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How to Be Alone (The School of Life) Paperback – 2 Sep 2014
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“In an age of moral and practical confusions, the self-help book is crying out to be redesigned and rehabilitated. The School of Life announces a rebirth with a series that examines the great issues of life, including money, sanity, work, technology, and the desire to alter the world for the better.” ―Alain de Botton, The School of Life Series Editor
“Self-Help Books for the Rest of Us.” ―The New York Times
About the Author
Sara Maitland is the British author of numerous works of fiction, including the Somerset Maugham Award–winning Daughter of Jerusalem, and several nonfiction books, including A Book of Silence. Born in 1950, she studied at Oxford University and lives in Galloway, Scotland.
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Instead this book is WHY IT'S OKAY to be Alone. Which, frankly, it never even occurred to me was in need of justification At least half of the book, Maitland vigorously defends solitude against those who consider such a state "sad, bad, or mad." (It's not clear who's making that accusation; maybe it's a common phrase in the UK?) Given that attacking the concept of solitude in the abstract seems almost absurd, it's no wonder that Maitland refutes the claims quite easily.
Maitland closes out the book by explaining--in the briefest, most cursory way--some of the joys of being alone.
To be clear, I don't believe Maitland is at fault here: in the introduction, she specifically says she's trying to answer why it is, that in an age of supposed hyper-individualism, we spend so little time alone, and seem to regard those who DO spend a lot of time alone as weird recluses. It's an interesting question, and Maitland manages a passable explanation. But the publisher has given this book a misleading, and ultimately very disappointing, title.
I worked at a large Library for most of my life and periodically they would have a new higher-level bureaucrat who would make us take the Myers Briggs to justify that new feather in their cap. With the exception of the feather wearer most of us came out as I’s (Introvert)not E’s(Extrovert), horrors! But we just went on turning those pages or nowadays…clicking that mouse. There are a lot of crypto-I's underpinning our huge modern bureaucracies.
The author has a good grasp on our Zeitgeist and its over worded chitty chatty I-just-drank-a-double espresso at Starbucks approved persona that is emblematic of our time. That person would say, “I just loved loved, loved, the book…absolutely, absolutely.”
But if you are a person who might have had the thought that you think more deeply and more rationally when you are alone, this book will confirm in writing, your thoughts. I would say, "I liked it a lot and smiled quite a bit reading the book."
My one bone to pick, is I do have a dog. I spend a lot of time with her. She notices stuff I do not when we are gamboling in the woods. She is a lot of work but all in all she keeps my mind off of the overly rational parts of my Self, and I like that. I would say that is the one problem with too much alone time, you do have a tendency to go a little too deep for the rest of the Dunbar tribe. A dog keeps your feet on the ground and your thoughts more comprehensibly shallow. So I recommend the book highly but I also recommend an accompanying female Labrador Retriever you do not overfeed.