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Live Alone and Like It

3.72  ·  Rating details ·  773 ratings  ·  164 reviews
"Whether you view your one-woman ménage as Doom or Adventure, you need a plan, if you are going to make the best of it."

Marjorie Hillis provides no-nonsense advice in this archly funny, gently prescriptive manifesto for single women. Though it was 1936 when the Vogue editor first shared her wisdom with her fellow singletons, the tome has been passed lovingly through the ge
Hardcover, 154 pages
Published April 1st 2005 by Virago UK (first published 1936)
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Average rating 3.72  · 
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This book is the platonic ideal of 1930's society lady sass. I learned that there are four types of pajamas, and two of these are suitable for entertaining. That alone garners it five stars.
Sep 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
This book was adorable. Pertinent, no nonsense advice to the single lady, as appropriate--for the most part--today as in 1936. The bits about your lady's maid were the only evidence of dating. On the whole, uplifting but also sensible advice for living alone--and exactly what this single girl needed to hear.
Mar 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This vintage guidebook was written in 1936 for a rather new category of woman: she who is single, working, and self-sufficient.

It's enlightening to look at it within its social context: after the first world war, there was a lot of anxiety about the sudden imbalance between the male and female population. So many men had been killed in the war that many women would never have the chance to marry. Hence, the genesis of the "extra women," a phrase that I find wistful and sad. No one should feel li
Feb 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
In the mid-Thirties popular imagination, the specter of the poor, poor solitary woman (be she widow, divorcee or "spinster"), living alone without a man in the house, was enough to frighten and depress the multitudes. Marjorie Hillis, magazine editor, rode to the rescue in 1936 with this amusing little volume, which was reissued by Virago in 2005. Common-sense options for dressing, dining, entertaining and traveling in modest circumstances -- and knowing one's own mind -- give this work consider ...more
Dec 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
When I saw that pairing of publisher and title, my first thought was that this was probably an interesting but worthy tract from the late sixties or early seventies, somewhere around the time that Virago was first born!


This book was written for an earlier generation, back in the 1930s.

It is witty, warm and wise; and its new incarnation, as a little hardback book with a cute pink cover, feels wonderfully right.

It would slip easily into a handbag, and it would be a lovely gift for the right
Jul 22, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: students of the history of single women in the United States
Shelves: how-to
I got this book to review for the Feminist Review blog. I have mixed feelings about this book, and don't know what rating to give it. I wish I could give it two and a half stars, but since I can't, I will give it the benefit of the doubt and give it three stars.

I will post the full review once I write it.

Here's the complete review from

Potential readers should know two things about this book. First, the author was an editor for Vogue. Second, it was a bes
Sep 01, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Fans of Linda Goodman's Sun Signs
I couldn't resist picking up a first edition of this book for far too much at that charming new shop at 21st and Valencia where people were two-stepping in the back and everything (including this book) was covered in sawdust. But I am not an "extra woman" living alone on $100 a month (yes, this book does include actual sample budgets from the year 1936!), so I bought it.

It is really an historical document, and made me think things were actually pretty far along in 1936 (at least in New York, alt
May 04, 2008 rated it it was amazing
sounds like a self-help book, and in a way, I suppose it is. But it's so much more. . .
I found this book quite by accident--on a bargain shelf at an indy store in Asheville. I was travelling with a friend and we decicded it was too fun to pass up. We spent the next few days reading bits and pieces of it to each other and were soon referring to Marjorie regularly. For instance, I was debating about buying a dress, and Adrienne insisted that Marjorie would demand that I buy it. So I bought it.
At a
Nov 22, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: misc, women, 1900-1939
If someone had told me a few months ago what book I was going to read today, I would have laughed myself to death. This is so far from my taste in books it's unreal. Generally speaking I of course get a lot of fun out of those old-fashioned etiquette rules and advice for women (thanks Retronaut for the many laughs), but reading an actual book on those topics wouldn't have crossed my mind. However, when I stumbled across Hillis's book a while back, it just looked so cute and endearing, that I had ...more
Sep 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: bookclub
I feel adequately admonished by Hillis who seems like the hip, cool and sassy aunt we always hear about. Overall a splendid book - with hilarious tidbits and inspiring advice with treasures like:

"But anyone who pities herself for more than a month on end is a weak sister and likely to
become a public nuisance besides"

"The idea is to do it yourself – and to do it first. But to do it well, you’ll need at least two things: a
mental picture of yourself as a gay and independent person, and spunk enough
Apr 08, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Think of all the things that you, alone, don't have to do. You don't have to turn out your light when you want to read, because somebody else wants to sleep. You don't have to have the light on when you want to sleep, because somebody else wants to read. You don't have to...lie awake listening to snores, or be vivacious when you're tired, or cheerful when you're blue, or sympathetic when you're bored. You probably have your bathroom all go yourself too, which is unquestionably one of Life's Gre ...more
Aug 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I am inspired but more importantly I have found my gumption. To better hobbies, linens and beaus. Nuffsaid.
Jan 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I didn't expect to enjoy this witty little book as much as I did. Written by the editor of Vogue in the 1930s, it tells women living along to buck up and enjoy it. Since it is almost 80 years old, some of the advice seems a little dated, but overall it is remarkably timeless. There is a chapter where the author delicately broaches the topic of sex, and it is wonderful to find a book that doesn't just assume single women will be sleeping with boyfriends when they come along, but rather asks them ...more
Jan 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is a splendid little book. The specific practical advice about how many bedjackets a woman ought to own and how to throw a cocktail party featuring aquavit and cheese straws is, perhaps, a little out of date. But the overarching message about the pleasures of independence and the perils of self-pity is as true today as it was 80 years ago.

The illustrations are adorable, too.

This is the kind of book that you'd love to be able to give as a gift to that special single lady in your life (espe
Oct 08, 2019 rated it did not like it
Shelves: gender, couples
The title is good but expect to be disappointed unless you are the kind of woman who reads Vogue or Cosmopolitan magazine and you like a breathless writing style combined with a pretentious attitude. This book was originally published in 1936 by a Vogue editor and it reeks of privilege, condescending to ordinary women. In this book single women are "extra women" who are considered extra trouble because there is no man to take care of them. This is presented matter-of-factly, without objection to ...more
Jul 16, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: never-finished
Returned the book to the library, unfinished :D
This book was so old fashion, and from the 60 pages I read, I felt it was full of repetitions.
I guess the main idea was that people won't feel sorry/bad for you if you're living alone, and YOU are the one who has to go the extra mile to mingle with people so you wouldn't get bored. So obvious, I think!
Oct 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Love this book; it's entertaining and informative. Written by Vogue Editor, Majorie Hillis, in the 1930s there's many truisms that are still relevant today.
Jun 29, 2015 rated it liked it
from here on out my life manifesto.
Jan 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
VERY of its time, but also quite fun.
Apr 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Charming, funny, and still full of wisdom for living the best single life.
Apr 01, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
A cheery little volume on the pleasures of living by yourself. Hillis was an early advocate of self-care, it would appear. Although I am not yet a "live-aloner," Hillis notes in the very first chapter "...the chances are that at some time in your life... you will find yourself settling down to a solitary existence." I figured now is as good a time as any to read this book. Much has changed since 1936, but the basic tenets of solo life are the same, the main one being you must enjoy your own comp ...more
Feb 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: the-well, feminism
This is funny and frank, self pity be banished. If you take it for what it is and leave aside the dated materialistic specifics, it's a good little tome on not apologizing for who you are and being self sufficient. What's really remarkable is how independent this "extra woman's" mindset is and how broad it's appeal was 6 years before Rosie the River. Makes me want to revisit some feminist history.
Feb 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing
If you like the witty movied about The Thin Man or Cary Grant you will probably think this book is a hoot. It is a self-help book for women who for whatever reason find themselves single. There is advice for poor little shopgirls who have moved to the big city and are subsisting on $100 a month, divorcees for the nth time, and those who finally realize they are going to stay single forever. The illustrations have impossibly slinky ladies in big hats and floor length gowns. Everyone has a purse a ...more
Cameron Toney
Sep 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Case XXXI- Miss T.
Miss T., unmarried in her thirties, is a assistant in a small office, a position she very much enjoys. It provides her a modest salary, which she uses to live alone and like it. Miss T. is a great reader of books, and with a fondness for vintage guides for living. So, happening across this book for a good price, she saw no reason why she should not pick it up. She is heartily glad she did.
Though already a convert to the joys of living alone, Miss T. sees no reason why she shou
Jan 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2015
Did I enjoy it? I did! This was such a cute little book, and even though a lot of the advice seemed outdated, it was a lot of fun to imagine the lives these ladies must have been living back in the 1930s!
Would I read it again? Yes. It was a quick read, and some of the advice in it I think could easily still be applied today.
Who would I recommend it to? Ladies living alone or looking for some no-nonsense advice about their single status!
Any other thoughts? I didn't pick this up because I was look
Jan 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
What should a woman do if she finds herself living alone? In this best-seller from 1936, Marjorie Hillis urges such a woman to make the best of it. She should dress well, eat well, surround herself with beautiful things and always eat breakfast in bed because it’s the only civilized way to behave. Hillis, a former editor for Vogue magazine and an independent, professional woman in an age when that was not the norm, shares her advice in a cheeky, sometimes snarky tone that made me laugh and somet ...more
Jun 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
I have an extremely high regard for this book because it is very likely indeed to make any reader snap out of a phase or circuit of feeling sorry for oneself and into actually doing and thinking and having an interesting time. Very highly recommended if you are in any way inclined to self-pity.

Personally, I have always had an excellent time living alone or in large groups and a less excellent time living with one housemate. This is because I have the horrific socialized-western-female tendency t
Jan 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
About how to get a male visitor out of the house:

"How to get rid of him depends entirely on your type. However, before making the attack, it's a good idea to decide whether you want him to go for good or merely for the occasion. In the first instance, it's a simple matter. Just tell him so in good plan English. [..] If you want him to come again soon, a little tact is usually wiser. You might begin with, 'Let me get you a glass of water (nothing stronger) - it's hours since you had that highball
Aug 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Oh, what fun! There's a lot of good advice in here, even for the more modern gal, as well as an enjoyable look back at standards in 1936. The bits about entertaining gentleman, whether you're allowed to bring a date to a bridge party, and every mention of specific meals to serve were things your grandmother wouldn't think to mention when telling stories of her youth but they really flesh out the whole picture of New York life at that time. I will happily be gifting this book to some of my single ...more
More than a little dated (seriously: who even has maids any more?), but entertaining. And she still makes some valid points.
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Marjorie Hillis was the second child of Annie Louise Patrick Hillis of Marengo, Illinois, and Dr. Newell Dwight Hillis of Magnolia, Indiana, both authors. Mrs. Hillis wrote The American Woman and Her Home (1911). Dr. Hillis was a famed, though sometimes controversial, clergyman who had served as pastor of Plymouth Congressional Church, Brooklyn, from 1899 to 1924. Miss Hillis had a brother, Richar ...more

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