The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone
By Eric Klinenberg
(Penguin Press HC, The, Hardcover, 9781594203220, 288pp.)
Publication Date: February 2, 2012
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A revelatory examination of the most significant demographic shift since the Baby Boom—the sharp increase in the number of people who live alone—that offers surprising insights on the benefits of this epochal change
In 1950, only 22 percent of American adults were single. Today, more than 50 percent of American adults are single, and 31 million—roughly one out of every seven adults—live alone. People who live alone make up 28 percent of all U.S. households, which makes them more common than any other domestic unit, including the nuclear family. In GOING SOLO, renowned sociologist and author Eric Klinenberg proves that these numbers are more than just a passing trend. They are, in fact, evidence of the biggest demographic shift since the Baby Boom: we are learning to go solo, and crafting new ways of living in the process.
Klinenberg explores the dramatic rise of solo living, and examines the seismic impact it’s having on our culture, business, and politics. Though conventional wisdom tells us that living by oneself leads to loneliness and isolation, Klinenberg shows that most solo dwellers are deeply engaged in social and civic life. In fact, compared with their married counterparts, they are more likely to eat out and exercise, go to art and music classes, attend public events and lectures, and volunteer. There’s even evidence that people who live alone enjoy better mental health than unmarried people who live with others and have more environmentally sustainable lifestyles than families, since they favor urban apartments over large suburban homes. Drawing on over three hundred in-depth interviews with men and women of all ages and every class, Klinenberg reaches a startling conclusion: in a world of ubiquitous media and hyperconnectivity, this way of life can help us discover ourselves and appreciate the pleasure of good company.
With eye-opening statistics, original data, and vivid portraits of people who go solo, Klinenberg upends conventional wisdom to deliver the definitive take on how the rise of living alone is transforming the American experience. GOING SOLO is a powerful and necessary assessment of an unprecedented social change.
Eric Klinenberg is a professor of sociology at New York University and the editor of the journal Public Culture. His first book, Heat Wave, won several scholarly and literary prizes and was declared a "Favorite Book" by the Chicago Tribune. His research has been heralded in The New Yorker and on CNN and NPR, and his stories have appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Rolling Stone, and on This American Life.
"The Most Conversation-Generating Book About How We Live Now: This non-fiction book has led to coverage and related stories in just about every major media publication, from the New York Times to the The New Yorker to The Guardian... Kudos to Klinenberg, an NYU sociology professor, for providing this well-researched and compelling exploration into the utterly contemporary topic of living alone, and opening up so many discussions of what it all means about us as individuals and as a society."
—The Atlantic, "Books We Loved in 2012"
“A book so important that it is likely to become both a popular read and a social science classic... This book really will change the lives of people who live solo, and everyone else... thorough, balanced, and persuasive.”
“Today, as Eric Klinenberg reminds us in his book, ‘Going Solo,’ more than 50 percent of adults are single…[he] nicely shows that people who live alone are more likely to visit friends and join social groups. They are more likely to congregate in and create active, dynamic cities.”
—David Brooks, The New York Times
“Fascinating and admirably temperate…[Going Solo] does a good job of explaining the social forces behind the trend and exploring the psychology of those who participate in it.”
—Daniel Akst, The Wall Street Journal
—Elissa Schappell, Vanity Fair
"Going Solo examines a dramatic demographic trend: the startling increase in adults living alone. Along the way, the book navigates some rough and complicated emotional terrain, finding its way straight to questions of the heart, to the universal yearning for happiness and purpose. In the end, despite its title, Going Solo is really about living better together—for all of us, single or not."
—The Washington Post
“Klinenberg convincingly argues that the convergence of mass urbanization, communications technology, and liberalized attitudes has driven this trend.”
“This book takes a wide-ranging look at a topic that applies to many of us, even if we don't realize it.”
“Thought-provoking… Mr. Klinenberg argues that singletons comprise a kind of shadow population that’s misunderstood by policymakers and our culture writ large. Going Solo is an attempt to fill in the blanks – to explain the causes and consequences of living alone, and to describe what it looks in everyday life…. Klinenberg renders [these] stories vividly but also with nuance.”
--Christian Science Monitor
“[Going Solo] serves as a good reminder that single living is alive and well.”
“Klinenberg’s research is meticulous…Going Solo makes much of the distinction between being alone and feeling alone, between desiring company and craving personal space. Klinenberg debunks the notion that living alone is always a transitional phase en route to domestic bliss with a partner or spouse.”
--The National Post
“Going Solo is invigoratingly open-minded.”
--New York Observer
“As Klinenberg shows, this country is getting more single by the minute. The facts are astonishing.”
“Klinenberg takes an optimist’s look at how society could make sure singles—young and old, rich and poor—can make the connections that support them in their living spaces and beyond.”
“An optimistic look at shifting social priorities that need not threaten our fundamental values.”
“Klinenberg paints a compelling picture of the new trend toward ‘singletons’… Klinenberg is at ease in both scholarly and popular milieus, and his book is recommended for libraries and individuals in both worlds.”
--Library Journal (Starred Review)
“[Klinenberg] leavens his copious array of statistics with dozens of anecdotes about individuals who live alone either by choice or by circumstance...This book is a catalog of possibilities.”
“Eric Klinenberg’s Going Solo is a tour de force—a book that is relevant, engaging, and deeply insightful. An increasing number of Americans are living by themselves, whether as twentysomethings or eightysomethings. Klinenberg tears down the myths that surround living alone, creates a nuanced picture that celebrates the advantages, and details the challenges of going solo. This is a fascinating volume that infuses serious social-science research with captivating personal stories.”
--Edward Glaeser, author of Triumph of the City
“Eric Klinenberg has written a searching book on living alone. He shows the depth of this experience in modern society, its richness as well as its pains. Going Solo gives a fresh slant to debates about the organization of cities, and illuminates the philosophic quest to understand solitude. Klinenberg writes to communicate, rather than to impress. A necessary book.”
--Richard Sennett, author of Together
"Going Solo is a terrifically revealing work and an important reminder: the design of cities and communities must go beyond architecture and the environment to reflect the way people want or need to live. Eric Klinenberg’s account of how living alone has changed the modern metropolis should be required reading for anyone who cares about cities."
--Kate Ascher, author of The Heights and The Works
“A fascinating, even-handed exploration of the rise in solo living, addressing its rewards and challenges for individuals as well as its far-reaching implications for society. Illuminating.”
--Stephanie Coontz, author of Marriage, A History
“Going Solo brilliantly explores an overlooked phenomenon with significant implications, and debunks longstanding cultural myths that have prevented us from understanding the rise of living alone. Instead of lamenting the decline of community, Klinenberg calls attention to the innovative ways we’re connecting with others while also creating space for reflection and personal growth. He entices us to rethink the very essence of home, personal relationships, and community. It’s an absolute must-read for anyone who’s curious about contemporary social life, and especially for those who fret that technology is making people more isolated.”
--danah boyd, Senior Researcher, Microsoft Research and co-author of Hanging Out