revelation is how much loneliness can significantly shorten your lifespan. Page after page, I find myself underlining my common experience of loneliness with the author. As I read, there's both a sense of relief, knowing that I am not the only one struggling with this condition, but also a sad sense of ironic pain, knowing that everyone who struggles with chronic loneliness encounters the same obstacles in finding understanding and help with the condition. The author brings a better sense of hope by the end of the book; hope that chronically lonely folks like me can find relief. According to her medical research, some people are just prone to a lifetime of loneliness due to a combination of genetics and circumstances. But the book truly lives up to its title "Learning to Live With Solitude" because there are no "quick fixes" and no easy answers to loneliness. It is something that most of us have to learn to live with. While episodes of chronic loneliness ebb and flow over a lifetime, it is usually not a "permanent" state, but, much like depression, has a way of creeping back in.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Sheila Louzada

    That's the first book I've read about the subject and it really helped me understand a lot of things about the issue. It also made me feel a little bit less alone in my loneliness. The author is clearly tendentious in her analysis sometimes, and sometimes repetitive, but in general it's a well written book, with a lot of search work, and it seems to fill part of a gap - I really needed to read a serious approach about chronic loneliness along one's lifetime.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Vicky

    ‘She often wondered indeed if she had ever been, or ever could be, intimate with anyone.’ Henry James, The Portrait of a Lady (1909) What does it mean to be lonely? Emily White’s Lonely: Learning to Live with Solitude has been widely acclaimed as a brave and groundbreaking memoir on a topic that (so the argument runs) has become one of the most virulent taboos of contemporary Western culture: loneliness. That we have no shared language to describe the experience of loneliness is central to ‘She often wondered indeed if she had ever been, or ever could be, intimate with anyone.’ Henry James, The Portrait of a Lady (1909) What does it mean to be lonely? Emily White’s Lonely: Learning to Live with Solitude has been widely acclaimed as a brave and groundbreaking memoir on a topic that (so the argument runs) has become one of the most virulent taboos of contemporary Western culture: loneliness. That we have no shared language to describe the experience of loneliness is central to the argument of this book, its commitment to finding the words to give voice to a form of pain - and, occasionally, wonder - that is often invisible, often inaudible, to anyone but the person undergoing it. White’s first response to that absence is facts and distinctions: throughout Lonely, she is insisting on the need to distinguish among diverse ways of being lonely, to account for its specific forms of anxiety, to track its sometimes devastating effects on confidence, on spontaneity, on creativity. On this level, White’s memoir is an extraordinary testimony to a way of being in the world subject to widespread misunderstanding - lonely people are shy, unfriendly, boring, unattractive; they lack social skills and need to go out more - as well as considerable stigma. ‘For the vast majority of people I spoke to,’ White claims, ‘the mere possibility of their loneliness becoming known made them anxious.’ Drawing on her own conversations with ‘lonely people’, as well as a growing body of social scientific ‘loneliness research’, White counters both stereotype and taboo with the insight that belongs to having experienced something that remains both difficult to bring to consciousness - individual or public - and very resistant to interpretation. But, and precisely because White is breaking new ground, there is enormous pressure on this book to live up to its own wagers. Probably no single book could do so - though, in talking to people who self-identify as lonely, White has curated a nuanced and textured archive of an experience not often named as such. However, to the extent that White is helping to set the terms of the public discussion of loneliness for which she argues so persuasively, the explanatory lens through which she refracts her archive can be very troubling: crudely, this is a book that begins with the claim that ‘research shows a genetic basis for loneliness’ (does it?) and ends with a call for chronic loneliness to be listed in the 2012 DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). By no means unaware of the ongoing risk of medicalizing the experience of everyday life, White nonetheless casts the very inclusiveness of the current DSM as a reason to list ‘loneliness (or “chronic loneliness")’ as a crucial first step in legitimizing and recognizing the state as an affliction. Once recognized as a mental disorder, it seems, we will be forced to take loneliness, and its consequences, seriously as a society and a culture. A genetic inheritance? A mental disorder? An affliction? No wonder that loneliness - or the various forms of loneliness explored by White: emotional, social, situational, chronic - is represented as something like a demonic force throughout this book. As memoir, Lonely is a remarkably powerful, occasionally terrifying, depiction of the state of loneliness as one that lies in wait for us, shadowing our experiences of intimacy and companionship with the threat of a devastating loss of connection to others, to ourselves, to the world. To be lonely is not to be present, to be somehow outside of a world, looking on, looking in; the lonely do not 'belong'. One of the most telling passages in this book paraphrases the ‘lonely people’ with whom White has been speaking as follows: ‘It’s feelings of distance and disconnection, of not being fully engaged and present, that lonely people highlight when they talk about their loneliness - and these feelings emerge despite the fact that lonely people often have support networks and significant others in place.’ Here - and there are many passages like this - we catch a glimpse of what White is ‘on to’ in this book: a state that seems to exceed the models of explanation - evolutionary, genetic, social - privileged at various points in this (sometimes inchoate) narrative. Yes, people who experience loneliness may well be alone more often than they want to be - White offers an incisive, and timely, overview of the statistical increase in people living alone in America and Europe - but not being alone is no defence against it. Friends, lovers, colleagues abound in the lives of at least some lonely people; but friends, lovers and colleagues are no guarantee of meaningful connection. As White indicates, but does not develop, the silence that surrounds the experience of some forms of loneliness has to do with the difficulty of saying to a loved (or liked) one something like: ‘I feel lonely when I am with you.’ Such a sentence is neither easy to say nor easy to hear. But it is the underdeveloped crux of this book. To be lonely in a crowd is a truism; to be lonely with an intimate, to feel disconnected from our very soulmate - that is more various, less amenable to categorization and clarification, than the forms of situational and emotional loneliness explored here. In this sense, there is a deep, and unacknowledged, tension in this book between that attention to the experience of loneliness - wayward, unpredictable, frightening - and the genetic and social scientific frameworks via which that experience is being interpreted. Such frameworks strive to manage, even to answer, the ‘problem’ of loneliness. Crudely, if the accident of genetic inheritance means that some people are more subject to loneliness, then they are going to need more from those around them (more love, more security, more reassurance - especially if, as now, we live in a society in which the experience of being alone is increasingly common). This is, in effect, a need-based model: the experience of loneliness signals an unmet need; a caring and protective society (or lover, family or friend) should find ways to meet that need (‘loneliness-reduction programs’, for example). At the level of public policy - the ‘Campaign to End Loneliness’ in the UK, for example - that responsibility is necessary (if rarely realized); scathing (and very funny) about the self-help literature that exhorts the lonely to confide in a friend or to value their inner resources, White refuses to shy away from the fact of loneliness as a collective responsibility (her discussion of research into the effects of loneliness on health, and therefore on public health costs, is sobering). But - and it is one of the strengths of this book that it forces this question - what, if anything, do such perspectives have to say to that form of loneliness as a type of uncanny stranger, nestling at the heart of everyday existence, taking hold of lives that, on the face of it, are anything but lonely? ‘I remember feeling like I didn’t really belong,’ says Rachel, recalling her experience of nursery school; ‘I honestly would say it’s probably been a lifelong issue,’ recalls Anne, similarly reflecting on her early years: in response to this evidence of a loneliness that begins in early childhood, in the midst of family and peers, White veers off into a discussion of the distinction between loneliness and depression (a distinction she insists on, not always persuasively, throughout the book: is it true, for example, that depression, unlike loneliness, does not make us feel insufficient and unsafe?). At this point, the fact that Lonely is a mixed genre - part memoir, part survey of loneliness research - begins to impede the possibility for a focused and sustained reflection on the life-stories that White is uncovering. One instance stands out starkly: White’s own account of her grandmother, Anna, a single parent, abandoned by her (religious) family. Anna dies alone in a sanatorium at the age of twenty-four; her four-year old daughter, White’s mother, is put into the care of a foster family. In other words, Anna dies not knowing what will happen to her daughter, whilst what White describes as this ‘curious heritage’ remains unnamed in her family (a silence maintained by White herself, she acknowledges, in the course of her ongoing psychotherapy). If that silence is broken in Lonely - more than a third of the way into the book - it is also quickly passed over: a couple of pages later, White is once again feeling the ‘state latent within me, rising up from my genes.’ But it’s impossible not to wonder what might be said about the states of loneliness and aloneness if, instead of genetics and anecdote, the question of the transfer of experience from one generation to the next - in the form of story, silence, symptom - were allowed to take precedence. On one level, this is to ask for a longer historical, and a wider philosophical, perspective on loneliness than is offered by White. The research she identifies is fascinating but the insight it provides is incremental through the book: it is, much of the time, the same story being told. Yet White herself points to the importance of, say, literature in the exploration of loneliness - ‘Novelists seemed willing and able to define the contours of severe loneliness with a clarity that was simply lacking elsewhere’ - and, in a few unelaborated instances, turns to the wayward role of the imagination in the experience of loneliness. Fictional characters, she continues, have always ‘felt real’, provided companionship, a sense of fellow feeling. Close the novel, however, and those feelings vanish in the face of the real world, its unending barrage of unreal images of intimacy. It’s a significant moment in Lonely, open to an interpretation that doesn’t come because White moves on quickly to describe her own state of confusion, of not knowing the ‘truth’ about loneliness. Elsewhere, though, she alights again on the problem of ‘magical thinking’ in lonely people, the yearning for connection and intimacy that takes refuge in imaginary scenarios that, if only temporarily, yield the fellow feeling that reality - in all its complexity and disappointment - really cannot provide. ‘Fantasy,’ as White puts it, ‘offers an express route to feelings of connection.’ We are some way here from the terrain of the ‘loneliness-reduction programme’ or the self-help activity. Imagination, representation, intimacy: these are concepts with long and complex histories in aesthetics, philosophy, and the various psychologies of the mind. Pushed to the edges of Lonely, they trace the contours of another approach to loneliness as (to borrow Hannah Arendt's words) one of the 'basic experiences' that can happen to human beings who live together. Not a mental disorder, then, nor a genetic inheritance but a common terror that bears both on our relations to others and on our relationship to our selves: solitude, as Arendt puts it, becomes loneliness 'when all by myself I am deserted by my own self.' It's a daunting insight, but it may reach further than the promise of a listing in the next DSM towards the forms of terror and longing that Lonely begins to chart - terrors and longing in need of all that human ingenuity can throw at them.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Robin

    Emily White's memoir was interesting, but definitely not a quick read. White explores loneliness from the perspective of her own experience, relates experiences from other lonely persons, and also cites extensively from research (and I confess, some of the research was a bit of a slog). In today's world, we understand and accept depression. We know how to talk about it, and we sort of know how to treat it. Loneliness, on the other hand, is not spoken of, or, if it does come up, is bru Emily White's memoir was interesting, but definitely not a quick read. White explores loneliness from the perspective of her own experience, relates experiences from other lonely persons, and also cites extensively from research (and I confess, some of the research was a bit of a slog). In today's world, we understand and accept depression. We know how to talk about it, and we sort of know how to treat it. Loneliness, on the other hand, is not spoken of, or, if it does come up, is brushed aside. White's goal, I think, is parity for loneliness: a societal understanding of the problem, a willingness to discuss instead of dismissing it. She writes Studies suggest that close to 10 percent of North Americans struggle with persistent loneliness, but we don't want to think of what life is like for these millions of people. We don't want to imagine what it's like to feel lonely day after day and month after month. We don't want to dwell on the circumstances of a life marked by strong feelings of isolation, and by long stretches of aloneness. Telling ourselves that loneliness is just depression is a way of closing the door on the state. It means we don't have to hear from the lonely, we don't have to understand what their lives are like. We can say, "You were just depressed," and in this way completely shut out what the lonely might be trying to say. (Page 30) My mother once told me that her mother, my Nanny, felt she had no friends. Even so, my mother remembered that when Nanny died, so many people spoke of how much she meant to them. How could all those people have considered her a friend, and yet she felt alone? I thought of this when I read Adam's experience: "I had a really interesting conversation last night," says Adam, the illustrator from Rhode Island, who was trying to explain his sense of social relations as too glancing and thin. "A friend asked why I wasn't coming to the gay running group anymore, and why I wasn't doing this and that, and I said, 'You know, I go to these things, and when I'm there, people pat me on the back and say, "Adam, it's so great to see you." But I don't know what it is. It doesn't feel like anybody, when I'm not there, is saying, "Where's Adam?"' And I was kind of struggling for words to describe it, and my friend said, 'Nothing sticks.' And I said, 'Yes, that's it exactly.' Nothing sticks." (Page 81) All these people were friendly with Nanny, probably even thought they were close friends, and yet for her, it didn't "stick." How can we help someone for whom friendship doesn't stick? How can we befriend them in a way that they can find believable? Here's another incident that made me think of Mom & Nanny: "At home the phone doesn't stop ringing," says Katherine, a thirty-year-old policy analyst from Nova Scotia. "My mother's always talking to someone or another." Comparing her mother's gregariousness to her own lack of a social circle, Katherine adds, with a bit of a laugh, "I was thinking, 'My mom has way more friends than I do.' But then we had this chat one night, and she said, 'I don't feel like I really have any real friends. People call, but they're just calling to get the gossip.' So my mom feels lonely too." (Page 103) Recently, I was talking with a friend about another woman, who has been struggling with personal issues, and who lamented that she is lonely. My friend conjectured, and I agreed, that "she needs to make an effort to get to know people." Things I read in White's book made me regret that judgment. For instance: The notion that a life might feel chronically underpopulated, or that existing relationships might feel too loose and inconsequential, is something that many lonely people insist others fail to understand. "You don't know it unless you've been there," says James, the Quebec-based engineer, who's suffered from loneliness for over ten years. "I mean, most people define loneliness as, 'Oh, gosh. I haven't seen my boyfriend or girlfriend in a week, and I'm lonely, and I'm sitting here waiting for the phone to ring.' That's not what a long-term situation is. You can be functioning quite normally in society and still be unbearably lonely." The lack of awareness about loneliness means that trying to raise the issue with a health-care provider can lead exactly nowhere. "I've mentioned it to my doctor," says James, "and he's kind of brushed it off, saying, 'You should get out more. It will do you good.' Trying to explain it to him - it doesn't register." (Page 81) Or this: What seemed to bother lonely people was not that they lacked social skills, but rather that they had good skills but found themselves cut off from using them. Presented with social opportunities - opportunities they knew they needed in order to fend off their loneliness - they found themselves retreating, and becoming less likely to accept invitations or join group outings. "There'll be a mixer announced for after work," says Katherine, the Nova Scotia policy analyst. "And I'll think to myself the whole day, 'I should go to this, I should go to this, I should really go and meet some poeple.' And then I don't go, because I feel weird about it." Katherine stresses that she knows how to socialize - on the phone, she's funny and cheery - but says that she's become inhibited, and more likely to withdraw than spend time with others. (Page 151) Or this: "[People giving advice] just say, 'Try to go out and meet new people,'" notes Ray, the fundraiser from Philadelphia, who's told a few family members about his loneliness. "And I've never really understood how that's exactly done, I guess," he adds with a quiet laugh. "It's almost like saying, 'Well, if you feel like playing baseball, why don't you go and join the major leagues?' It just seems like such a huge thing to do." "It doesn't really get to the heart of the problem of being lonely," agrees Frances, the physiotherapist from Missouri, who told her mother about being lonely. "Her reaction was 'Well, if you just go out and meet some people, you'll be fine.' But it's not that you don't know people, it's that you don't feel connected to them." (Page 259) How can I draw people out, encourage them to participate, help them to feel connected, and not to feel “weird?” The solution, Starkey [a former social worker in northern England] emphasizes, is not to walk away, but to take active measures to try to help the lonely person. "It's a human right," says Starkey, passionately, referring to a sense of belonging. "And I think it should be a full society issue. This is an issue for everyone." (Page 277) White concludes I thought I could somehow subdue the state [of loneliness] myself. But I couldn't. I can't. What I need is the comfort that can be provided by someone else. I'm not, despite adequate skill or powerful desire, able to write an end to my own loneliness story. This ending has to come from outside, from someone else, from someone who takes me by the hand and leads me away from the state, away from the word, away from the feeling that's been mine for so long. (Page 332) What to do? What active measures should I take? How do I take someone by the hand and lead them? What will help someone to find a sense of belonging? For starters, I think I can be aware. I can invite and reach out to others, try to involve them, call them when I've missed them at a gathering. I can be patiently non-judgmental. And because White’s book made me ponder these things, I'm glad I read it.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Zoë Danielle

    Lonely: Learning to Live with Solitude is a memoir in which author Emily White attempts to understand the chronic loneliness which has plagued her almost her entire life. Boldly stating that loneliness deserves the same attention as other mental illnesses such as depression, she intertwines her own personal story with scientific data and accounts offered by other lonely people on their experiences. Lonely is a 2011 release I'd been greatly looking forward to, but I was somehow under the impressi Lonely: Learning to Live with Solitude is a memoir in which author Emily White attempts to understand the chronic loneliness which has plagued her almost her entire life. Boldly stating that loneliness deserves the same attention as other mental illnesses such as depression, she intertwines her own personal story with scientific data and accounts offered by other lonely people on their experiences. Lonely is a 2011 release I'd been greatly looking forward to, but I was somehow under the impression that the main focus of the book was memoir. Although White's personal account plays a key role in her ability to understand the struggles of loneliness, as well as being the reason she pursued writing this book at all, it is only one part of what Lonely is about. The book itself has a significant amount of scientific information, and as non-fiction takes me significantly longer to read than memoirs or fiction this was certainly not a quick read. An interesting aspect of Lonely is the insight White offers into the idea that loneliness is actually becoming an increasing issue, as well as the possible reasons for that. Discussing social media and the internet, she writes: "Perhaps I was being insufficiently modern, but I never felt as though I could cure my loneliness through technology. My newspaper was just a part of my apartment, less comforting than my fridge, less familiar than my toaster, and I object to the idea that I should have somehow reached out in my loneliness and tried to turn it into a friend." Continuing to delve into the topic, she states: "At a time when we’re being told that our needs are being met and that sociability is easy to achieve, we need to recognize a more complex truth. This truth involves us being alone more, confiding less, and getting caught up in the wheel of active socializing. Loneliness today is being egged on and aggravated by culture. It’s probably time we saw this, and stopped portraying the state as something that’s somehow the lonely person’s fault." These excerpts clearly indicate the clear case that White makes for loneliness, and it is impossible to read Lonely and not understand how little is known about chronic loneliness, and also how little is being done to remedy that. The most powerful portion of Lonely though, is White's personal testament of her experiences and struggles with the disease, as she found herself increasingly shy and antisocial, even as her loneliness became worse. White's biggest strength lies not with her ability to gather and process information, which was clearly necessary for this book, but rather with her willingness to talk about a taboo subject, especially when it comes to sharing her personal experiences. At times however, I found Lonely too be clinical in a way that was less enjoyable for me to read, possibly because I already spend my days in the scientific field and prefer to use literature as an escape rather than an opportunity to learn detailed information about studies and statistics which were occasionally difficult to distinguish and blurred together. Lonely is an important book because it discusses something which is too often considered a source of shame and silently swept under the rug or dismissed as depression. Unfortunately, the significant portion of Lonely which focuses on scientific studies failed to captivate me in the same way the story of White's personal journey did. I easily suggest this book for readers looking to learn more about loneliness, as a lot of research has gone into the book. Lonely: Learning to Live with Solitude provides insight into a condition where a lot of information is still needed, luckily this book is a step in the right direction.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Richard Stuart

    Well, this book purports itself to be two things: a memoir and plea, a plea for recognition of and resources devoted to, loneliness. Throughout the book we get the personal story first, then loads of data and research about loneliness uncovered by the author. I think the book might have been more successful if these two separate agendas were kept compartmentalized. About halfway through the book the memoir sorta disappears, subsumed by all the percentages and jargon and plea for acknowledgement Well, this book purports itself to be two things: a memoir and plea, a plea for recognition of and resources devoted to, loneliness. Throughout the book we get the personal story first, then loads of data and research about loneliness uncovered by the author. I think the book might have been more successful if these two separate agendas were kept compartmentalized. About halfway through the book the memoir sorta disappears, subsumed by all the percentages and jargon and plea for acknowledgement of loneliness as a bona fide condition. The author glosses over MAJOR revelations of her personal life, like the fact that she is homosexual, in just a sentence. Why would she do this? I believe it is because she wanted to portray loneliness as objectively as possible, as a REAL problem unto itself and didn't want it to get caught up in a distracting and volatile discussion of the politics of sexuality, or the emotional turmoil of coming to terms with her own sexual identity. But, is it responsible of White to dismiss this HUGE factor as a possible catalyst in her descent into loneliness? I don't mean this in an accusatorial sense, but in a probative sense. To me, this is where the book falters, as it fails to deliver on the memoir side of the story. It misses the chance to really possess an emotionality that is raw and compelling, for a more boring and frankly, less sympathetic search for blame; implicating ignorance, stereotypes, lack of classification, and educational outreach programs. I understand the need for the plea; I am suffering from 'chronic' loneliness myself, right now! And this book did make me feel a bit better to know that I am not 'alone'! haha And it did give me a more diverse vocabulary to discuss the issue with others. Thank you Emily, that is very helpful! This problem is something that needs to 'get out there' and be openly talked about. It needs to become part of a discussion about what is happening to us as individuals and as a culture. Yes, the plea is good, but it could have also just been one chapter at the end instead of a constant knocking throughout the book. In conclusion, the book is important. The book possesses good information and research; it needs to be discussed, acknowledged. But the author's own story is sold way short, and that is a shame!

  20. 5 out of 5

    Lacey Louwagie

    Around the Year Reading Challenge Item #5: A book that starts with the same first letter as your name This book brought back so many memories of my time living alone -- I related a lot to the solitude White describes as she journals at her kitchen table, eats meals alone, forces herself to socialize and then finds herself uncomfortable when she does. I read this book for the "memoir" aspect of it and was a lot less interested in the loneliness research -- had I known how much of the b Around the Year Reading Challenge Item #5: A book that starts with the same first letter as your name This book brought back so many memories of my time living alone -- I related a lot to the solitude White describes as she journals at her kitchen table, eats meals alone, forces herself to socialize and then finds herself uncomfortable when she does. I read this book for the "memoir" aspect of it and was a lot less interested in the loneliness research -- had I known how much of the book would be an aggregation of other people's experiences of loneliness as well as what the experts say, I probably wouldn't have picked it up. It's not the feeling of being lonely that interests me as much as one person's experience of it. At first, it was hard for me to see the distinction White was drawing between the states of depression, loneliness and introversion. To me, a lot of the behaviors and feelings she described seemed to spring forth from introversion, but I guess the distinction is in whether you are enjoying your time alone or not. The findings about loneliness and health decline were certainly sobering, and I agree with White that it's an issue we as a culture should be more aware of. I was also interested in the stigma surrounding loneliness, and the way White found it easier to come out as gay than to come out as chronically lonely. This made me reflect more upon the loneliest times in my own life, and I realized that I was loathe to speak of the state with anyone except my closest friends as well. The fact that I never questioned not talking about it I think drives home how we've accepted the stigma around it as a culture -- probably because so many people hear "lonely" and translate it as "needy." The thing is, this may not be inaccurate. The research seems to show that chronically lonely people simply NEED more from other people than the general population does; White describes it as similar to the way a diabetic needs more insulin or a person with depression needs more serotonin. And I think in a culture that values independence and is becoming increasingly disconnected, this need can feel especially shameful and embarrassing. Although I would have liked more memoir, less academia, White is a good writer with something worthwhile to say. It's good that this book exists to tell those who most need it that they are not, in fact, alone.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Marty

    LONELY is part memoir and part scientific exploration of the state of loneliness. I really enjoyed the memoir part of the book, the science less so. I lived alone for four years in my mid-twenties, and I would say I was slightly lonely during that time. I had a great social life and plenty of friends, but I was missing what White calls "the quiet presence of another person" - either a roommate or a friend that would just hang out without talking or actively doing things together. Gett LONELY is part memoir and part scientific exploration of the state of loneliness. I really enjoyed the memoir part of the book, the science less so. I lived alone for four years in my mid-twenties, and I would say I was slightly lonely during that time. I had a great social life and plenty of friends, but I was missing what White calls "the quiet presence of another person" - either a roommate or a friend that would just hang out without talking or actively doing things together. Getting married has solved that problem for me, but I wish I would have had this book to read back then. It would have made me understand what I was feeling, and not feel like there was something odd about me. I liked this quote about the Internet and relationships and connectedness: "If you're staring down a lion, what you need are other people on hand with tranquilizer guns. The fact that someone might be sending encouragements on their Blackberry doesn't really cut it." Sometimes I feel like the Internet makes it easier to not *really* be there for a friend, but still feel like I've done my duty because I wrote Happy Birthday on their wall. I have to work harder to make myself not be lazy and give people that are important to me a call or make plans to do something in person. I'm giving this only three stars because I found all the studies about loneliness sort of boring. I understand their purpose, and she succeeded in convincing me about the nature of loneliness, but I found myself skimming and wonder if those sections could have been edited down a bit. Having said that, I enjoyed it and think it would be a great read for anyone who regularly feels lonely.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I had high hopes for this book that ultimately it did not meet. It's a combination memoir, research review, and self-help book, but the message is kind of muddled and unclear. The author seems to vacillate between whether loneliness is caused by nature or nurture and seems to advocate for government programs to help the lonely, which I don't really agree with, especially if the tendency to feel lonely is inborn, as she seems to think. Ultimately, Emily White determined that loneliness cannot be I had high hopes for this book that ultimately it did not meet. It's a combination memoir, research review, and self-help book, but the message is kind of muddled and unclear. The author seems to vacillate between whether loneliness is caused by nature or nurture and seems to advocate for government programs to help the lonely, which I don't really agree with, especially if the tendency to feel lonely is inborn, as she seems to think. Ultimately, Emily White determined that loneliness cannot be "fixed" by the lonely person him or herself -- it was up to someone ELSE to pull them out of that state. I have a hard time with this conclusion as it puts a lot of responsibility on a friend or partner, while the lonely person abdigates all responsibility. The book also seemed to drag and ramble on -- it could have been quite a bit shorter and more concise. Although the author is feeling much less lonely at the conclusion of the book, it all seems to be due to finding an intimate relationship at last. Makes sense, right? I just didn't see the ending as that profound...the author even goes far enough to admit that if something happened to her significant other, she'd be alone and lonely once again. That's a lot of responsibility for one person to bear, and it wouldn't surprise me if Danielle, the understanding girlfriend, ultimately leaves because she can't handle being a lonely person's entire world. I don't usually leave negative reviews, and I know the author's heart was in the right place, but I found this book self-indulgent and ultimately unsatisfying. I think I'll stick to fiction!

  23. 4 out of 5

    Erin

    I found this on another of my forays into the biography section at the library. I'm steadfastly not starting another novel until I finish it - otherwise I know that I'll put it down never to pick it up again. It probably doesn't really belong in the bio section of the library. It's more like a book summarizing research on loneliness and interwoven in there is the author's own experiences with being lonely. Much of the book resonates with me. I've felt lonely most of my life I found this on another of my forays into the biography section at the library. I'm steadfastly not starting another novel until I finish it - otherwise I know that I'll put it down never to pick it up again. It probably doesn't really belong in the bio section of the library. It's more like a book summarizing research on loneliness and interwoven in there is the author's own experiences with being lonely. Much of the book resonates with me. I've felt lonely most of my life - as far back as I can remember. At times it was more or less acute - the least lonely being in college (that's what living with 23 people your own age who have shared interests will do for you) and the most when I was living up north. Through reading this book I'm starting to understand why I even made choices that heightened my own loneliness at various times, even though that would seem counter-intuitive. When I lived in the mountains I would spend days seeing no one or next to no one. I lived alone 7 miles down a dead end road. I worked for a very small organization and I was quite often the only person there. I worked out at a hotel gym and I was almost always the only one there. I had no local friends. Even given that, when the owners of the house I was sitting came to visit - I would hide in my room rather than talk to them. Even when they had dinner parties and invited me I would cry off giving some lame excuse. Come to find out that's natural behavior for the lonely. I'm not sure this book will help assuage future loneliness in my life, but at least I feel less alone and more like I understand it.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Holly

    Although I score below normal on the "UCLA Loneliness Scale" and rarely experience loneliness, I was interested in reading about the difference between loneliness and solitude. White, though, really wants to differentiate loneliness and depression. There was something I couldn't quite put my finger on about this book -- some missing piece or key I thought would describe her state. Just when I began to think that the author's loneliness was the expression of a psychological disorder she confirms Although I score below normal on the "UCLA Loneliness Scale" and rarely experience loneliness, I was interested in reading about the difference between loneliness and solitude. White, though, really wants to differentiate loneliness and depression. There was something I couldn't quite put my finger on about this book -- some missing piece or key I thought would describe her state. Just when I began to think that the author's loneliness was the expression of a psychological disorder she confirms this: it "jumped the boundary line from short-term to chronic;" and then discusses the possibility of loneliness being included in the forthcoming DSM-V. White realizes that she is looking for "an emotional mirror, something [someone] I could hold up and see myself in." This is understand, but the book was repetitive and needed organizational editing. It would have been maddening to index. Also a little too insular: she mentions the work of the same researchers again and again - psychologists, sociologists, epidemiologists. She talks about the prevalence of social isolation in contemporary Western society but leaves out the influential work of Robert Putnam.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    I chose to read this book because loneliness is something people never talk about. I thought it would be interesting because I never thought of loneliness as an illness, just a feeling. I was hoping I'd like this book but I didn't. It was boring and I felt like it would never end. White mentioned multiple times that loneliness is not just a side effect of depression; she also mentioned various studies that had been done on lonely people to see how loneliness affects them, but it only seemed repe I chose to read this book because loneliness is something people never talk about. I thought it would be interesting because I never thought of loneliness as an illness, just a feeling. I was hoping I'd like this book but I didn't. It was boring and I felt like it would never end. White mentioned multiple times that loneliness is not just a side effect of depression; she also mentioned various studies that had been done on lonely people to see how loneliness affects them, but it only seemed repetitive and I didn't understand what her point was with bringing up the studies. I feel that if a person with chronic loneliness read this book it would discourage them because White doesn't give ideas on how to cope with loneliness, she only really implies that all the socializing in the world couldn't help her feel less lonely.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Dawn Michelle

    The title of this book made me not only grab it off the new book shelf at the library but I was also determined to give it as media attention as I was capable of. I loved the author's notion that loneliness is something different than depression, and is a condition unto itself. White, a former lawyer, pounds the pavement & medical libraries until she finds research to support this. Reading White's story (and the stories of so many other anonymous lonely people she interviewed) helped me feel The title of this book made me not only grab it off the new book shelf at the library but I was also determined to give it as media attention as I was capable of. I loved the author's notion that loneliness is something different than depression, and is a condition unto itself. White, a former lawyer, pounds the pavement & medical libraries until she finds research to support this. Reading White's story (and the stories of so many other anonymous lonely people she interviewed) helped me feel a little more connected to the world. Best of all I interviewed the author it was picked up by the Personal Best health section of the St. Pete Times. www.tampabay.com/news/health/article1...

  27. 4 out of 5

    Curtis

    Despite the subject matter I thought this book might be inspiring (lonely lawyer pursues real passion, succeeds as writer) and a good way to explore my own loneliness. White's personal story is interesting and White herself is extremely likable, but too much of "Lonely" focuses on research/case studies which is informative yet repetitive. I would have preferred more memoir and less technical writing, nevertheless it's still a worthy examination of depression vs loneliness and various stages/cond Despite the subject matter I thought this book might be inspiring (lonely lawyer pursues real passion, succeeds as writer) and a good way to explore my own loneliness. White's personal story is interesting and White herself is extremely likable, but too much of "Lonely" focuses on research/case studies which is informative yet repetitive. I would have preferred more memoir and less technical writing, nevertheless it's still a worthy examination of depression vs loneliness and various stages/conditions of being lonely.

  28. 5 out of 5

    David

    Fascinating read about a misunderstood issue. Important work. Loneliness comes out of the closet.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Pete Dematteo

    this is an unsettling, dispiriting book, but is fascinating and unique in its observance that ms. white went on a bicycling trip in northern Ontario and actually engaged in behavior that was counterproductive to her state of being lonely , hanging out in a cabin whilst the rest of the gals were having a sing-along, which, with an absolutely warped sense of humor, I found to be hysterical and bratty in a small child sort of way, indeed and nonetheless, it was a brilliant scene and a sharp portray this is an unsettling, dispiriting book, but is fascinating and unique in its observance that ms. white went on a bicycling trip in northern Ontario and actually engaged in behavior that was counterproductive to her state of being lonely , hanging out in a cabin whilst the rest of the gals were having a sing-along, which, with an absolutely warped sense of humor, I found to be hysterical and bratty in a small child sort of way, indeed and nonetheless, it was a brilliant scene and a sharp portrayal of how the lonely have an almost allergic reaction to any sort of change and/or group-mindedness. so, it very may be well of the majority of lonely folk, who are forced to socialize immediately and therefore unnaturally with utter strangers on bicycling trips, will sabatoge their efforts, due to panic. whilst most of them may even be afraid to feel better about anything whatsoever, they just can't get over the awkwardness of the situation that desperation has put them in! also, selecting and being around certain people, perhaps others who are hurting, themselves, due to low self-esteem, actually makes the lonely person feel so awkward and depressed afterwords, that socializing with the vast amount of folk only then intensifies the feelings of isolation, which results in the lonely person not wanting to, as ms. white has put it, even bother to answer the phone or to select a living location which is geographically inconvenient and awkward for the betterment of their social needs. her shrinks only seem to tell ms. white what she already knows. she's exhausted by making inchoate decisions, not sticking with them, or at least deciding not to decide anything, and refuses to endorse herself for any of her strengths and simply ignore the fact that she doesn't really want to do what it takes to stay in the boxing ring called single life. there are definite insights if not solutions that she exposes in the last chapter, to her great credit, although, thank God, she's certainly not trying to parent anyone nor parrot some sort of faddish cure, which she claims only make things work. this is why the book doesn't really read as if it were a memoir, but instead a sociological investigation of loneliness, stating the obvious over and over in the most complex terms possible, until she brings up the sabatoge and hopelessness of being tired of being sick and tired. maybe if ms. white tried to develop an impish sense of humor about everything under the sun, despite her understandable gloominess, she'd be better off. or, still better yet, if she were to spend 2 years volunteering at some orphanage in the mountains above cap haitien, Haiti, she might do herself well, to cure herself of utter and pathological self-absorbtion. a true sense of gratitude often helps those who have lived lives of utter priviledge, at least materialistically! ms. white is to be deeply commended for involuntarily seeking her way out of a seemingly hopeless plight, via finally running into luck and meeting the woman of her dreams, although I wonder whether, currently, in 2018, she is still in bliss with her.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen Lamothe

    On the whole I really enjoyed the book, especially the style...I feel like it struck such a nice balance between memoir and psychological/social science nerd-ery! The one minor critique I have about it is that, from the vantage point of nearly a decade after Lonely was published, some of the arguments about the dearth of loneliness as a topic in research, clinical psychology, and broader social/cultural contexts, doesn't quite hold up. As that point got repeated over and over in the book I found On the whole I really enjoyed the book, especially the style...I feel like it struck such a nice balance between memoir and psychological/social science nerd-ery! The one minor critique I have about it is that, from the vantage point of nearly a decade after Lonely was published, some of the arguments about the dearth of loneliness as a topic in research, clinical psychology, and broader social/cultural contexts, doesn't quite hold up. As that point got repeated over and over in the book I found I had to constantly remind myself that Lonely was published (2010): 1) *before* Susan Pinker's "The Village Effect," Matthew Lieberman's "Social," Johann Hari's "Lost Connections," Brene Brown's "Braving The Wilderness" and tons of other books detailing how extremely vital face-to-face feelings of belonging & connection are to human beings, 2) *before* the U.K. parliament appointed Tracey Crouch as the first ever "Minister of Loneliness" 3) *before* Vivek Murthy, the former U.S. Surgeon General, announced that the loneliness epidemic was the #1 public health crisis in America. tl;dr Lonely is a phenomenal read...especially when context is taken into consideration!

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