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Solitude: In Pursuit of a Singular Life in a Crowded World

3.73  ·  Rating details ·  1,377 ratings  ·  198 reviews
"I came away from this book a better human being. Michael Harris' take on existence is calm, unique, and makes one's soul feel good." DOUGLAS COUPLAND

Solitude is a rapidly vanishing experience. Our society now embraces sharing like never before: time alone is being forced out of our lives by the constant pings of smartphones and prods of social media. But what if solitude
Paperback, 256 pages
Published April 6th 2017 by Random House Books
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Average rating 3.73  · 
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 ·  1,377 ratings  ·  198 reviews

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Andreia ❤The Butterfly Lover❤
Insightful and just Perfect!! Love this book! Absolutely love being alone!!

A life without solitude is a diminished life.

"There must be an art to it, I thought. A certain practice, or alchemy, that turns loneliness into solitude, blank days into blank canvases. It must be one of those lost arts, like svelte calligraphy or the confident trying of a wedding cravat. A lost little art that, year by year, fades into the bleaching light of the future."

★☆I believe I know the only cure, which is
Diane Barnes
Jan 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: slow-reads
This book is equal parts thought provoking and downright scary, as the author explains exactly how technology and our dependence on our devices has its hooks in us all, with more to come. Enjoying solitude is a vanishing art, unfortunately, but one we need to cultivate to maintain our individuality. The last chapter is about his lone venture into a cabin in the Canadian wilderness for a week; no phone, TV, radio, computer, electricity, nothing but him and his thoughts. It was an experience that ...more
Austin Dean
Apr 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Harris' book is like a breath of fresh air. Even now, I feel guilty logging in, and crafting a review that will perhaps sway your opinion on whether or not to make this purchase. This review is more of a thank you to the author for his thoughts and wit, which are boldly on display. I thoroughly enjoyed his writing. Each morning I looked forward to opening the book with my warm cup of coffee. Enjoy this Good Read friends.
May 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
Whimsical at times, Harris does put up a good argument on the necessity of solitude and the mastery of it as an art, in this modern era that constantly calls for one to remain connected.
Jenn Stark
Dec 10, 2017 rated it it was ok
the thing with this author is that he gives the impression when reading his books that he's a very well researched tour guide on a trip to Antarctica... except he himself has never been. one appreciates the anecdotes and research he's dug up on the subject, but ultimately you'd rather be traveling with someone with a bit of first hand experience, right? it's a strange thing to read a book about something so inherently personal and yet the author seems to have spent so little time in solitude him ...more
May 13, 2017 rated it it was ok
Michael Harris makes the case that solitude and daydreaming are as necessary to the brain and to personhood as oxygen and blood. He makes an even stronger case that our mania for communal grooming by seeking out digital likes and shares and retweets threatens to destroy that solitude.

Indeed, virtual connections threaten to destroy both solitude AND togetherness, because we're never alone, but the quality of our connections is also impoverished. We are neither alone nor in communion.

So, what to
May 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Good book and very interesting glance into the psychology of being alone , gets boring towards the end because it chooses to go into different tangents that are only mildly related to the sense of being alone , very good beginning and middle , it will keep you reading .
Jun 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This was an incredible and important read. In today's society, we so often forsake solitude without thought for what we are giving up in exchange. I appreciated this thoughtfully written book that opened my eyes to what I might be sacrificing in my day to day life. A part of me wanted to throw out my phone and all things connected to the internet, but I've come back to my original conviction that social media and technology are at my disposal to use, not the other way around. This book will be a ...more
Brona's Books
Jun 29, 2017 rated it liked it
I'm not sure that Solitude by Michael Harris is really about solitude.

It was more of an exploration of our modern, connected, tech-obsessed society. He discusses what that looks like, how it happened and it's impact on our daily lives and on our long-term health. Harris wonders if social media has made us 'socially obese', like teenagers who need to be needed and loved. And he talks about the addictive nature of 'sharing'
Full review here -
Delwyn Riordan
Aug 27, 2017 rated it did not like it
This is not a book about solitude. It is a book about writing a book about solitude. Harris, by his own admission is not qualified to write about solitude in any deep sense. This is a travelogue as Harris thinks about moving towards a reduced technological connection with others and an increased experience of solicitude. He makes some small steps and we read about each one.
The first two chapters were great. I devoured his words wanting to know more of what he has researched and more of his thoughts. However, after those two chapters the author completely lost me. I felt lost in the message he was trying to convey and how that links with the chapters beforehand, so I ultimately lost interest completely and I basically just scanned the new few pages till the end.
May 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: odd
This was a very enjoyable book about how we are spending less time by ourselves and taking time away from the internet and other instant gratification devices.

For myself, I enjoy my personal time and not having access to any social tech for days at a time. Nothing is better than our own time, that's why we read.

A good book that goes away from its subject matter for a few chapters, but relevent none the less.
Dec 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
There's nothing wrong with being alone at times. It's how I recharge. Nor do we always need to connect, share our opinions, comment, instagram, text, or tweet.

So, you know what? Don't worry about this review. But if you feel similarly, do check out this book.
Apr 18, 2017 rated it liked it
Mixed bag. I liked a whole lot of the book (maybe 3 5ths? :) ) but there were 3 oddly discordant chapters kind of plunked in the middle that didn't really fit with the whole and which didn't seem to contribute any to the larger narrative. One was on reading/ writing, one on love letters, and the other on death. There were bits in the death chapter that touched on the effects of illness on perceptions of social connection and those were interesting and thought provoking but as a whole I had a har ...more
Nov 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites
Quiet, considered, and very beautiful. This is the best book I've read this year.
Jan 26, 2018 rated it liked it
A better title would have been "The Extinction of Solitude." This book is less an exploration of the experience and benefits of solitude (which is what I was expecting and wanting) than it is a treatise on technology's encroachment and annihilation of solitude -- something I quickly tired of as I often grow weary when people demonize the current technology of the day as destroying some inherent human way of being when, in fact, it usually is just amplifying a different human characteristic. Huma ...more
May 19, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-read-2019
We live in a hyper-connected world. If you have a smart phone then you can probably only go a few minutes without having to look at it. There is a constant stream of notifications from emails and social media app that clamour for your attention every time you pop it back in your pocket. The flip side of this is that there are more people today who are incredibly lonely, ironic given that we have a whole world at our fingertips.

Solitary confinement is often used as an extreme form of imprisonment
A refreshing read on the benefits of solitude. Elegantly written, but a few of the chapters lost me (perhaps I needed more concrete arguments personally).

Nonetheless, the central message is an important one: the ability to be truly alone is an affirmation of one's close bonds on the most essential level. This book gives a perspective on what emotional maturity might look like in this hyper-connected age, and reminds us to (i) preserve the hours to engage deeply with and make sense of the comple
Oct 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's not  often I can pick up a non-fiction book and be completely immersed in the author's head.

It's also rare that I pay attention to every single word.

Harris completely hooked me into his world and I  felt myself slowing down to absorb everything he was saying in this book.

Reading through it felt like a journey through my own thoughts, but articulated through the author. It didn't feel like an over-bloated blog post with a lot of filler text, but rather like someone who had a lot to say while
Sameer Vasta
Feb 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
I was in the stationery store this afternoon, stocking up on cards and letter paper, and the woman behind the counter asked me what I planned to do with all my purchases. I responded, surprised that there was any other option, that I planned to "send letters to friends, of course."

It turns out that this was not a customary response, and the woman behind the counter went on to ask me about my epistolary habits at length. Anyone who knows me well knows that I send letters, between 300 and 400 a ye
Jt O'Neill
Jun 01, 2017 rated it liked it
I'm a big fan of solitude so why didn't I give this book five stars? Because I don't think it's really about solitude so much. It seems to be about disconnecting from today's constant connections but even that message gets garbled in the chapters on love letters, on writing, and on death . I think the author makes some good points about how media influences us (subtly and not so subtly) and some great point about reading as a solitary activity but I was expecting more encouragement for the pursu ...more
Jan 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've been looking forward to this follow-up ever since I read Harris' last book, "The End of Absence". Can you think of the last time you had a period of true solitude? Me neither. These two books are wake-up calls to remember all of the meaningful and important things we're missing when we're glued to our technology.
Larry Olson
May 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is a well-researched and insightful exploration of the pursuit of solitude to build a richer interior life. The author explores our struggle with generating new ideas, developing a deeper understanding of self and bonding with others because we don’t often view solitude as a “resource that we can either nurture or allow to be depleted.” There are several fine chapters on the dangers of becoming “digital serfs,” and taste based on the mass entertainment and judgement of for-profit companies ...more
Aug 24, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was great! I feel like I have a better appreciation for my alone time now (although I do wish there had been a bit more research to support some of the arguments and the ending could have been a bit more cohesive but blaah who cares it was great). What does it say about me that I want to go find where they hold that typewriting class and try it out??
Margaret Heller
I could see a way in which this book could be considered preachy, but it preaches what I think. A first when he started a new line of argumentation, I was expecting it to fail in a certain way, but every time he pointed out the flaw in the study, didn't get too certain in his thought experiment, or pointed out his own hypocrisy in a very satisfying way. I don't remember why I picked this one up, but glad I did.
Jan 09, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
An excellent book to start the year right. One of my constant prayer requests is that I not be overly distracted, substituting the vital for the trivial. Full of quotable gems such as "Perhaps you can judge the inner health of a land by the capacity of it's people to do nothing- to lie abed musing, to amble about aimlessly, to sit having coffee- because whoever can do nothing, letting his thoughts go where they may, must be at peace with himself." I left this book challenged to disconnect from s ...more
Apr 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
On the same pattern as his very first book, Michael Harris shows how in this era of Internet, online sharing and social media we have lost touch with the main activity which makes us ourselves - Solitude.

I agree when he mentions how our ideas and opinions which we share are shaped by the crowded majority and one hardly takes time to be alone and think about his own philosophy of life.

All in all a thought- provoking book, a must read in this fast-paced digital age.
Scott Jones
Oct 12, 2018 rated it liked it
This was a very interesting book.

It started out like I would have expected - telling us where we are now as a society that has largely lost the ability to be 'alone' without technology to guide us. The first several chapters were wonderful. Two stars for this.

Then things went awry. A good chunk of the book seemed to be an exercise in name-dropping and quoting from as many 'authorities' as possible. This was distracting, although the quotes did give me some good sources I may want to research or
Sandra Ross
Oct 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
After reading and totally relating to Michael Harris' The End of Absence: Reclaiming What We've Lost in a World of Constant Connection , this book went to the top of my reading list as soon as it was published.

Although not quite as well-written, in my opinion, as The End of Absence, Harris does a good job of identifying how uncomfortable most of us have become with solitude, why we need solitude (and how technology intentionally is designed to make sure it never happens), things we need to do
Niels Philbert
Dec 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
Solid book on the importance of solitude - and how it is getting pushed out of our human experience by constant possibilities for distraction. Not the healthy, day dreaming kind though. More like the candy crush, dopamine hiking smartphone kind.

The first half of the book is solid and very well put together. The last part is a bit more broad. Still good and interesting, but a little less direction. Sitting here wanting to read more, so I can't wait to read Harris' next works.

Respect for doing t
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Michael Harris is the author of The End of Absence (2014) and Solitude (2017). He writes about the social aspects of technology and about civil liberties. His essays have been included in several anthologies. Michael lives in Vancouver with the artist Kenny Park.

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