— Researched and written by Dr. Sandip Roy.
Loneliness is a feeling of being alone or disconnected from others, not a desire to be alone or a liking for solitude.
Anyone can get this malady. But people who live alone can feel especially lonely during the holidays, when others are meeting and celebrating love and togetherness.
Loneliness can be difficult to deal with on your own when you feel forgotten and left out. That’s where these books come in.
These books on loneliness can help you see your loneliness in a new light, giving you data-backed and imaginative insights. The coping strategies within can help you relieve at least some of your despair.
At the end of the day, the book you might be looking for is likely the one that empathizes with your personal experience of loneliness. I believe one of the books on this list can do that.
Table of Contents
Solitude: A Return to the Self by Anthony Storr is a thought-provoking book on the benefits of solitude.
Solitude: A Return to the Self by Anthony Storr challenges the idea that interpersonal relationships are the only source of human happiness. He says solitude is just as important as relationships, as it can foster our well-being, creativity, and productivity.
The book, originally published in 1988, argues that solitude is not just a state of isolation, but an essential component of personal growth and self-discovery.
Storr draws on the experiences of famous artists, writers, and thinkers, like Beethoven, Kant, and Kipling, as he explores the psychology of solitude and loneliness.
- An insightful exploration of the psychological benefits of solitude
- Draws on the experiences of famous people to illustrate key points
- Offers a unique perspective on loneliness and self-discovery
- Some readers may find the writing style dense and dated
- May not be suitable for individuals seeking a quick fix to their loneliness
- Some reviewers have criticized the book’s lack of practical advice
Here are two quotes from the book:
- “The capacity to be alone is a valuable resource when changes of mental attitude are required. It is a source of energy and strength which enables us to undertake difficult tasks.”
- “The creative individual is more likely to be found in solitude than in groups.”
In general, Solitude: A Return to the Self is a helpful book for anyone who wants to learn how to enjoy being alone and use it to be strong and creative, grow, and discover themselves.
Though the book is not a self-help guide in the traditional sense, people struggling with loneliness should check the step-by-step guide in Chapter 13, Getting It Right.
Loneliness: Human Nature And the Need For Connection is a groundbreaking book that examines the science of loneliness and its impact on our physical and mental health.
John T. Cacioppo is a professor of psychology at the University of Chicago. This book documents his life’s work on loneliness. The book is part of his legacy.
Cacioppo’s years of research show that loneliness is not just a subjective experience, but rather a biological and social phenomenon that has profound effects on our physical and mental health.
Loneliness affects our ability to think and feel, increases our risk of disease and death, and hurts our social relationships.
Prolonged loneliness can be as harmful to our health as smoking or obesity.
He examines the roots of loneliness in three areas:
- a person’s individual, genetically based level of vulnerability to social disconnection;
- a person’s ability to regulate the emotions associated with feeling isolated; and
- a person’s mental representations and expectations of others.
Cacioppo and co-author William Patrick write that loneliness is difficult to overcome because it is rooted in our evolutionary past.
Thankfully, the book also offers practical guidance on how to deal with loneliness effectively. It suggests that the best way to deal with loneliness is to build meaningful social connections.
- The lonely person can explore and reframe their fears about social situations.
- Set goals for social outreach and meeting people, like joining groups and volunteering.
- The focus should be on building a few high-quality relationships, not having many friends.
Cacioppo emphasizes that people need real people in front of them – talking, laughing, sharing, and learning from each other. We need to see their faces, feel their emotions, read their body language, and feel their touch.
Here are two quotes from the book:
- “Real relief from loneliness requires the cooperation of at least one other person, and yet the more chronic our loneliness becomes, the less equipped we may be to entice such cooperation.”
- “The data tell us that loneliness seriously accelerates age-related declines in health and well-being, yet the idea of promoting connection is rarely discussed alongside the heated issues of the cost of pharmaceuticals and other medical interventions necessary to deal with an increasingly lonely, isolated, and aging population.”
Daniel Gilbert, the author of “Stumbling on Happiness,” says, is “one of the most important books about the human condition to appear in a decade.”
The Loneliness Companion is a practical guide for anyone struggling with feelings of isolation and loneliness.
Shrein H. Bahrami, a marriage and family therapist in San Francisco, shares how a lonesome person may improve their self-esteem, find comfort in oneself, and cope with feelings of alienation and isolation.
She shares how the lonely person may heal their past, feel worthy of platonic and romantic love, and embrace solitude while avoiding self-isolation.
And how to build healthy relationships and find comfort communities in our hyper-connected but hyper-isolated modern world.
- The book is easy to read and understand, making it accessible to everyone.
- The exercises are practical and actionable, providing real solutions to combat loneliness.
- The author’s personal stories and experiences make the book relatable and engaging.
- Some readers may find the advice too basic or cliché.
- The book is relatively short, so some readers may want more in-depth information.
- The exercises may not work for everyone, as everyone’s experience with loneliness is unique.
Here are two quotes from the book:
“Loneliness is not a disease, but it can be a symptom of something deeper going on within us. It can be a sign that we need to take a closer look at our lives and make some changes.”
“The key to overcoming loneliness is to learn to love and accept ourselves for who we are, flaws and all. When we can do that, we open ourselves up to the possibility of deeper connections with others.”
Overall, The Loneliness Companion is for anyone struggling with feelings of isolation and loneliness.
Jhumpa Lahiri’s “Whereabouts” portrays the daily wanderings and inner workings of a solitary, unnamed woman in her mid-40s working as a teacher.
Whereabouts is a meditative novel about a woman who lives alone in an unnamed Italian city. Written in 46 short vignettes, each capturing a moment in her life, exploring urban solitude, alienation, loneliness, and growing old.
The narrator is a complex and introspective character. She is deeply aware of her solitude, but she also finds solace in her own company. Observant and thoughtful, she reflects on the world around her in a stunningly insightful way.
We feel the narrator’s melancholic sense of nostalgia as she goes about her daily life. One of the pensive moments is when she eats alone in a restaurant with other people also eating alone, with no one exchanging words.
At the swimming pool, she observes,
“the water in the pool isn’t so clear after all. It reeks of grief, of heartache. It’s contaminated (…). It burrows into my soul; it wedges itself into every nook of my body.”
Lahiri’s prose is a beautiful and evocative ode to an ordinary life. She captures the atmosphere of the city with precision and artistry. The novel is full of sensual details, from the taste of a morning coffee to the smell of the rain.
- Beautiful and evocative writing
- Complex and introspective characters
- Insightful and moving reflections on the human condition
- Some readers may find the novel slow-paced
- The novel is not plot-driven, and there is no clear resolution
- The narrator can be somewhat detached and emotionally distant
It is a novel about the human condition of solitude, alienation, and the search for identity in an alien city. The book offers a stylish and therapeutic release, and it is a beautiful novel by Lahiri.
Whereabouts stays with you long after you have finished reading it.
Jiddu Krishnamurti’s book “On Love and Loneliness” is a profound exploration of the nature of love and loneliness.
Krishnamurti argues convincingly that true relationships can only happen when there is self-knowledge of what divides and isolates us, not self-centeredness.
“Loneliness comes when all our days are spent in self-centeredness. The very activity of self-centeredness is producing loneliness. Because it is narrowing my whole, or the vast extraordinary existence of life, into a small little me.”
He encourages readers to look within and pay attention to their own possessiveness, jealousy, desires, and insecurities, to free themselves from the unconscious conflicts they create.
Krishnamurti argues that love and loneliness cannot coexist. When there is a feeling of loneliness, love is not present.
He also points out that people often confuse the facts of love with love itself, mistaking actions such as hugging, kissing, and holding hands with love.
He suggests love is an active, living process, and says, “Love is something totally new every day, but pleasure is not, pleasure has continuity. Love is always new, and therefore it is its own eternity.”
- Written by Jiddu Krishnamurti, a world-renowned thought leader and teacher
- Offers a unique perspective on loneliness that is both thought-provoking and insightful
- Helps readers to become more introspective and gain a deeper understanding of themselves
- Some readers may find the lectures to be a bit jumbled and sporadic
- May not be suitable for those looking for a more lighthearted read
- Some concepts may be difficult for those not familiar with Jiddu’s teachings
Overall, the book offers a compelling case to investigate our intimate relationships with ourselves, others, and society, stripping away the layers of conditioning and socialization.
Uninvited by Lysa TerKeurst is a book on Christian living that explores rejection and abandonment, and the resulting loneliness.
Uninvited speaks to the heart of anyone who has ever felt left out or lonely. The author shares her own rejection and loneliness, offering readers comfort and inspiration, and helping readers face the fight and bounce back.
The book is well-written and engaging, making it easy to read and understand. The author speaks directly to the reader. This makes the book like listening to someone and helps readers feel less alone.
The book is inspiring in that it offers several helpful practical advice on how to deal with rejection and loneliness in the book, which encourages the reader to see themselves as loved and valuable.
- It’s a great source of inspiration and comfort.
- This book is relatable and speaks to the reader’s experience.
- The author is honest and open, which makes the book more engaging.
- Some readers may find the religious aspect of the book too heavy-handed.
- The stories may not appeal to every reader, since it has a Christian theme.
- The book may not be as helpful to readers who are not religious.
Here are two quotes from the book:
- “Honesty isn’t trying to hurt me, it’s trying to heal me.”
- “The mind feasts on what it focuses on.”
The only downside to Uninvited is that it may not be for everyone. Some readers may find the religious and God-focused aspect of the book too heavy-handed, while others may not relate to the stories in the book.
Loneliness is a growing epidemic in the United States, with nearly half of all adults reporting feeling lonely at some point in the past year.
It has a significant impact on public health. Loneliness has been linked to an increased risk of death, heart disease, stroke, depression, and anxiety.
The Surgeon General’s Advisory on Loneliness and Isolation is from Dr. Vivek H. Murthy, the 19th and 21st Surgeon General of the United States.
Factors that contribute to loneliness and isolation, as per the report:
- Social and technological changes making people feel more disconnected from each other
- Lack of affordable housing
- Discrimination and racism
- Mental illness
- Social isolation
The report defines social connection and community as:
- Social connection: “the relationships and interactions that we have with others, and the sense of belonging that comes from these connections.”
- Community: “a group of people who share common interests, goals, or values, and who work together to create a better place to live for themselves and others.”
The report lays out the benefits of social connection and community as:
- Stronger communities
- Reduced risk of mortality
- Reduced crime and violence
- Enhanced social and emotional skills
- Improved physical and mental health
- Increased resilience to stress and adversity
- Greater sense of purpose and meaning in life
The Surgeon General’s Advisory calls for action to address the epidemic of loneliness and isolation. It proposes a National Strategy to Advance Social Connection that is built on six pillars:
- Strengthen Social Infrastructure in Local Communities
- Enact Pro-Connection Public Policies
- Mobilize the Health Care System to Promote Social Connection
- Harness Technology for Social Connection
- Build Research and Evidence Base for Social Connection
- Develop and Implement a National Campaign to Address Loneliness and Social Isolation
Strategies to combat the loneliness epidemic:
- Address discrimination and racism
- Create more walkable and bike-able communities
- Invest in social programs that promote social connection and community
- Promote mental health literacy and reduce the stigma associated with mental illness
- Support informal social networks, such as faith-based organizations and neighborhood groups
- Support programs that help people with mental illness and other challenges to connect with others
Here are two quotes from the report:
“Loneliness and isolation represent profound threats to our health and well-being. But we have the power to respond. By taking small steps every day to strengthen our relationships, and by supporting community efforts to rebuild social connection, we can rise to meet this moment together.”
“Social connection is essential for our health and well-being. We all have a role to play in creating a more connected society.”
Dr. Vivek H Murthy also wrote a book on it: Together: The Healing Power of Human Connection in a Sometimes Lonely World
More Recommended Books on Loneliness
These are honorable mentions, each book a powerful write-up on loneliness:
Iyer argues that solitude is not simply the absence of other people, but rather a state of being in which we are fully present with ourselves. Solitude can be a time for reflection, creativity, and spiritual growth, if we learn to manage it effectively.
Some practical tips to cultivate the art of solitude from Iyer:
- Finding time for solitude each day, even if for a few minutes.
- Creating a space where you can be alone and undisturbed.
- Gently allowing yourself to experience the emotions that accompany loneliness.
- Doing things that help you to focus on the present moment, such as meditation, yoga, or spending time in nature.
Alberti, a historian of emotions, argues that loneliness is not a universal or timeless emotion, but rather a product of history and culture. She says that loneliness emerged in the 18th century because of the Industrial Revolution, which led to the growth of cities and broke up traditional communities.
Here are some key takeaways from the book:
- Loneliness is not a universal or timeless emotion, but rather a product of history and culture.
- Loneliness emerged as a distinct emotion with the rise of individualism and the decline of traditional social structures.
- Loneliness has been both stigmatized and idealized throughout history.
- Loneliness has been used to justify both social exclusion and social reform.
Marc Dunkelman says that American neighborhoods are less connected now than they used to be.
Traditional neighborhoods had the “middle ring” – the people outside family and friends who gave us a sense of belonging, helped us build social capital, and fostered a strong sense of community.
Dunkelman says that the technological revolution has made it easier to connect with people from all over the world, but harder to connect with people who live next door. Suburbanization has worsened this by creating more isolated communities.
Dunkelman calls on us to find ways to rebuild the middle ring. He suggests we take on more roles in neighborhood gatherings, volunteer, and make efforts to get to know the people who live around us.
Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is a powerful story about loneliness, love, and redemption, cherished by readers of all ages for over 150 years.
It is the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, a miserly old man. He is visited by three ghosts on Christmas Eve, who show him his past, present, and future. Scrooge realizes that it’s never too late to change and share his heart with others, despite his mistakes.
Things that make A Christmas Carol such an enduring story:
- Scrooge is a classic anti-hero, and his transformation from miser to philanthropist is one of the most satisfying character arcs in all literature.
- The story is full of heartwarming and humorous moments. Dickens had a gift for creating memorable characters and scenes, and his descriptions of Victorian London are both vivid and charming.
- The book highlights how greed and selfishness can lead to a lonely and unhappy life. And prods us to take stock of our lives and actions, and ponder how we can make a positive difference.
Psychology of Loneliness
Psychologists consider loneliness to be a stable trait, meaning that individuals have different set-points for feeling loneliness, and they fluctuate around these set-points depending on their life circumstances.
A 2006 report published by the American Sociological Review found that 25% of the people surveyed felt they had no close friends in whom they could confide. This number was double that of a similar report from 1985.
Loneliness is a subjective experience that involves both emotional and mental factors.
- Subjective component: This refers to the personal experience of loneliness, unique for each person. It is the feeling of being alone and isolated, even when surrounded by other people.
- Affective component: The negative emotions that people with loneliness experience, like feelings of sadness, emptiness, hopelessness, and a sense of disconnect from others.
- Cognitive component: The thoughts and beliefs that people with loneliness have about themselves and their social relationships, like they are unlovable, unwanted, or that they don’t belong.
Loneliness can lead to negative health conditions, like depression, anxiety, and physical illness.
The therapeutic approach shown to be most effective in treating loneliness is Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT). It’s a solution-oriented model based on the premise that changing our faulty thoughts can change our behaviors.
The solution to loneliness is to:
- have relationships where you have some common ground to share your feelings
- engage in healthy activities that enrich both people’s lives
- foster social connection and emotional well-being
- changing unhelpful thoughts about loneliness
√ Please share it with someone if you found this helpful.
√ Also Read:
- Are You Lonely In A Relationship?
- How Does It Hurt When You Have No Friends?
- How To Overcome The Fear of Loneliness (Autophobia)?
- Loneliness vs. Solitude: The Differences (Why Do They Matter?)
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