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Lonely Planet: Books to Get You Through Lockdown Loneliness

Lockdown has taught many of us, even sworn introverts, that there’s a difference between being alone and being lonely. Here are some books to help you get through isolation.
by Rosie Allabarton | May 28 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has seen countries all over the world ask its citizens to keep a physical distance from one another. While, for some, these restrictions have brought about a welcome relief from a social calendar bursting at the seams, for others, lockdown has cut off much-needed sources of social contact with friends, colleagues and family.

While we can video call with those we can no longer meet in person, the absence of in-person contact has caused many people to feel lonely, distracted, and even depressed. As we have all come to realize, neither FaceTime nor Zoom will ever be an adequate substitute for a hug.

Here at Blinkist, we’ve pulled together a selection of books covering the subjects of loneliness, being alone, anxiety management, and depression for those struggling right now. In these books, you’ll not only begin to understand the complex reasons behind feelings of loneliness, but also the history of this emotion, how others have dealt with it successfully, and practical steps you can take to ease the pain of, and even embrace, being alone.

Lonely Island

Fay Bound Alberti’s A Biography of Loneliness looks at the social history of the concept of loneliness, offering a unique and, at times, radical interpretation of what we discover is a surprisingly recent phenomena. The rise of loneliness in recent times, we learn, is thanks in part to the high value placed on individualism in modern society, and a lack of belief in an ever-present deity. By understanding the historical context of loneliness we can come to view it with perspective; as a product of our times, rather than an inevitable or unavoidable part of life.

‘There Can Be 100 People in a Room…’

Whether your app of choice is Zoom or Instagram, we have probably all relied a little more on technology to stay in touch with friends in the last few months than we did before. Although the benefits of technology cannot be understated, it’s becoming ever more apparent that there’s a downside to so much connectivity. In Alone Together, Sherry Turkle examines how advances in technology that are supposed to bring us closer to the ones we love can actually increase rather than lessen feelings of loneliness. However, by simply leaving our phones at home sometimes we can regain feelings of genuine connectedness with the world around us and reduce feelings of stress and loneliness.

Go Natural

Walden, written by Henry David Thoreau in 1845, recounts the author’s escape from the hustle and bustle of the city to start a new life at Walden Pond, a lake in Concord, Massachusetts. His dramatic escapade came as a response to witnessing the fatigue of working people and his firm wish to absorb the wisdom of a simple life in natural surroundings. This book is a fascinating account of a life of solitude that is far from lonely; Walden considered the sounds of nature his constant companion.

Social Animals

In What Makes Us Human, a group of world-leading experts are brought together by editor Charles Pasternak and asked to consider what sets human beings apart from other species; why we cook our food, create art, and contemplate the meaning of our existence. What we learn is that humans have a deep social mind that incorporates elements of ‘mind-reading’, culture, language and cooperation that enables us to thrive in social environments. By understanding the fundamentals of what makes us human, we can better deal with changes in our social environments and find solutions that can still meet these deeply ingrained needs.

Just Me

In Going Solo, author Eric Klinenberg examines the recent upsurge in adults who are choosing to live alone, thanks to the increasing number of benefits to being single. As well as helping to build confidence and a sense of autonomy, living alone provides those who choose it with an increased sense of control over their lives, as well as the freedom to focus on the things that really make them happy. A positive spin on spending time alone, Klinenberg shows us the array of opportunities we have to invest in ourselves when we no longer have to consider the interests or needs of a partner.

Flying Solo

If this period of enforced isolation has left you struggling, How To Be Alone by Sara Maitland could become your go-to guide. The author highlights the many positives to be found in spending time by ourselves and that being alone doesn’t necessarily mean being lonely. What we learn is that it’s only by spending time away from the company of others and the influences of the outside world that we can really discover who we are, what our real preferences are, pursue our unique creativity and spend time on the things that genuinely interest us.

Neighborhood Watch

Depression is a complex and still often misunderstood mental illness that, claims Johann Hari in Lost Connections, is often oversimplified as a chemical imbalance in the brain. Using his own story to illustrate his research, the author of this New York Times bestseller seeks to get to the bottom of the causes of depression, and some of the unexpected solutions that can make this debilitating condition easier to manage. Listen to Hari’s Self? Help! episode here.

Real Love, Baby

For many, the recent restrictions of our freedoms have allowed us time to mull over our relationships; those that are working, those that aren’t, and those that are missing from our lives. Filled with real-life examples of different types of loving relationships, Real Love by Sharon Salzberg invites the reader to take a look at the notion of love through the lens of self-compassion and mindfulness. In this inspiring read, we learn how to strengthen and build on authentic relationships and celebrate our own joy.

Achy Breaky Heart

Who hasn’t had their heart broken? How to Fix a Broken Heart gets to the bottom of the science behind heartbreak while offering practical advice to the lovelorn to get the healing process underway. Sharing feelings of loss with those closest to you, parting from painful momentos and treating ourselves with kindness are just some of the invaluable pieces of advice the author gives us to help us find closure and move on from painful experiences.

Are You the One?

If being single during lockdown has been getting you down then this book could be the antidote you need. Rather than the typical, and often outdated, advice put forward by many romantic “experts” who routinely foist blame onto those who have not yet settled down with one partner, Sara Eckel’s It’s Not You debunks the myths that there is some magic personality for finding a long-term relationship. Instead, her book teaches you how to fully appreciate the life you have and, crucially, that despite all the self-help books out there there is absolutely no proven formula for finding ‘the one’.

Connecting People

Dan Schawbel’s Back to Human examines the need for genuine human connection in a world where communication is becoming increasingly digitized. This is not only true of our personal lives, but also of our roles in the workplace. While business leaders are increasingly hiding behind technology, Schawbel tells us we should instead be instigating real-life conversations as these increase interconnectedness between employees and foster creativity, both of which benefit workers and the company as a whole.

Benefits in Kind

The War for Kindness is a close study on the power of empathy to combat isolation and the cruelties of the modern world. What we learn is that, contrary to previous scientific thought, empathy isn’t fixed or hardwired into our brains; it can increase or decrease over time and, crucially, it can be cultivated. Using real-life examples to illustrate his point, Zaki is able to give us hope that by fostering the right kind of sustainable empathy, cruelty can be eliminated with kindness.

We hope that these books have helped shed some light on how others have coped with spending long periods of time alone both throughout history and in modern times. While for some, being alone can be an enlightening and revealing journey of self-discovery, for others it’s no secret it can feel lonely and anxiety-inducing. What we hope you take away from these fascinating reads is some practical steps on how to feel content with yourself during these socially quieter times and that you are able to see and take advantage of the opportunities being alone — but not necessarily lonely — has to offer.

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