Monday, February 20, 2012

Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone by Eric Klinenberg

I come from a long line of single women, so Eric Klinenberg's sociological study, Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone was an appealing book. Sounds funny to say a long line of single women, doesn't it? But, my grandmother lived a lone for a number of years after my grandfather died. My mother was widowed at fifty-five, and has made a very successful life for herself. I was widowed at fifty-two. We're just one group of people studied in this book.

Klinenberg's introduction covers the history of humanity, from a society that originally organized itself around groups that lived with others, to the current situation in society. Using "singletons" for people who live alone, he says, "For the first time in human history, great numbers of people - of all ages, in all places, of every political persuasion - have begun settling down as singletons."

Naturally, as a sociologist dealing with a study, Klinenberg presents a number of statistics to show this trend worldwide. But, he also presents the human side of this study, interviewing people who live alone. There are those young people who chose to live in apartments or buy houses, living alone. May of them delay marriage while fostering their career. And many discover that they enjoy that lifestyle. Living alone is no longer stigmatized as it once was, although women often deal with that issue more than men do, because they don't marry and have children.

Some people come to the single lifestyle through death of a partner or divorce, and then often discover they are comfortable with themselves. Klinenberg points out that often the benefits of marriage are not there. Sometimes people are lonelier in a bad marriage than they are if they are single.

Although many of Klinenberg's singletons enjoy their lives, he also discusses groups of men often forced to live in substandard housing and in poverty. Sometimes this is due to drug or alcohol problems, a criminal record, but sometimes it's due to a loss of work.

There is much that is positive in Klinenberg's study. But, he also covers the issues of the elderly, sometimes with no one left in their lives, and sometimes ending up in poor conditions due to the lack of family and support from society. It's the one fear that many singletons face. However, when offered the choice of marrying, and sometimes dealing with an ill partner for years, or remaining single, many people prefer to continue to live alone. As people age, those fears of being alone or sick near the end of life often creep into conversations.

Eric Klinenberg's Going Solo is not light reading. However, he points out that, "Today, more than 50 percent of American adults are single, and 31 million - roughly one out of every seven adults - live alone." It's important to understand that those of us who live alone have often made choices to live that way. He discusses the economic clout this group has. He mentions how cities and culture flourish because this group supports the arts, restaurants, culture, and this group volunteers more than other groups. Klinenberg points out that, if organized, this section of society could also have enormous voting power. Going Solo is a fascinating examination of a group of people who have great potential for the future.

Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone by Eric Klinenberg. Penguin Press. 2012. ISBN 9781594203220 (hardcover), 288p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I received a copy of this book to participate in a blog tour.

If you would like to see additional reviews of Going Solo, tomorrow it will be reviewed at, and on Thursday, it will be covered at


Beth Hoffman said...

I'm interested in reading this book. While I love my husband and am glad we're married, I adored living alone and had a hard time sharing a living space after we married. And even now, I have a "single" mindset that's never wavered.

Lesa said...

I can understand that, Beth. I love living alone now, and I don't want to share. I keep trying to tell a friend that who wants to get married. I've told her she's too used to living alone, and she would have a hard time adjusting, but she doesn't get it.

Rosemary said...

I have been married for 21 years and I still often miss living alone; I've only recently been able to establish a little study of my own, and I absolutely love it. I can't understand people who say 'don't you get bored?' if my family are all away - the answer is definitely NO. My mother was widowed at the age of 39 and has never wanted to remarry - she likes having visitors but says she also likes being able to close the door after they've left!

Lesa said...

Your mother is perfectly right, Rosemary. I loved my husband of 27 years, but I love my life alone now.

Susan J Tweit said...

Thanks for this review, Lesa. I'll look for the book. I'm relearning how to live alone after helping my husband, and the love of my life for nearly 29 years "die well" of brain cancer last fall. I have to say that much as I wish I had my love back with me, I'm reveling in the solo life. What I don't love is people's assumptions about what being a widow means--empty, broken, somehow less than a whole person. I'm a memoirist, and in fact, one of my blog fans pointed me to your review after reading my "Woman Alone" post. Thanks again for the timely and useful review! (

Rosemary said...

Susan, I think my mother would have said the same as you when my father died - of course she would have liked him back, but she soon started to enjoy her single life - over the past 40+ years she has done many things that she probably wouldn't have done if my father had lived (of course they would have done other things) - she has many friends and a very full and interesting life, and certainly wouldn't think of herself as 'broken'. Good luck to you in your new life.

Heather J. @ TLC Book Tours said...

I was wondering about that "long line of single women" so I'm glad you clarified. :)

Thanks for being on the tour!

Karen Walker said...

In May I will celebrate my 25th wedding anniversary. It will be a celebration of the give and take necessary for a successful long term relationship. Recently, a young man entering into marriage asked me the secret to being married for 25 years. I immediately responded with, “it’s a choice”. See I believe that each day we make a choice to pursue happiness or discontent and the choice is how hard we want to work at which one. There have been times, even extended time, when my focus is on the discontent. That is one of the reasons I connected to the book Going Solo, in that living alone is a choice that can provide for individual growth and happiness. I feel Going Solo would be a good book for married couples to read to provide an understanding of what goes on in the mind of individuals who choose to live alone and why that choice is rewarding. Specifically, the considerations of schedules, habits and space that occur in a cohabitated relationship. This book would provides insight into the frustrations surrounding issues that occur between couples about scheduled, habits and space. Only this morning two female colleges and I were discussing the demands on our time and space in the home and how our husbands perceptions differ from ours . I don’t not want to infer that these perceptions only belong to women, the book clearly shows that both genders at times prefer to live alone. I would encourage everyone to read this book to have a better understanding of living with another person.