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Live Alone and Like It: The Classic Guide for the Single Woman

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  323 Ratings  ·  75 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."

Thus begins Marjorie Hillis' 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 generations, and is even
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Published November 29th 2009 by 5 Spot (first published 1936)
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Sep 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Apr 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's my new bible.
Apr 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
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.
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
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 01, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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!
This book, originally published in 1936, is apparently the great-grandmother of all advice books telling single women how to live right lest anyone think they're totally pathetic for being all alone in cold, cruel world. Marjorie Hillis has a really arch style of writing that's appealing, but some of her case studies of various single ladies and what they did wrong are so condescending and petty they made me feel like I was reading an ungodly combination of HIGHLIGHTS FOR CHILDREN and SEX AND TH ...more
Jan 11, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 09, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
from here on out my life manifesto.
Oct 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
VERY of its time, but also quite fun.
Jul 05, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: vintage, nyc, 2017
1930s guide for "the extra woman," a woman living her on own, whether by choice or not. The main takeaways were to use your money wisely to give yourself a nice life, take the time to gussy yourself up and eat breakfast in bed even when alone, and embrace the life you have even if you are working to change it. With case studies.

For women who truly like to be alone, she recommends hobbies (formerly called accomplishments), though they are considered anti-social, ha. Some suggestions were New Yor
I'm generally not much for self-help, but who couldn't like Marjorie Hillis and her brisk, older-sister tone? This book is neat, practical, and surprisingly applicable 80 years later. One part "get over yourself" and one part "treat yourself," this is life advice I probably need and will endeavor to take. And if I end up buying new furniture and inviting friends to a civilized dinner party with no drinks more complicated than a highball, I know exactly who is responsible.

That said, I'm pretty s
Jul 14, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This made me laugh. Great reminders for how to live with gusto and create a life you enjoy.
Pamela Lessner
Aug 16, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
It was quite by accident that “Marry Smart: Advice for Finding THE ONE”, by “Princeton Mom” Susie Patton and “Live Alone and Like It” by Marjorie Hillis ended up on my nightstand at the same time. I read a few chapters of Patton’s and then a few chapters of Hillis’ wanting to compare the two. However, I soon found myself constantly checking the verso to see which decade, make that century, in which I was reading/living.
“Marry Smart”, hurriedly written in 2014 to capitalize on a letter gone viral
Elevate Difference
Potential readers should know two things about this book. First, the author was an editor for Vogue. Second, it was a bestseller in 1936. Those two facts should hint at for whom it was written and warn that much of it is outdated.

This book’s mixed messages caused me to have mixed feelings about it while reading. On the one hand, it empowers women by telling them they can live alone and not only survive, but also thrive. On the other hand, it implies time and again that any woman living alone is
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
Megan Winget
Jan 12, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: i-m-woman
This is a great book - the Marjorie Hillis was a woman who lived alone, and liked it! It's not about how fantastic it is to not have a husband - she's not man-bashing in the slightest - but I think it probably helped many women sort of get on with their lives once they figured out that they probably weren't going to be young brides. And in the 1920s, I'd think that more women were coming to that conclusion, since WWI killed off lots of young men. It wasn't as bad as it was in Europe, where essen ...more
Jun 05, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars. This book was short (it would have been a quick read if I hadn't been reading other books). It was rather funny at times and offered some suggestions for improving your life. Written a the time when the rise of the 'lone female' was happening. Girls were going to cities to work and were living in apartments or alone in boarding houses. There were quite a few gems in the book. Here is a paragraph that struck me: " Almost all women are born with a belief that some man will marry and sup ...more
Melissa Schmidty -Schmidt
A Spinter's guide to Life circa 1936! It wasn't outdated enough to be quaint and/or unintentionally funny, containing some sound advice still peritnant today. Hillis emphasizes the importance especially of self care and "pampering", including recommending making a habit of serving yourself breakfast in bed, sleeping in lingeré, splurging on your evening meal (as well as encouraging you dine in a negligeé) and making efforts to make your dwelling warm and welcoming even when not expecting company ...more
Caroline Bennett
I bought this book when I moved into my first home rented alone. It was 2005. I followed this book to the letter. I bought a bed jacket, I tried to feed my friends sandwich paste, I ate breakfast in bed in a negligee (and bed jacket), I turned my wardrobe into a cocktail cabinet. Yes, everyone thought I was eccentric but I had an absolute ball.

I love this book so much. Her advice is amazing, gorgeous and cheerful. Like all her books, you feel bouyant after reading it. One piece of her advice is
Aug 31, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A full review is on my blog ( but in short, I loved this. It is a mix of bizarre cultural assumptions (of course one hires a maid for a dinner party, if one can afford it, because one has dinner parties and maids are easily come by) and actual down-to-earth advice about how to learn to enjoy one's own company, how to make friends, how to take care of yourself without too much self-indulgence, and other aspects of living on one's own. I found it surprising ...more
Sep 07, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Charmingly quaint. Seriously outdated, but well written and a fun to read. Despite the attitude that you can't be happy unless you have lots of friends and dinner invitations (which I found somewhat discriminating against those of us for whom any kind of large gathering is just short of torture, not to mention a waste of time), most of the advices are actually quite good, although if you're already living alone and liking it, you probably already have figured them out. I'd recommend this book to ...more
Sep 15, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: a neighbour
I really don't know how this Bookcrossing book went and got lost in cyberspace. I registered it in the normal way, then it appeared with no journal entry, I searcheed in lots of ways and then finally found it here!!

My original comment was also lost in cyberspace.... I found it amusing, though really very dated but nice in a historical sort of way, and I think it did help a bit my recent change of circumstances though my last partner never actually lived all the time with me. As his daughter said
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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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“... not talking about things she doesn't understand to people who do or about things she does to people who don't.” 5 likes
“Be a Communist, a stamp collector, or a Ladies’ Aid worker if you must, but for heaven’s sake, be something.” 0 likes
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