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Lonely: Learning to Live with Solitude Hardcover – Feb 9 2010

4.0 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: McClelland & Stewart (Feb. 9 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0771088779
  • ISBN-13: 978-0771088773
  • Product Dimensions: 14.7 x 3 x 21.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 544 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #260,219 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

Quill & Quire

In recent years, the memoir has shifted from the tell-all to the personal essay, and from there it has branched out into various forms of creative non-fiction: often beautiful me-centered takes on some aspect of the human condition that engage and instruct simultaneously. Emily White’s first book falls into this category. While Lonely’s narrative sticks pretty closely to the trajectory of White’s personal journey, the book also draws on a wide range of research – from neuropsychology to social studies – in an attempt to bring a well-known yet frequently unacknowledged human experience out of the shadows.

White was born almost a decade later than her two sisters, and four years before her parents divorced. Although well-loved and cared for, much of her childhood was characterized by loneliness. However, the true depth of her isolation did not manifest itself until after she graduated from the University of Toronto law school (where she was happiest, surrounded by friends and kept busy) and started work as an environmental lawyer. A cluster of small factors in her life stirred up feelings of exclusion that worsened as the years went on. This extended period of chronic loneliness inspired her to research and write Lonely.

White corrects many widely held misconceptions about loneliness and the people who find themselves gripped by it. She points out that lonely people are not “needy” and thus somehow impaired.

Unfortunately, as White attests, there are almost no ongoing scientific studies of loneliness, in sharp contrast to its media-friendly cousin, depression. Of the limited work that is being done on the subject, social neuroscientist John Cacioppo dominates the field. He points out that the experience of feeling socially isolated is not just sad, it’s dangerous. Dangerous because, from an evolutionary perspective, humans are social animals, and we need other people to survive – literally.

Although the condition is on the rise in our increasingly fragmented and migratory society, loneliness continues to be a source of shame. Perhaps White’s bravery in exposing her own heart and soul, and her skill in integrating these experiences with expert findings, will bring loneliness out of the shadows and into the light of public discourse at last. 


“Kudos to Emily White for having written that rare book which feels both necessary and evolutionary. Lonely is a masterwork on the topic, a memoir of deep insight and revelation.” (Alice Sebold)

“[A] sophisticated inquiry...The power of White’s story comes from the sweeping investment she has made in tracking and tackling her loneliness. White makes the case that loneliness deserves attention and respect as a legitimate condition.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“[A]n impassioned call to arms on behalf of a condition no one wants to talk about.” (

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Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
What a stunning, beautiful book! I appreciated how White mixes personal narrative with analysis; she elevates discussion of statistics and research into something creative and poetic. I'm sure it wasn't an easy book to write but it's an easy and delightful book to read, and I think many people who struggle with loneliness are going to be grateful to her for having written it. Even if you've never dealt with loneliness (and you're lucky if that's you!) there's so much in these pages about empathy and self-discovery.
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Format: Hardcover
Powerful, personal journey that is very intimate. I loved the fact that the author used her intelligence to realize that she is lonely, work through her personal feelings and also do research on an area that is barely acknowledged that it exists. I also like that she ties Loneliness to Depression as path it can go down.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A page turner. Really. Forgot it on a trip, and bought a second copy. It may not be that for those not interested in the topic, but for those who are, this is it. Very little written on this subject and this book provides great insight and actually shifted my thinking on the topic. In a really positive way.
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