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The Lonely American: Drifting Apart in the Twenty-first Century

3.7  ·  Rating Details ·  97 Ratings  ·  31 Reviews
In today's world, it is more acceptable to be depressed than to be lonely-yet loneliness appears to be the inevitable byproduct of our frenetic contemporary lifestyle. According to the 2004 General Social Survey, one out of four Americans talked to no one about something of importance to them during the last six months. Another remarkable fact emerged from the 2000 U.S. Ce ...more
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published February 1st 2009 by Beacon Press (first published 2009)
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An even-toned book on a timely and important topic, The Lonely American advances a thoughtful thesis: our efforts at stepping back from the light-speed hubbub of our daily lives to reconnect with "what's important" might inadvertently exacerbate our disconnect.

The authors provide some good insight on the psychological, evolutionary and (very simplified) neurobiological dimensions of bond formation. They also provide a good explanation of social exclusion and its effects (such as increased aggres
Jul 08, 2009 Alisa rated it really liked it
This book contains an excellent critique of the cult of busyness that most of us are committed to, and how that negatively affects our relationships. I felt very convicted by my natural tendency to withdraw from the hectic world and isolate (cocoon) myself within my family... and how that results in a self-imposed loneliness that I later regret. I highly recommend it... it's a quick read because it's so interesting!
Jan 01, 2014 Oswald rated it really liked it
Quotes I found interesting:

"gossip plays the same role for humans that grooming behavior does for other primates. It creates bonds between individuals tht go beyond the basic reproductive units of sexual partners and their offspring. It creates groups." P. 65

As group size increases, so does the size of the neocortex." P. 65

48 percent of all households on the island [of Manhattan] are one-person households. P. 79

Does time on the Internet replace other forms of social connection, or does it supple
Sarah Dale
May 04, 2013 Sarah Dale rated it it was amazing
Shelves: psychology
Very readable and a well-informed and interesting reflection on what is happening to many people in Western societies, not just America. Loneliness is often a taboo subject but can have a profound effect on how vulnerable we are to mental (and physical) ill-health. A very important topic I think.
Jan 04, 2010 Anna rated it liked it
This book begins with the premise from Robert Putnam's Bowling Alone (a changing-my-world-view book) that people are not as connected as they used to be and that the outcomes of this are negative for society and the individual. The thesis of The Lonely American is that people drift away from social connections because of push and pull factors. The push is the frenetic and overscheduled intensity of modern life and the pull is the American ideal of the self-reliant hero that stands apart from the ...more
This book is pretty depressing (but really well written and interesting!), but I read all the way through it anyway, because it confirmed a sense I have been having about modern society, and American society in particular, which is that we're just not as connected as we used to be. This book cites all sorts of studies, all sorts of personal observations, and of course all the technological innovations like the Internet, Facebook, etc., that have become so indispensible but more and more just kee ...more
Sep 04, 2012 Suzie rated it it was amazing
Excellently presented, interesting examples given, and generally well-written, 'The Lonely American' explores the causes and effects of stepping back from our busy lives. I particularly enjoyed chapters 1, 2, 6, & 10.

Some quotes I found interesting:
"Cocooning is the couples' version of social isolation. It does increase closeness in marriages. It also increases the fragility of marriage, the burdens placed upon marriage, and, over time, it increases the likelihood of both divorce and lonelin
With Butterflies
An interesting read. The book attempts to shed light on the social disconnection of the modern American.

At times it seems as if the authors will use anything (Netflix questionnaires?) to prove their point of view, yet most of their cites are concrete.

What bothered me most of all was the insistence that one cannot live a fulfilled life without the varied connections the authors seem to believe we need. I'm not saying we should all be our own islands of existence, but I don't think it is a dange
Mar 07, 2009 Heather rated it it was amazing
Super readable. Easy to quote from. Enjoyable to read cover-to-cover (which I so rarely get to do when sermon writing). Relevant, very current (2009), Beacon Press. In several places, quietly affirms the value and importance of welcoming, open-minded, enduring religious communities. Gave me some great analysis to mull over about Facebook, online dating, all the current forms of connecting online, what they add to our lives and what they're missing.
Sep 03, 2015 Roxanne rated it really liked it
This book is about being lonely in life in the 21st century. We devote more time to technology to stay connected than any society in history, yet studies show that we feel alone anyway. People are way too busy now and have forgotten how to belong. They do not know their neighbors and do not make any real life in person friends. I find that so sad. I am glad for the people I have in my life.
Jason Weill
Jul 05, 2016 Jason Weill rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
A good follow-up for anyone who enjoyed "Bowling Alone." Written in 2008, this book looks at the sociological, psychological, and physiological effects of loneliness. As the share of single-person households in the U.S. climbs, these issues have greater importance than ever. Great quick read with a mix of engaging anecdotes and acadmic data.
Connie D
Jan 27, 2016 Connie D rated it really liked it
This is a wise and thoughtful book about subtle changes in our lives and our communities that I had felt but not been able to identify. (Awareness of how we have stepped back from people is a key step.) The authors discuss how our culture's appreciation of solitude and independence has created various complicated problems, including but not limited to loneliness. Also very well written!
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
I see loneliness as endemic to contemporary America. Everywhere I go, I meet the lonely.

Olds explores this issue. How did this come to occur? Why? Where? What can be done about it?

Like most books about social problems, the thinnest section of the book is home remedies. And that is the section we need most.
Oct 24, 2011 Seth rated it really liked it
Thought-provoking, indeed... Some parts tended to be repetitive in their statements and assertions, yet on the whole, the authors are spot on in their critiques of some aspects of our modern way of life.
Sep 02, 2012 Anna rated it really liked it

I really liked this indepth look at how many factors in modern America have contributed to a rise in loneliness. It definitely made me think about why I sleep with a cell phone on my nightstand and encouraged me to pick up the phone instead of sending an email.
Such an amazing read!!! This book gives you so much to think about our society and culture, as well as our own day-to-day actions. I would recommend this to everybody who has a very busy lifestyle, as well as to everybody who has withdrawn from that life and is now feeling left out. So good!
Barrie Mason
Mar 06, 2016 Barrie Mason rated it really liked it
Facinating confirmation of my thoughts on how individualism drives us apart when we want to be belong. Well researched with new brain findings as well as social science research.
Randolph Breschini
Jun 03, 2015 Randolph Breschini rated it liked it
Shelves: favorites
Interesting book...I can relate!
Jason Jauron
Sep 05, 2014 Jason Jauron rated it it was amazing
Sad but true.
Victoria Weinstein
Sep 18, 2009 Victoria Weinstein rated it it was amazing
Wow, is this a good book.
Apr 04, 2009 Pamela rated it it was amazing
Poor us.
Mary Jo
Oct 09, 2014 Mary Jo rated it really liked it
Stan Leland
Oct 23, 2009 Stan Leland rated it it was amazing
Outstanding study of relationship disintegration in America. Very readable and thought provoking
Mar 16, 2009 Jules rated it really liked it
A timely critique on American culture.
Jan 02, 2012 Docaay rated it liked it
Shelves: read-2012
Interesting ideas. I can see where "he was so quiet and never bothered his neighbors" might be a warning signal given the thesis of this book.
Oct 11, 2014 Sandi rated it really liked it
This is interesting esp the part about living alone. Our own has a lot of that too. People like to say their busy and the book talks about I see that slot liked the book glad I read it
Sandhya Simhan
Dec 06, 2012 Sandhya Simhan rated it liked it
Interesting concepts but lots of fluff material and anecdotes that are neither entertaining nor informative much less both. Only read if you enjoy psych articles.
Jul 04, 2015 Paul rated it really liked it
Did enjoy this and thought the authors were great.
Lisa Eirene
Jun 05, 2013 Lisa Eirene rated it it was ok
Nothing great.
Liz Weber
Liz Weber rated it it was amazing
Jun 18, 2015
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