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Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone [Hardcover]

Eric Klinenberg
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Feb. 7 2012

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.


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Review

"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.”
Psychology Today

“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

"Trailblazing."
—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.”
(-Slate.com)

 “Cliché-shattering.”
(-Newsday)

 “This book takes a wide-ranging look at a topic that applies to many of us, even if we don't realize it.”
(-Associated Press)

“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.”
(-The Atlantic)

“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.”
(-Bookforum)

“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.”
(-Publisher���s Weekly)

“An optimistic look at shifting social priorities that need not threaten our fundamental values.”
(-Kirkus Reviews)

“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.”
(-BookPage)

“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)

About the Author

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.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The wave of the Future---NOW! Aug. 28 2012
Format:Hardcover
Going Solo
The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone

By Eric Klinenberg

Who doesn't know someone who lives alone--who has for years and seems happy--is happy?

This new trend is setting an entirely new paradigm for how we live, where we live and the amenities this growing population demands. The statistics surrounding this relatively new phenomenon are staggering since for the first time in history, huge numbers of humans have started to settle down as what author Klinenberg refers to as Singletons. (Singleton is an author-created term that refers to those who live alone--no children, no romantic partner, no roommates.)

"Today, more than 50% of American adults are single--roughly one out of every seven adults--live alone."

Since living alone is so new to our society as a whole, we have no clear cut rationale to deal with it in a positive and supportive way. The old-fashioned premise, especially for women, that living alone is only a stage before landing that romantic partner is just that--old! Author Klinenberg is quick to point out that his entire study only deals with the culture of modern cities which allow for the expression of individual eccentricities and permit experiments with new ways of living.

The author's extensive research came to light and was later funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation after the publication of Heat Wave. This new social arrangement came into the public interest after the 1995 heat wave left hundreds of people in America's inner cities so isolated that they ultimately died alone. To understand how this could have happened, the best thing to do was go backwards to find the source.

"Today more that 5 million Americans under 35 have places of their own.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
By Stephen Pletko TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
XXXXX

"The primary sources of original research that I use in this book are ethnographic observations and long-form, semi-structured interviews with more that three hundred people who live alone. In addition, I draw on interviews with people who assist, interact with, or design for those who live alone, including social workers, family caregivers, community organizers, political officials, urban planners, architects, and scientists working on artificial intelligence.

All of the ethnographic observations and interviews took place in major metropolitan areas, and it should be clear that THIS BOOK IS PRIMARILY ABOUT LIVING ALONE IN CITIES [my upper case emphasis added]...The majority of the research presented here took place in four boroughs of New York City (Brooklyn, the Bronx, Manhattan, and Queens)...The fieldwork also extended to other metropolitan regions including the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, Austin, Chicago, and Stockholm. And the research included extensive reviews of the secondary literature on living alone in many parts of the world, such as England, France, Australia, China, Japan, South Korea, India, and Brazil.

I used different methods to recruit subjects from each of the following four groups of people who live alone:

[1] young adult professionals (between the ages of 28 and 40)
[2] middle-age middle-class adults (ages 40 to 65)
[3] poor men in single-room occupancy hotels (ages 30 to 65)
[4] and the old (ages 65 and above)."

The above comes from the appendix of this interesting and relevant book by Eric Klinenberg. Klinenberg is Professor of Sociology at New York University and an author.

In order to understand this book, it's important to understand what a sociologist does.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing eye opener Nov. 25 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book is, more than anything else, incredibly interesting for people of all ages especially the elderly. I haven't finished it yet but I think there should be forums on the book; as in discussions about the ramifications of this situation, especially the financial ones.
I would recommend it to everyone.
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Amazon.com: 3.9 out of 5 stars  76 reviews
164 of 174 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Important work, but very unbalanced April 5 2012
By Maysi Sem - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Eric Klinenberg has written an important work that has many useful facts about those of us who choose to live alone, but he has missed at least half of the picture by ignoring two very important things: those of us who identify as introverts (those who prefer their own company and derive a sense of reality from within rather than without), and the majority of elderly people who are not down and out, living in NYC, and who are having a great time living in retirement communities and on their own.
With regard to introverts, it is striking that Klinenberg does not even refer to Anneli Rufus and her book 'Party of One: The Loner's Manifesto'. This is a must-read for anyone writing about living alone. Klinenberg's bias towards extroverts and those who need interaction with others in order to maintain their mental health shows over and over again, especially in his writing about elderly people. For many people, reaching middle age and beyond is a wonderful time when at long last we no longer have to be around other people all the time and can enjoy that solitude we have been craving for decades. Those of us who are true introverts never need to worry about "filling empty hours" - it's unthinkable. We've spent our lives waiting for a time when we actually have more time to devote to the hundreds of things we've never had a chance to do because we had to spend so much of our time working. Klinenberg's cautionary tales about becoming ill are worth reading, especially in a country with such a horrific health care system, but he focuses solely on the really sad, horrible tales, mostly limiting his discussion to NYC.
Meanwhile, out in what Stephen Colbert would call "the heartland," there are millions of elderly people who are not wasting away alone in some SRO or nursing home, but who are instead enjoying an excellent quality of life, living independently in apartments and cottages that are part of retirement communities that provide round-the-clock health care when needed. My mother has lived in such a community very independently for the past 20 years and she loves it (she will be 90 this year). She and my father were not wealthy (they were educators), but they saved up their money, made some sensible investment decisions, sold their house and moved to a retirement community in their 70s when they were both still healthy. Today my mother is very active, goes out, attends cultural events, volunteers, has dozens of friends, gets excellent medical care, usually eats one meal a day with friends in the central dining room, and can still cook for herself. Having gotten to know her friends and a host of other elderly people living in nearby retirement communities, this is a common tale, not an exception. There are many such places dotted across the US, and although some of them are prohibitively expensive - and not worth the cost - most are just as affordable as living in an apartment complex.
So don't let Klinenberg's book scare you. It's a very incomplete work written by a clearly biased individual. Yes, it's important to get the word out that living alone is becoming increasingly popular, so he deserves praise for doing that. However, this change in living styles is a cause for great celebration, in my opinion. At last we can live the way we want to rather than putting up with the old models of marriage, family, kids, ad nauseum! Notice how difficult it is, even for an 'objective sociologist' to put a positive spin on this revolutionary change? For those of us who have lived alone for years and love it, the appeal is not 'surprising' at all.
138 of 150 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Going Solo Rocks! Feb. 4 2012
By Elena Portacolone - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I loved reading this heartfelt and thorough investigation of a rather unexplored phenomenon as living alone. I enjoyed very much the way the plot unfolds. I could not put the book down until the end, something that never occurs.

As in Heat Wave, the account unfolds through the eloquent use of academic literature, the compelling stories of informants, and the author's candid observations. Without revealing too much, I enjoyed how Klinenberg convinced me of the appeal of living alone. I often found myself wondering how the author, a married man with two kids, could explain with crystal clarity the thrill of making it alone of many women like me - buying a home on your own, finding your path, falling in love with your higher self. What I loved the most was how the author employed the "appeal" of the "social experiment" of living alone as the foundation for the discussion of the other side of the coin - the hardships and hazards of living alone in societies not yet equipped to serve legions of one-head householders.

As social scientist who studied for the last four years the condition of living alone in older age in America, I was pleased to finally, for the first time, read such an articulate and entertaining discussion of the many facets of living solo. I appreciated how Klinenberg draws the line between loneliness and living alone, how he highlights the issues of studying social isolation and the importance of proper housing policies. I was taken by the author's account of his grandmother's experience in a high-end assistive living facility (we know so little about life in these spaces!), his reflection on horrific nursing homes and unaffordable services for older adults, as well as his discussion of best practices in New York and in Sweden.

Finally, whereas Heat Wave was a serious book as "social autopsies" should be, Going Solo surprised me with some very funny paragraphs where I found myself laughing hard. It was a joy to finally immerse myself into a sophisticated analysis founded on unforgettable ethnographies, clear arguments, and even humor. What an inspiration!
87 of 94 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This Book Will Change Our Lives Feb. 2 2012
By Bella DePaulo - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This Book Will Change Our Lives -- For the Better

There are three interrelated trends that are reshaping our personal lives and our society, and all three have been developing for decades:
* The rise in the number and proportion of people who are single (always-single, divorced, or widowed);
* The increasing number of years that adults spend unmarried rather than married, with the unmarried years now outnumbering the married ones; and
* The increase in the number of people living solo.

The last of those three is the topic of a book so important that it is likely to become both a popular read and a social science classic. It is Eric Klinenberg's just-published Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone.

Does the title of this review sound like hype? I meant it seriously. This book really will change the lives of people who live solo, and everyone else. At least it should. The main thing standing in the way of an explosion of attention and impact is that the claims are not sensationalized. More people are living solo than ever before in human history. That's just a fact. If Klinenberg had tried to persuade us that, as a consequence of this rise in living alone, America was becoming a nation of isolated, lonely people, and that our civic and community life was in a long period of decline - well, then he would have an instant best-seller, hands-down! In fact, as he notes, the best-selling sociology books in the history of the United States have peddled just such dire messages.

If you wanted to see the rise of solo living as a bad, bad thing, you could comb through Going Solo, pluck a few choice excerpts, and make your case. Similarly, if you wanted to declare that living solo is an unmitigated personal and interpersonal good, you could find some quotes that would seem supportive. What you cannot do, if you really do read the entire book, is come away with anything but a deep and complex understanding of what it means to live alone. It can be exhilarating or depressing or both. It can be awesome for some and awful for others.

I don't know the author (though I did talk to him on the phone when he was researching the book), but I did know his previous work. I have to admit that I was a bit wary when I first learned that he was writing a book on solo living. That's because one of his previous books, Heat Wave, was about the hundreds of Chicagoans who died alone, at home, during the 1995 heat wave. Would Going Solo be the sociological version of Bridget Jones's fear about ultimate fate of people who live single - that they would all "end up dying alone and found three weeks later half-eaten by an Alsatian"? Not hardly.

Eric Klinenberg does tell us about the worst cases - people who really do die alone, and whose bodies remain unclaimed by any other humans. Yet even then, he does not presume to judge: "...when truly isolated people die alone...we can't actually know whether their solitude was a source of sadness, or satisfaction" (p. 128).

I have so much more to say about this book. I'll save those discussions for blog posts. (Already available is my list of the top 12 things you probably did not know about living solo: [...] For now, I'll end by returning to the title of this review.

So why will Going Solo change our lives? Here are a few of the reasons:

* The book puts solo living on the map, as a pervasive and consequential feature of contemporary life, not just in the United States, but far beyond. It establishes going solo as a way of living not likely to recede anytime soon.

* The research and the arguments are thorough, balanced, and persuasive. The work is based on more than 300 interviews, collected nationally and internationally, over a 7-year period. The author is an esteemed sociologist, who positions his findings in historical and cross-cultural context.

* Eric Klinenberg explains, for many big important domains of life, why the increase in solo living matters: "The rise of living alone has been a transformative social experience. It changes the way we understand ourselves and our most intimate relationships. It shapes the way we build our cities and develop our economies. It alters the way we become adults, as well as how we age and the way we die. It touches every social group and nearly every family, no matter who we are or whether we live with others today" (p. 6).

* Perhaps most significant, in terms of actually making change happen, is that Going Solo builds up to a final chapter, "Redesigning solo life." There, Klinenberg shares his insights about what societies can do to support and enrich the lives not only of those people who are living alone, but also those who care about the singletons, or who may find themselves living solo in the future.

--Bella DePaulo, author of Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After
25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Meh - not enough about the "surprising appeal" April 10 2012
By SammaLamma - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
"Going Solo" is a disappointing and rather depressing read. I bought it because "The Surprising APPEAL of Living Alone" caught my eye. Finally, I thought, someone who gets how fantastic it can be to live alone. But the book is all over the place! It focuses mostly on the PROBLEMS some elderly people have living by themselves and growing completely isolated. The author clearly does not understand how liberating and absolutely joyful it can be, especially for an introvert like me, to live alone. He makes it sound like people who live alone must have something wrong with them - yellow teeth, repugnant attitudes, and/or no social skills. I also didn't like that most of his examples of older people turning to family were examples of families that couldn't stand each other.

I kept thinking "where is the JOY in this book?" Not everyone who is 50+ years old just sits around watching TV 18 hours a day and mumbling to themselves while they wait to die. I am 52, and live alone after raising two sons on my own. I just bought my first home and am in the process of designing a lovely large garden. I work full-time and I go to college full-time. My home has always been my sanctuary. I have one large party per year, and the rest of the time, by choice, I rarely invite people over, other than my grown sons. To me, solitude is the greatest conceivable luxury.

If you need a caveat on the importance of bathing and flossing, you might benefit from this book. But if you are looking for a reaffirmation of the JOYS of "going solo," this ain't it!
33 of 39 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars None Feb. 7 2012
By B. Zimmer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition
a fascinating look at the
future. some ideas to think about: are retirement homes too oppressive? is a community of singles of mixed ages more satisfying? should we try harder to find away to help those who are poor and isolated? the book is too short for the price and too focused on new york city, but has some intensively researched insights.
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