How to Be Alone Book Summary - How to Be Alone Book explained in key points
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How to Be Alone summary

Sara Maitland

The School of Life

4.2 (341 ratings)
16 mins

Brief summary

How to Be Alone by Sara Maitland is an exploration of the culture of solitude. It provides a historical overview of the concept of being alone and its importance in the modern world, as well as tips for enjoying and embracing alone time.

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    How to Be Alone
    Summary of 8 key ideas

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    Key idea 1 of 8

    Finding time alone will boost your creativity and self-knowledge.

    Do you ever wish you had more time to yourself? These days, society puts a lot of pressure on us to stay socially active and focus on work, which means less time for ourselves. And yet, alone time can improve your personal well-being and creativity.

    That’s because, first of all, spending time alone allows you to discover your real “self.”

    When you’re alone, you can focus on a deeper understanding of who you are and what matters to you. Only by spending time alone, free of outside influences, can you discover these important parts of yourself.

    For example, the famous author Henry David Thoreau spent over two years alone in the woods of Walden Pond rediscovering himself. This time allowed him to assess his own values and those of the society around him. All of this led to Thoreau publishing his groundbreaking book Walden in 1854.

    With this kind of dedicated time alone, you can unlock and increase your creativity.

    In fact, many creative people in various fields have recognized solitude as a main source of creative output.

    The influential author Virginia Woolf believed that spending time alone was vital to creativity. In her 1929 book, A Room of One’s Own, she saw the lack of solitude as being linked to the relatively small number of female writers at the time. Woolf saw that females were not lacking talent, imagination or intelligence; they were lacking time alone to allow their creativity to blossom.

    The link between solitude and the happiness of creative freedom can be seen throughout history.

    Another example is the actress Greta Garbo. At the age of 35, after having appeared in 28 movies, Garbo decided to retire from acting and live a simple and solitary life. She continued to have an active social life, but by giving herself plenty of time alone, she was able to enjoy peace and creativity.

    So make sure you schedule yourself some alone time and reap the joys of solitude.

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    Key ideas in How to Be Alone

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    What is How to Be Alone about?

    Today’s socially focused culture leaves us very little time to ourselves and unprepared for times when we may actually need to be alone. How to Be Alone (2014) shows us that we don’t need to be scared of solitude, and that there are many benefits and joys to be found in being alone. So don’t be afraid, go solo!

    How to Be Alone Review

    How to Be Alone (2014) by Sara Maitland is a thought-provoking exploration of solitude and its relevance in our modern, hyperconnected world. Here's what sets this book apart:

    • Packed with insightful observations and research, it examines the psychological, social, and cultural aspects of being alone.
    • Through personal experiences and interviews, Maitland provides a nuanced perspective on the benefits and challenges of solitude.
    • With its fascinating historical references and literary analysis, this book offers a compelling dive into the rich tapestry of solitude throughout human history.

    Best quote from How to Be Alone

    Conversation enriches the understanding, but solitude is the school for genius. – Edward Gibbon, English historian.

    —Sara Maitland
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    Who should read How to Be Alone?

    • People interested in sociology and human behavior
    • Anyone afraid of being alone

    About the Author

    Sara Maitland is an accomplished British novelist and feminist. She has written numerous works of fiction and nonfiction, including A Book of Silence, her first work, and Daughter of Jerusalem, a novel that won the Somerset Maugham Award.

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    How to Be Alone FAQs 

    What is the main message of How to Be Alone?

    Discover the value of solitude and learn how to embrace being alone to find inner peace and personal fulfillment.

    How long does it take to read How to Be Alone?

    The reading time for How to Be Alone varies depending on the reader's speed, but it typically takes several hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is How to Be Alone a good book? Is it worth reading?

    How to Be Alone is a thought-provoking read that explores the joys and benefits of solitude. Highly recommended for those seeking a deeper understanding of themselves.

    Who is the author of How to Be Alone?

    How to Be Alone was written by Sara Maitland.

    What to read after How to Be Alone?

    If you're wondering what to read next after How to Be Alone, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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    • Getting Past Your Breakup by Susan J. Elliott
    • The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck by Sarah Knight
    • Know Thyself by Stephen M. Fleming
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