Alone: Reflections on Solitary Living (Hardcover)

Alone: Reflections on Solitary Living By Daniel Schreiber, Ben Fergusson (Translated by) Cover Image
By Daniel Schreiber, Ben Fergusson (Translated by)
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A book for our times: a moving meditation on the tension between loneliness and freedom, individualism and love.
At no time before have so many people lived alone, and never has loneliness been so widely or keenly felt. Why, in a society of individualists, is living alone perceived as a shameful failure? And can we ever be happy on our own? Drawing on personal experience, as well as philosophy and sociology, Daniel Schreiber explores the tension between the desire for solitude and freedom, and the desire for companionship, intimacy, and love. Along the way he illuminates the role that friendships play in our lives—can they be a response to the loss of meaning in a world in crisis? A profoundly enlightening book on how we want to live, Alone spent almost a year on Germany’s bestseller list.

About the Author

Daniel Schreiber is the author of Susan Sontag, the first complete biography of the intellectual icon, as well as the highly praised and bestselling German-language literary essays Nüchtern and Zuhause. He lives in Berlin.

Ben Fergusson is an award-winning writer and translator. He is the author of Tales from the Fatherland and An Honest Man.

Praise For…

“Schreiber’s arguments and personal reflections beautifully capture our emotional lives; they manage to be both honest and inspiring.”
— Andrew Stark

"Schreiber’s Alone: Reflections on Solitary Living was a surprise bestseller in Germany when it was first published in 2021, now translated into English by Ben Fergusson. In it, Schreiber eloquently digs in to the taboo subjects of loneliness and shame. It has to be said that Alone is not a self-help book; it’s an existential book, and all the more transgressive for it. A hybrid between essay and memoir, the author puts to work the writing of various philosophers and poets, including Hannah Arendt, Friedrich Nietzsche and Sappho to examine the vicissitudes of intimacy, solitude, the solace of friendships. Schreiber is interested in the gap between the life we live and the life that we imagined for ourselves. In this sense, Alone is also a conversation about yearning for an unlived life.”
— New Statesman, Books of the Year 2023

"Schreiber has previously written a biography of Susan Sontag and several volumes of essays, and this is a work suffused with the essayistic sensibility. It blends passages of memoir with scholarly and literary references to explore the author’s existence as a single gay man who often feels he is living outside standard social models. . . . Friendship is, in fact, as much the topic of this book as aloneness. Schreiber writes interestingly about it, drawing a contrast between its polymorphic freedoms and the 'grand narratives' of love and family. . . . Alone follows a 'small' spirit itself; it takes only brief dips into its sources, and does not drive towards any climactic answer. . . . Beautiful images and insights bounce up along the way."
— Guardian, Book of the Day

"A heartfelt memoir on being single, living alone and the existential experience of loneliness. . . . A study of intimacy and independence. . . . Alone is also a very personal narrative, one that covers friendship, sexuality, depression and ageing. Schreiber’s observations are heartfelt, particularly the ideas that even the most acute loneliness can bring us something."
— Financial Times

"Schreiber’s set of linked essays underscores the differences between being lonely and being alone, then brings forward the complex and fluid relationship between those states. . . . Schreiber’s essays have what I can only describe as a lived-in feel. A few quotations here won’t suffice to convey how many shades of experience—of contentment and gloom and everything in between—show through."
— Inside Higher Ed

"Schreiber’s melancholy genius, reminiscent of Thomas Mann, is evident on every page. The delicacy of his insights, his quiet dedication to consciousness, and the calibre of his reflections mark him as a writer to treasure."
— The Australian

"[Schreiber] fuses memoir with intellectual flair, quoting from philosophers and psychoanalysts as he considers the lot of a larger than ever group of people. Hermits and intimacy, the taboo of loneliness and the consolation of friendship—all find their place in a meditation that nods to joy and adversity."
— The Observer (UK)

"The challenges and contours of a life spent largely alone is the subject of Schreiber's reflective, elegantly written book—a bestseller in Germany and recently translated into English. In eight essays, blending personal narrative and psychology, Schreiber explores contemporary solitude. . . . Schreiber writes perceptively of the pain of being 'left behind' in love, and of the cumulative effect of routine loneliness and its insidious, stultifying impact on well-being and broader world view. His descriptions of mixed, murky feelings are evocative, moving and often instantly familiar. . . . Schreiber applies psychology and sociology carefully, never rushing to flimsy conclusions or reaching for false connections. . . . Schreiber's well-read self-reflection elevates Alone. With this thought-provoking, often profound book, he proffers a hand to anyone who may have felt irrevocably, irredeemably alone and says 'me, too.'"
— New Scientist

"The sheer number of us who are lonely is good news (in a way) for a writer of Schreiber’s calibre. I’m not surprised that the German essayist and biographer’s poignant and personal exploration of this taboo subject spent nearly a year on Germany’s bestseller list in 2021. . . . Although divided into chapters on different aspects of loneliness . . . the book’s 152 pages read as one long essay on being alone. . . . Along the way we are treated to snippets from sociologists, psychologists and writers. . . . Schreiber writes movingly about our expectations of what counts as a good life."
— Tablet

"Beautifully written."
— Country Life, "Best Books of 2023"

"Drawing on personal experience, as well as philosophy and sociology, Schreiber explores the tensions between our desire for solitude and our need for companionship and intimacy. The result is a ‘profoundly enlightening look at loneliness in modern life.'”
— Bookseller

"A slim book of 150 pages, it combines his personal experiences and reflections with philosophical, psychological and cultural insights into the subject of living alone. . . . Thoughtful, inclusive, and at times poetic, this is a quietly beautiful book that I can imagine many people, alone or coupled, relishing for its insights."
—, Book of the Month

“The most moving, memorable books are the ones that attempt to answer questions that the author has been struggling with for his entire life. In Alone, Schreiber—a beautiful writer and, just as important, a beautiful thinker—explores the questions of not just his life, but our age: Who am I if no one loves me? What are the limits of friendship? How does one live with deep and profound loneliness? This is a book for not just this year, but this era.”
— Hanya Yanagihara, author of "A Little Life" and "To Paradise"

“Schreiber has written a brave and searching vindication of single life, a book about the cultivation and tending of solitude, about solitude as an art. Amid the bewildering loss of everydayness imposed by the pandemic, when solitude was not chosen but enforced, Schreiber creates in these pages a moving conversation—with philosophers and poets, theorists and novelists—about the sources of value in our lives. By multiplying our sense of those sources, by insisting on the dignity of models of life that have sometimes been disparaged, this book finally becomes a document of liberation.”
— Garth Greenwell, author of "What Belongs to You" and "Cleanness"

"An intelligent, moving, and heartfelt meditation on the mixed joys and sorrows of solitude. Schreiber's prose is gorgeous, practically silken, and he wears his erudition so lightly that he is the best possible guide on this journey to the elegant lunar landscape of aloneness."
— Lauren Groff, author of "Matrix" and "Fates and Furies"

“Oh my god, I tore through this breathtaking book! Alone is gorgeously, sensitively written and yet so explicit in its honesty and vulnerability. I connected with it deeply and personally—I truly loved it.”
— Jami Attenberg, author of “All This Could Be Yours” and “I Came All This Way to Meet You”

"This is a book to love and to cherish. Schreiber is such a skilled and engaging writer. Without sentimentality, he digs into the taboo subject of loneliness—societal, personal, existential; the salvation of hiking, the many dimensions of friendship, the solace of literature, the value of kindness, the pleasures of solitude. You will meet Nietzsche, Sappho, Arendt—and perhaps you will meet yourself, walking in the hills, thinking about new ways to live."
— Deborah Levy, author of "The Cost of Living" and "August Blue"

 "Schreiber’s Alone, immaculately translated from the German by Fergusson, is an examination and celebration of friendship, marred by his need to denigrate more intimate relationships. . . . Acute and fascinating. . . . A book so honest might be desolate. It’s not.”
— Times Literary Supplement
Product Details
ISBN: 9781789147650
ISBN-10: 1789147654
Publisher: Reaktion Books
Publication Date: September 8th, 2023
Pages: 152
Language: English