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The Art of Sleeping Alone: Why One French Woman Suddenly Gave Up Sex

2.58 of 5 stars 2.58  ·  rating details  ·  318 ratings  ·  85 reviews
In a provocative memoir, the bestselling French novelist and iconic editor of French Elle describes her years of self-imposed celibacy—why she did it and how it changed her perspective: “A searching investigation into the power of no…a sophisticated bagatelle of a volume” (Dwight Garner, The New York Times).

After many years of having (and mostly enjoying) an active sex-lif
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Paperback, 160 pages
Published August 5th 2014 by Scribner (first published 2011)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,367)
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Chloe
This is the first book translated into English by this French writer, and I thought it was a lovely little collection of moments that captured the author's self-imposed period of sexual inactivity. The moments give us hints into what the she thought and felt, and if you're clever, you can suss out what happens. Personally, I liked that she never spells things out completely, because she gives the reader some credit for being intelligent and makes you work a little for the story.

I finished this
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Simone
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Eve
I expected a thoughtful, even philosophical examination of the independence and rewards of self-imposed celibacy. What I found was overwhelmingly smug, self-aggrandizing, repetitive and pointless. I feel like a worse person for having read this. One star.
Elizabeth
Madame Fontanel's latest book has been badly misrepresented by its translation. This is not a book that celebrates being alone. This is a book about envying those that are in partnerships--hence "L'Envie" the original title.

It's too bad, because I was looking for something that finally, FINALLY, appreciates the beauty of being single. Mme. F. briefly touches on a few of those things, the moments of being surrounded by children who love on you, able to connect with them because of your lightne
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Henry Le Nav
Disappointing. I don't think her experience is all that terribly unusual. Many people go through periods of abstention, usually not as long, and usually not self enforced.

(view spoiler)
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Jean
I thought this was going to be a tawdry memoir or one those those French women do it better books on not having sex. Instead the book is series of philosophical introspective abstract vignettes from her years of "sleeping alone". At first I found the author annoying because it was so obvious she needed a break from men because early on her life she created a template for relating in men in a submissive and unhealthy manner. But after I got over that I started to enjoy her commentary on her life ...more
Melody Daggerhart
I'm not sure what I was expecting when I selected this book. I guess I assumed it was a single woman's "survival guide" on break-ups. It is not. Instead, it is a soft-spoken, short, delightful collection of philosophical musings about the emphasis society puts on sex and celibacy. It is also a wonderfully empowering book in terms of celebrating "self". To paraphrase the author, all that love you've been pouring into someone else can now be turned inward. So, while it is not a guide to being happ ...more
Maria Menozzi
This is well-written but left me feeling lonelier than I thought I was at all. First of all, it is rather annoying to read about narrators who have such vapid, superficial friends, especially the whole couples scene. About half way through this memoir, I wanted to scream to the narrator, not having sex is not the problem, your friends make you feel lonely and odd. While one may read this and think this is something unusual, brave and original, it is not. I hate to break the news to this memoiris ...more
Jafar
The New York Times reviewed a bunch of books that may induce heavy breathing while reading for the 40th anniversary of Fear of Flying. This memoir was thrown into the mix – to provide some contrast, I guess. This book reminded of another memoir by another French woman, but in the opposite extreme: The Sexual Life of Catherine M. Thankfully, this book wasn’t as awful as that one.

Fontanel doesn’t really say why she made this decision more than “I was through with being had.” If that’s how you thi
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Carissa
What this book is not: a single girl's kicky how-to guide on washing that man right out of your hair.

Instead, Sophie Fontanel offers a thoughtful series of vignettes about stepping out of the dating game. I loved the quiet, interior tone of the book, the impressionistic glimpses into what ended up being twelve years of celibacy. Her attitude of fairly constant wonder won me over. Loved her reflections on the surprising dance between men and women -- the things we take for granted in each other -
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Jessica Lam
I may be leaning higher on the rating with this one (the translation can be rough at certain passages, so I'm giving it the benefit of the doubt) but I generally liked this book because it was a) a very fast read - there's very little extra fat, b) a topic that is not often discussed, c) written in a very calming tone that helps spotlight the absurdity of society's reactions toward celibacy. It's a book as much about her struggle with intimacy and the sense of her body as it is about the quiet b ...more
Tennille Chase
I went into the book hoping for an empowered woman’s perspective on a choice she actively made and throughout the book kept coming up against a passive, and closed down woman who it seems struggles with intimacy, and her sexuality. Not, not having sex – but with expressing what she really felt. Her story lacked depth, with beautiful prose and provoking questions her story was lost on me on a person to author level. I felt there was more beneath the surface, and she was only scratching that surfa ...more
Jess
Was this book self-indulgent? Yes. But I think it goes beyond that. Ultimately, I'm somewhere between a 3 and a 4 for this book, in terms of rating.

In a world where women are taught that value lies in our bodies, I found it interesting to read about Sophie's self-imposed celibacy. I really appreciated the beginning of the book, where she spoke about being done with disconnected sexual experiences. (view spoiler)
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Catherine
This book surprised me in many ways. One extremely pleasant surprise was the phrasing. The words are sophisticated, yet it flows for easy reading....no simple task for someone with my wiring that just cannot survive reading something I cannot listen to comfortably (i.e., Ivanhoe, The Sound and the Fury, The Grapes of Wrath, Moby Dick). The book is not at all rebellious, but draws attention to the way that society treats single women. They are to be pitied (are you seeing anyone?) and/or consider ...more
Steffy
I liked it...
It was really quick to read (not even 2 hours top), it was simple and effective.

Maybe it's because i can relate to the main character, being single myself, everyone keep on bugging me to get someone, to have kids, to have sex... It IS a thing with people these days.

Back to the book.
i think it shows in the translation that it's a french author. It was kind of weird from time to time. Also, i didn't really get WHY this book was written...half of it was about stories from people she k
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Laura
Parts of this were extremely self-indulgent, so much so that I felt like I was reading Eat, Pray, Love again. This could be because I'm at a time in my life (single mom of two under five, part time student, part time employee) where having long, deep thoughts while relaxing in a Turkish Bath sounds absolutely worlds away from where I'm at, which made it hard to connect with the author. There was also a part in which she states that men are naturally clumsy. Being a clumsy person myself, I admit ...more
Emily
**I won this book through a Goodreads giveaway.**

What could have been an insightful look into the pros and cons of life as a singleton is actually an insipid, narcissistic memoir. It is also odd that in some places Fontanel seems to be attacking her fellow celibates while simultaneously claiming to champion them. To be fair she does pose an interesting thought once in a while, but those points are lost in a sea of self-aggrandizement.
Emma
I truly believe this book has changed something in me. Despite the subtitle, The Art of Sleeping Alone is about more than having or not having sex. It is about finding an "indescribable equilibrium" in yourself ... finding balance and pleasure in life itself ... realizing that you owe no one your body but someday you will desire to share it, and that is okay. The author never calls her first sexual experience rape but she implicitly acknowledges that it was a troubling, inappropriate experience. ...more
Robert Miller
I read the book rather quickly at a eatery over-looking the Mississippi River ( so I was relaxed)and found the brief divisions (chapters) to be sensual and thoughtful. I appreciated her accomplishments (editor, author, etc.)but was puzzled by her seemingly sudden decision to experiment with a self-imposed life-style of celibacy given her apparent ease (taking her at her own words) around men. If I understand her correctly, she simply felt that the men in her circles were takers and not givers an ...more
Ashleigh
Seriously lovely writing. I ate this one up. Although I expected this to be more in the vein of a self help/motivational book the language was as rich as beautiful fiction and I really enjoyed reading the authors story. There was a lot of poeticism but maybe not as much self examination or introspection as I personally hoped for. Extremely enjoyable never the less.
M.
This is a short memoir. It is about a relatively short period in the author's life when, although she is young and beautiful, she abstains from sex. There is a short time when a reader will think that the premise--examining one's life independent of a sexual relationship--is an interesting one. There is a longer time, in this short book, when the author spends much too long describing how she must fend off well meaning friends who wish to find her "someone." In fact, she must spend so much time ...more
Kelly
There's a lot of hating on this book here and I'm not sure why. I thought it was well written, engaging and relatable. I might have preferred more "meat" to it, but it was an easy way to pass the time while traveling.
Rebecca
There are some gorgeous passages, and brilliant thoughts.

Sadly, these are few and far between among the rest of a book that never really comes together into a coherent whole. Not what I was expecting.
Sissi
Très beau livre sur l'abstinence, mais surtout sur les non-dits, les jugements perpétuels de la société sur les choix qui, parce qu'ils ne sont pas ceux de la majorité, sont méprisés.
Allison
Too self-indulgent and precious for me. My heart broke for her as she revealed her first awful encounter but she needs to work this out with a therapist not her readers.
Ariane Gagnon
Un témoignage touchant d'une histoire à contre-courant des temps modernes et hypersexualisés.
Écriture simple, qui va droit au but.
Inspirant.
Laura Fultz
I was surprised that this book had such low ratings. I found it very insightful and inspiring. Sophie decided not to have sex and faced ridicule and unsupportive friends and family. However, because of her choice, she gained an insightfulness into modern relationships through observations of those around her. I thought the vignette layout of the memoir was ingenious and let the reader get what they wanted out of it. I supposed the modernism and progressiveness of the book was probably what deter ...more
Simone

Chloe recommended this book to me, and basically I agree with everything she says in her review.

I think this book is being misrepresented by it's title. This is not a book about how awesome it is to be single, it is a book about a period of self imposed sexual inactivity many years after being raped, and doing some self care. Most of what's here is not explicitly spelled out, but is left for the reader to infer. It's not a book for everyone, but I liked it very much.
Eilidh Beaton
I read The Art of Sleeping Alone after my first break up hoping that it would help get me through. Honestly, it did a little bit, but for the most part I found Fontanel's writing style over the top and too flowery (admittedly perhaps this could be a problem with the translation?), and her attitude towards women and other suitors was frankly concerningly self-obsessed and arrogant. If you think of sex as something two people do together to express themselves, rather than something men bestow upon ...more
Bookworm
Maybe it works better in the original French Why, at the age of 27, did the author choose to stop having sex? I don't know. Instead of a discussion of sex, relationships, etc., the reader is treated the author's sexual history, from what may have been an underage rape to her feeling like her she's more of a dog than girlfriend to her boyfriend to avoiding an unwanted kiss from another woman. We also see her dodging flirtations and turning down invitations to go somewhere with a man (and being ju ...more
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Sophie Fontanel has been an editor at Elle France for more than a decade. A novelist and essayist, she lives in Paris. The Art of Sleeping Alone is her first book to be published in English.
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