The subtitle of "Solitude", by noted British Psychiatrist, Anthony Strorr is "A Return To The Self." It is about knowing the self - you. There are many great books about solitude - Merton, Thoreau, Emerson and Grumbach, but this well written book is not about just solitude; it is about the value of solitude. The most interesting thing is that Storr first sets the stage by discussing the importance of relationships.
He starts with: "Love and friendship are of course, an important part of what makes life worthwhile." And then: "If we did not look to marriage as the principle source of happiness, fewer marriages would end in tears." and "If it is accepted that no relationship is ever ideal, it makes it easier to understand why men need other sources of fulfillment."
And finally, "Two opposite drives operate throughout life: the drive for companionship, love, and everything else which brings us closer to our fellow men; and the drive toward being independent, separate, and autonomous."
He implies that isolation is a psychological prison out side of society. Cults that isolate people are outside of the accepted mythology of humanity. If you cannot share your insights with your relationship or your community then you have experienced something other than solitude.
Storr reminds us that solitude is at it's best when it is an individual excursion from a fulfilling relationship. Storr explains the need for the paradox of the comfort of companionship versus the solace of solitude.
Solitude is not about an escape from life, but a re-entry into life with new insights from your time of solitude.
Please be patient with his summary of psychological history, because it is the explanation for the need of solitude in our lives.
This is the perfect book to read if you are starting your journey for the meaning of life. Your personal enlightenment, wherever it comes from, only has value when you share it with the place you came from. To embark upon Joseph Campbell's "Hero's Journey" start with this book.