Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone by Eric Klinenberg
I come from a long line of single women, so Eric Klinenberg's sociological study, Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone was an appealing book. Sounds funny to say a long line of single women, doesn't it? But, my grandmother lived a lone for a number of years after my grandfather died. My mother was widowed at fifty-five, and has made a very successful life for herself. I was widowed at fifty-two. We're just one group of people studied in this book.
Klinenberg's introduction covers the history of humanity, from a society that originally organized itself around groups that lived with others, to the current situation in society. Using "singletons" for people who live alone, he says, "For the first time in human history, great numbers of people - of all ages, in all places, of every political persuasion - have begun settling down as singletons."
Naturally, as a sociologist dealing with a study, Klinenberg presents a number of statistics to show this trend worldwide. But, he also presents the human side of this study, interviewing people who live alone. There are those young people who chose to live in apartments or buy houses, living alone. May of them delay marriage while fostering their career. And many discover that they enjoy that lifestyle. Living alone is no longer stigmatized as it once was, although women often deal with that issue more than men do, because they don't marry and have children.
Some people come to the single lifestyle through death of a partner or divorce, and then often discover they are comfortable with themselves. Klinenberg points out that often the benefits of marriage are not there. Sometimes people are lonelier in a bad marriage than they are if they are single.
Although many of Klinenberg's singletons enjoy their lives, he also discusses groups of men often forced to live in substandard housing and in poverty. Sometimes this is due to drug or alcohol problems, a criminal record, but sometimes it's due to a loss of work.
There is much that is positive in Klinenberg's study. But, he also covers the issues of the elderly, sometimes with no one left in their lives, and sometimes ending up in poor conditions due to the lack of family and support from society. It's the one fear that many singletons face. However, when offered the choice of marrying, and sometimes dealing with an ill partner for years, or remaining single, many people prefer to continue to live alone. As people age, those fears of being alone or sick near the end of life often creep into conversations.
Eric Klinenberg's Going Solo is not light reading. However, he points out that, "Today, more than 50 percent of American adults are single, and 31 million - roughly one out of every seven adults - live alone." It's important to understand that those of us who live alone have often made choices to live that way. He discusses the economic clout this group has. He mentions how cities and culture flourish because this group supports the arts, restaurants, culture, and this group volunteers more than other groups. Klinenberg points out that, if organized, this section of society could also have enormous voting power. Going Solo is a fascinating examination of a group of people who have great potential for the future.
Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone by Eric Klinenberg. Penguin Press. 2012. ISBN 9781594203220 (hardcover), 288p.
FTC Full Disclosure - I received a copy of this book to participate in a blog tour.
I have been a library manager/administrator for over 30 years, in Ohio, Florida, Arizona, and, now, Indiana. Winner of the 2011 Arizona Library Association Outstanding Library Service Award. I am a contributing Book Reviewer for Library Journal, Mystery Readers Journal, ReadertoReader.com and VibrantNation.com. Winner of the 2009 and 2010 Spinetingler Awards for Best Reviewer. First Fan Guest of Honor for Desert Sleuths Chapter of Sisters in Crime, Write Now! Conference.
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