A revelatory examination of the most significant demographic shift since the baby boom—the sharp increase in the number of people who live alone—that offers surprising insights on the benefits of this epochal change.
Renowned sociologist and author Eric Klinenberg explores the dramatic rise of solo living and examines the seismic impact it’s having on our culture, business, and politics. Conventional wisdom tells us that living by oneself leads to loneliness and isolation, but, as Klinenberg shows, most solo dwellers are deeply engaged in social and civic life. In fact, compared with their married counterparts, they are more likely to eat out and exercise, go to art and music classes, attend public events and lectures, and volunteer. There’s even evidence that people who live alone enjoy better mental health than unmarried people who live with others and have more environmentally sustainable lifestyles than families, since they favor urban apartments over large suburban homes.
It is now more common for an American adult to live alone than with family or a roommate, and Klinenberg analyzes the challenges and opportunities these people face: young professionals who pay higher rent for the freedom and privacy of their own apartments; singles in their 30s and 40s who refuse to compromise their career or lifestyle for an unsatisfying partner; divorced men and women who no longer believe that marriage is a reliable source of happiness or stability; and the elderly, most of whom prefer living by themselves to living with friends or their children. Living alone is more the rule than the exception in places like Manhattan, half of whose residents live by themselves, and many of America’s largest cities, where more than a third of the population does.
Drawing on over 300 interviews with men and women of all ages and every class who live alone, Klinenberg reaches a startling conclusion: In a world of ubiquitous media and hyperconnectivity, this way of life helps us discover ourselves and appreciate the pleasure of good company.
With eye-opening statistics, original data, and vivid portraits of people who go solo, Klinenberg upends the conventional wisdom to deliver the definitive take on how the rise of living alone is transforming the American experience. Going Solo is a powerful—and necessary—assessment of an unprecedented social change.
©2012 Eric Klinenberg (P)2012 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
“Klinenberg takes an optimist’s look at how society could make sure singles—young and old, rich and poor—can make the connections that support them in their living spaces and beyond.” (Publishers Weekly)
“Compelling…With articles in the New York Times Magazine, Rolling Stone, and Slate and appearances on the radio program This American Life, Klinenberg is at ease in both scholarly and popular milieus, and his book is recommended for libraries and individuals in both worlds.” (Library Journal)
“An optimistic look at shifting social priorities that need not threaten our fundamental values.” (Kirkus Reviews)
I found the content interesting and fairly well-balanced. Still, you can't help but get the impression that the author is disapproving or pessimistic about those who live alone. Probably the most distracting features were his detailed physical descriptions of the females he interviewed yet very brief descriptions of the men. What difference does it make what those folks looked like, and why the need to be so unbalanced about it anyway?
The performance left something to be desired. Overall, this book was clearly read with good inflection etc. However, I found the performer to be a bit over the top and stereotyped in his attempt at accents to differentiate when reading quotes. In particular, his attempt at vocalizing as an older African American female was downright cringe-worthy. Also, I have never heard anyone pronounce the acronym AARP as a single word before, and it was amusing and annoying to have him continually repeat "arp, arp" instead of the letters A.A.R.P.
Minor criticisms that should not prevent others from getting some good info out of this book, however.
This is fascinating information and author Eric Klinenberg made a lot of talk show appearances when the book came out. He makes a persuasive case that living alone has become a popular and often perfectly satisfying choice for millions. On the other hand, Going Solo demonstrates that recitations of statistics do not translate well into audio, and a rather stentorian reading turns the experience into something like a grad school lecture.
mostly nonfiction listener
Come Fall semester I predict that Going Solo will be on the syllabi of sociology courses across the land. I know that if I were still teaching intro to sociology, or some family sociology or demography course, that I'd be assigning Going Solo. But don't wait to enroll in an undergrad sociology course to read Going Solo. All of you fans of popular academic nonfiction, you behavioral economic, experimental psychology, evolutionary biology, economic history, etc. etc. reading people should grab your own copy of Going Solo.
So why is Going Solo destined to be a classic in the field of sociology?
1. Runs Counter to the Conventional Wisdom: The best sociology books, actually the best popular academic nonfiction books, are antidotes to the current conventional wisdom. In the case of Going Solo, the conventional wisdom is that living alone represents a negative individual and social outcome. Klinenberg's methodology (more on which below) enables him to systematically deconstruct the myths around single person households. Far from being socially isolated or lacking strong social connections, most solo dwellers are actually more intertwined with social networks than their married peers. Single dwellers go out more to concerts, restaurants, theaters, museums and other social events than comparable (in age, income, education) married folks. In urban areas networks of single people who live in their own apartments have joined clubs and leagues (such as kickball leagues) that bring them together for recreation and socializing. If given the choice between either roommates or re-marriage, most people will choose to live alone. As education levels rise (and time spent investing in schooling lengthens), norms around cohabitation and marriage are changing to accommodate desires for independence, choice and flexibility. While some solo individuals vow to never share their space (a trend increasingly common in previously married or widowed women, as well as a growing number of urban professionals), other singletons report little social or economic pressure to pair up and share an address. Going solo, particularly in urban areas with large concentrations of educated young professionals, is a new marker of status.
2. Methodological Rigor: The rise of single living has not gone unnoticed by commentators, politicians or academics. Most of the press has been decidedly pessimistic. Sociologists like Linda Waite write books such as The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially. Journalists such as Lori Gottlieb write books like Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough. And perhaps the most well know sociology book of the past 10 years, the one that got everyone talking about social capital, was Robert Putnam's Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community. Klinenberg is able to dispel so many of the myths about single living because he invest in a rigorous research methodology. This methodology contains both qualitative research, in which Klinenberg and his team engaged in in-depth interviews with over 270 respondents, and quantitative research that involves the analysis of survey and census data. It is the qualitative research that really sets Going Solo apart, as in engaging in so many rigorous in-person interviews (in both the U.S. and internationally) that a more nuanced and surprising story of single living emerges. While this research is not representative of rural dwellers or those outside of wealthy nations, the research is robust enough to provide a much fuller exposition of the trend towards single living than has previously been attempted. Even if you are not interested in changes in household formation and residential composition, Going Solo is a great primer on how to do social science research.
3. Embedded in the Larger Trends: Understanding the growth of solo living is important because all of us will either share this experience at some point in our life, or will have a close family member or friend that does. If we happen to live with a partner and/or kids, many of our co-workers and friends will be living by themselves. Kids who grow up today not sharing a room with a sibling are much more likely to prefer a single dorm when they go to college (and college's are rapidly building new dorms to meet this demand), and will work hard to escape from roommates post-college as soon as finances allow. While most people will still cohabitate at some point, many will not (a proportion that is growing). People who choose to live alone at every portion of the life course report both joys and challenges, just like everyone else. Living alone can be more costly (as expenses like the mortgage, rent, and utilities are are not shared), and at older ages many people worry about not having in-house support networks. Men seem more prone to social isolation outside of cohabitation than women. But for many, the advantages of independence and choice outweigh the disadvantages of going solo, and all indications are that the U.S. will follow the model of Scandinavian countries toward greater and greater proportions of single person households.
"Spirit in Body"
There is no discussion of going solo in deep nature, in a rural setting.
Growing up in the Pacific Northwest I am enamored with trees, rain, and floor to ceiling greenery. I've always been an avid reader, but have found I really enjoy the multitasking potential of audio books. I can enjoy walking around in the woods with my puppy while absorbing a book at the same time! The books I enjoy most tend to be narrative non-fiction, science fiction, and historical fiction/non-fiction.
"Going Solo" is similar to the narrative non-fiction of books like "Freakonomics" or Malcolm Gladwell's "The Tipping Point". "Going Solo" could have been an amazingly fascinating read, but it runs into a little trouble in the statistics department. Specifically, there are too many, too much, way way overkill. "Going Solo" doesn't just give you facts and data, it pretty much molds them into a mallet and smacks you upside the face with them....repeatedly...until you can not even remember once having had cheekbones.
If you are the sort of person who enjoys reading spreadsheets, company profiles, quarterly earnings statements, and maybe a few medical dictionaries, then this book is for you! If you like a little story with your data, then skip this one, it's a hardcore snoozer.
If you can overlook 90% of the book and still retain the basic underlying message, then it's a pretty interesting read! Even so....STILL A SNOOZER.
The narrator did an awesome job adding tone and inflection to a very data oriented read. I'd definitely listen to this fella again.
The scene where I was listening to "Going Solo" on my headphones, fell asleep for an hour, woke up and realized the narrator was still on the same set of statistics!!! Talk about soap opera for analysts!
The statistics the book has collected paint a very enlightening picture of the ways in which world views are changing to destigmatize a life without marriage. It's a story that could be told in one chapter with the remaining 272 pages being an appendix of supporting statistics...but it's still an interesting message.
Think about getting this book in some sort of written format, it's probably easier to skim over the endless pages of statistics to get to the good parts.
It seemed to focus more on old age issues than single life of middle aged adults. Lower than my expectation. The audio voice was not very good.
May be.The message I got from the author in his interview with Bill Maher was more of why singles are the way they are but the 80% of the book was about elderly care and old single people.
Going Solo as the book is titled should be about people leaving a solo life- pros & cons and generally a path for new solos.
Sure! Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock
The tone of voice is crucial in audio reading
The author only focused on the negatives of living alone.
I saw the author on "Real Time". I thought the book would talk about how people are staying single and the services that are being created for them. This book focused on sad stories of the elderly dying alone. I should have noticed, due to the author being married.
This is a very interesting book for the first 2/3. It becomes redundant for the last 1/3. And, it becomes predictable and tedious with its calls for government social programs to aid the people living alone. Ignoring that, the book details the new social phenomena of living alone, both its good and bad points.
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