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Solitude: A Return to the Self

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Originally published in 1988, Anthony Storr's enlightening meditation on the creative individual's need for solitude has become a classic. Solitude was seminal in challenging the established belief that "interpersonal relationships of an intimate kind are the chief, if not the only, source of human happiness." Indeed, most self-help literature still places relationships at Originally published in 1988, Anthony Storr's enlightening meditation on the creative individual's need for solitude has become a classic. Solitude was seminal in challenging the established belief that "interpersonal relationships of an intimate kind are the chief, if not the only, source of human happiness." Indeed, most self-help literature still places relationships at the center of human existence. Lucid and lyrical, Storr's book cites numerous examples of brilliant scholars and artists -- from Beethoven and Kant to Anne Sexton and Beatrix Potter -- to demonstrate that solitude ranks alongside relationships in its impact on an individual's well-being and productivity, as well as on society's progress and health. But solitary activity is essential not only for geniuses, says Storr; the average person, too, is enriched by spending time alone. For fifteen years, readers have found inspiration and renewal in Storr's erudite, compassionate vision of human experience.


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Originally published in 1988, Anthony Storr's enlightening meditation on the creative individual's need for solitude has become a classic. Solitude was seminal in challenging the established belief that "interpersonal relationships of an intimate kind are the chief, if not the only, source of human happiness." Indeed, most self-help literature still places relationships at Originally published in 1988, Anthony Storr's enlightening meditation on the creative individual's need for solitude has become a classic. Solitude was seminal in challenging the established belief that "interpersonal relationships of an intimate kind are the chief, if not the only, source of human happiness." Indeed, most self-help literature still places relationships at the center of human existence. Lucid and lyrical, Storr's book cites numerous examples of brilliant scholars and artists -- from Beethoven and Kant to Anne Sexton and Beatrix Potter -- to demonstrate that solitude ranks alongside relationships in its impact on an individual's well-being and productivity, as well as on society's progress and health. But solitary activity is essential not only for geniuses, says Storr; the average person, too, is enriched by spending time alone. For fifteen years, readers have found inspiration and renewal in Storr's erudite, compassionate vision of human experience.

30 review for Solitude: A Return to the Self

  1. 4 out of 5

    Brendan

    Some of these reviews disappoint the hell out of me in terms of their reflection of how some modern people tend to read books. One of the positive notes in a fairly positive review was that it's "quite validating." Is that a positive? Is that why we read books? To validate what we already feel? Another reviewer called it discordant. It was not discordant--it eased itself back and forth between argumentative methods as it went along. Is that really too sophisticated of a technique? It seems pretty Some of these reviews disappoint the hell out of me in terms of their reflection of how some modern people tend to read books. One of the positive notes in a fairly positive review was that it's "quite validating." Is that a positive? Is that why we read books? To validate what we already feel? Another reviewer called it discordant. It was not discordant--it eased itself back and forth between argumentative methods as it went along. Is that really too sophisticated of a technique? It seems pretty simple to me. He moves from one technique, lets it work on you a little, then moves to another technique, lets that one work on you. The substance, even as the techniques shift, is still concordant--it doesn't bounce around randomly. In the end, the effect is tremendous. Someone also said that it "seems old." That may be more to the point. This is a classic academic style, although written with more popular appeal than many academic works. Someone who doesn't have much patience or read much academic stuff might get bored. It is pretty subtle, it doesn't overtly package its message within a lot of bells and whistles like most commercial books today do. This I consider an advantage. This, to me, means it cuts out the rhetorical bulls**t contained in many supposedly profound books today. The ideas speak for themselves. Storr is telling you, steadily, with each new chapter building up his evidence, that solitude is just as valid an approach to creativity and greatness as sociability. Why does he answer Freud so often in the pages of this book? Because society (and even most likely you too, whether consciously or not) places FAR more credit on sociability than on solitude. And this notion absolutely originated with Freud. This has never been more true than it is today, in 2012, the digital age. Solitude is anathema to modern life. Standard validation is still in the form of approval or judgment from others. Our quality of and ability to deal with social relationships are still the barometers by which most of us are judged as being either "well-adjusted" or not. This needn't be the case. It shouldn't. Storr tells us why, and inspires us along the way.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Michael Perkins

    Kipling, P.G. Wodehouse, Graham Greene, Beethoven, Anne Sexton, Beatrice Potter, Goya----are a few examples in this book of how creative people benefitted from solitude. ------------- "To foster the growth of the child’s imaginative capacity, we should ensure that our children, when they are old enough to enjoy it, are given time and opportunity for solitude. The capacity to be alone is one aspect of an inner security which can be built in the early years. Some children who enjoy the solitary exe Kipling, P.G. Wodehouse, Graham Greene, Beethoven, Anne Sexton, Beatrice Potter, Goya----are a few examples in this book of how creative people benefitted from solitude. ------------- "To foster the growth of the child’s imaginative capacity, we should ensure that our children, when they are old enough to enjoy it, are given time and opportunity for solitude. The capacity to be alone is one aspect of an inner security which can be built in the early years. Some children who enjoy the solitary exercise of the imagination may develop creative potential." Right now, we are caring for our one-year old granddaughter five days a week and have seen this development with her. She likes us to be around, but she will look through books on her own. And stand, for some time, looking out our front window and talk to herself and laugh. The author observes that the capacity to be alone is linked with self-discovery and becoming aware of one’s deepest needs and feelings. .------ The process of creativity, which I am familiar with from writing, has certain key aspects. First is preparation. One develops some preliminary interest in a particular subject, collects material, and reads everything he can find about it. The next phase is incubation. The material simmers and the brain begins to organize it. Then there is illumination when one develops insights, finds a solution to a problem, and figures out how to order the material into a thesis or a story arc. ========= Kipling is considered not politically correct to read, but his experiences can be instructive in what I call the creative use of distress.... Kipling, just before his sixth birthday, was left with his sister in the care of a retired naval captain and his wife, Captain and Mrs Holloway. The parents did not inform their children that they were returning to India without them. Kipling was not to see his mother again until April 1877, at age 12.. The five years which he spent in what he later called The House of Desolation’ marked him for life. He was bullied by the Holloways’ son, a boy some six years older, and ruthlessly punished, both by beatings and by enforced isolation, at the hands of the hateful Mrs Holloway. He was also bullied at the local day-school to which he was sent, and at which he performed badly. Every night he was cross-examined as to how he had spent his day. Each contradiction which the frightened, sleepy child produced was treated as a deliberate lie, and further proof of punishable wickedness. One of Kipling’s biographers, Charles Carrington, remarks that his long years of suffering at the hands of Mrs Holloway taught him.... "that the mind must make its own happiness, that any troubles can be endured if the sufferer has resources of his own to sustain him." In his story ‘Baa, Baa, Black Sheep," Kipling gives an undiluted autobiographical account of this dreadfully unhappy part of his life. Kipling referred to his treatment by Mrs Holloway as ‘calculated torture’; but he also said that its effect was to make him pay careful attention to the lies which he had to tell, and concluded that this was the foundation of his literary effort. He also discovered that, if only adults left him alone, he could, through reading, escape into a world of his own. He was able to cultivate his imagination in solitude. Like Edward Lear, he was at his best and most relaxed with children. He also exhibited an extraordinary capacity for inspiring confidence in others, who found themselves telling him their troubles in the assurance that he would not betray them. This particular trait seems to depend upon an unusual capacity to put oneself in other people’s shoes, to identify oneself with others. It often originates in the kind of premature concern with the feelings of others which Kipling describes himself as having had to develop as a child.. Kipling became watchful and wary; alert to the changing moods of adults which might presage anger. This prescient awareness of what others were feeling and of how they displayed their emotions probably stood him in good stead when he came to write. ========== One book I am re-reading as a Covid sheltering book (4/26/2020) is "The Count of Monte Cristo." Dantes, a framed prisoner in solitary confinement in a French dungeon, is a simple, young, uneducated sailor. (Dantes would go on to become the Count many years hence). It would be 10 years in prison before Dantes connects with his fellow solitary, Abbé Faria who saves his life in more ways than one. For the time being, however, Dantes has no real mental resources of his own to sustain him. For a time, he tries religion but gives up in despair. He becomes self-destructive, but eventually resigns himself to death. This reminded me of a chapter in "Solitude" that I had not discussed above, "Enforced Solitude." The author uses the example of Dr. Edith Bone, who later published a book "Seven Years Solitary." Storr describes from her book how she coped with her predicament. "Dr Bone was over sixty when she was arrested in Hungary in 1949. A notable linguist, she had been invited to Hungary to translate English scientific books into Hungarian. She herself had joined the Communist Party in 1919. She was accused of being a British agent, but refused to make a false confession or in any way to collaborate with her interrogators. This elderly lady spent seven years in prison before she was finally released in November 1956. For three of those years she was denied access to books or writing materials. The cell in which she was first confined was bitterly cold and had no window. Worse was to come. For five months she was kept in a cellar in total darkness. The walls ran with water or were covered with fungus; the floor was deep in excrement. There was no ventilation. Dr Bone invented various techniques for keeping herself sane. She recited and translated poetry, and herself composed verses. She completed a mental inventory of her vocabulary in the six languages in which she was fluent, and went for imaginary walks through the streets of the many cities which she knew well. Throughout these and other ordeals, Dr Bone treated her captors with contempt, and never ceased to protest her innocence. She is not only a shining example of courage which few could match, but also illustrates the point that a well-stocked, disciplined mind can prevent its own disruption." The contrast to Dantes in "Monte Cristo" is the Abbé Faria. When we first encounter him in the novel, he is on the floor of his cell working on a geometric drawing that the author likens to the work of Archimedes. Years later, the Abbé explains to Dantes how his store of learning has sustained him all these years, much of which he will pass on to his young protege. “In Rome, I had nearly five thousand volumes in my library. By reading and re-reading them, I discovered that one hundred and fifty books, carefully chosen, give you, if not a complete summary of human knowledge, at least everything that it is useful for a man to know. I devoted three years of my life to reading and re-reading these hundred and fifty volumes, so that when I was arrested I knew them more or less by heart. In prison, with a slight effort of memory, I recalled them entirely. So I can recite to you Thucydides, Xenophon, Plutarch, Livy, Tacitus, Strada, Jornadès, Dante, Montaigne, Shakespeare, Spinoza, Machiavelli and Bossuet; I mention only the most important …’ and further explains what keeps him occupied..... "I have to admit that my historical work is my favourite occupation. When I go back to the past, I forget the present. I walk free and independently through history, and forget that I am a prisoner.” ------------- And so I return (9/8/2020).... “Writing is a form of therapy; sometimes I wonder how all those who do not write, compose, or paint can manage to escape the madness, melancholia, the panic and fear which is inherent in a human situation.” -Graham Greene

  3. 5 out of 5

    Bethan

    As a very solitary person – for example, I once went eight months without having any kind of conversation with anyone whether online or in person which is extreme (not really recommended) - naturally, this book interested me. Truthfully I was hoping, ideally, for something from this book that would click in me so that I would not desire or need any relationships with people because I can't seem to do them but yeah, no, that is not going to happen. Anyway as it turned out, strangely enough, the bo As a very solitary person – for example, I once went eight months without having any kind of conversation with anyone whether online or in person which is extreme (not really recommended) - naturally, this book interested me. Truthfully I was hoping, ideally, for something from this book that would click in me so that I would not desire or need any relationships with people because I can't seem to do them but yeah, no, that is not going to happen. Anyway as it turned out, strangely enough, the book seemed to be more of a psychological discussion of creativity. One message I got was that many creative people suffered and had psychological issues - e.g. depression, schizoid personality disorder - but that if they could create or discover, it is a way to bring order to potential disordered behaviour: it staves that off, and Storr's conclusion is that solitary behaviour or a lack of close and intimate relationships is not to be discounted or disowned, especially if people are able to have more casual relationships such as friends or acquaintances, and also if they create things of value and worth. It doesn't look like it necessarily mean happiness but it seems sensible and sympathetic in recognising that solitude and creation may be just what is positive that the person can do for themselves. I don't know how much of a theory based on a creative myth this is, as opposed to more rigorous objectivity. For example, is it not so uncommon amongst non-creatives or those who are not solitary that there are people with psychological issues or challenging life circumstances if you study their life just as much as Storr looked at the lives of his examples (Kafka, Newton, Beethoven, Beatrix Potter, etc.). OK, maybe everyone is messed up in some way. That appeals to the misanthrope in me. Or, of course, what about creative people who had close and intimate relationships and were not solitary? However it is, I fully agree with Storr that times of solitude are positive for a lot of people if they balance it up with contact with other people and that the "happiest lives are probably those in which neither interpersonal relationships nor impersonal interests are idealised as the only way to salvation. The desire and pursuit of the whole must comprehend both aspects of human nature."

  4. 5 out of 5

    Ken

    The more we broadcast ourselves on a constant basis, the more we chip away at even the concept of solitude. Every meal you eat is a photo meant to be shared, every funny thought you have is a tweet being prepared for the hive mind. Online communication isn't the same as making a material world connection - but neither is it the same as being alone. Solitude has been the basis for so much of my creative accomplishment (wonderful collaborative efforts notwithstanding). We need connection, and we a The more we broadcast ourselves on a constant basis, the more we chip away at even the concept of solitude. Every meal you eat is a photo meant to be shared, every funny thought you have is a tweet being prepared for the hive mind. Online communication isn't the same as making a material world connection - but neither is it the same as being alone. Solitude has been the basis for so much of my creative accomplishment (wonderful collaborative efforts notwithstanding). We need connection, and we also need solitude, and online conversation is neither of those things - but does it feed the need to create in some way, or is it more of a false nourishment - all the comfort of basking in inspiration, with none of the impetus to actually create? I wonder how the author might have seen it.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Emma

    In the flood of books in all fields about social behaviour, a book extolling the virtues of solitude stands out. Storr critiques the premise of much psychotherapy (esp attachment theory) that we need to be fixed so that we can have fulfilling social relationships and thereby be 'successful'. He argues that purpose and work and, importantly, the ability to be alone, are of equal value and uses creative people as examples. Thus he says, "The capacity to form attachments on equal terms is considere In the flood of books in all fields about social behaviour, a book extolling the virtues of solitude stands out. Storr critiques the premise of much psychotherapy (esp attachment theory) that we need to be fixed so that we can have fulfilling social relationships and thereby be 'successful'. He argues that purpose and work and, importantly, the ability to be alone, are of equal value and uses creative people as examples. Thus he says, "The capacity to form attachments on equal terms is considered evidence of emotional maturity. It is the absence of this capacity which is pathological. Whether there may be other criteria of emotional maturity, like the capacity to be alone, is seldom taken into account." And: "It is widely believed that interpersonal relationships of an intimate kind are the chief, if not the only, source of human happiness. Yet the lives of creative individuals often seem to run counter to this assumption.” And he ends with this quote from Wordsworth Wordsworth The Prelude (1950: 261). When from our better selves we have too long Been parted by the hurrying world, and droop, Sick of its business, of its pleasures tired, How gracious, how benign, is Solitude.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jenn "JR"

    First, this book is magnificently structured. The quality of writing and clarity of concepts laid out from the preface to the last page is well organized and clear without being overly pedantic or repetitive. The author refers to concepts and goals of previous sections of the book - even mentions upcoming areas that will be addressed later - and it all just flows really nicely. Very tightly written book - it's only 202 pages (the rest are notes). Second - this book does a really great job of talk First, this book is magnificently structured. The quality of writing and clarity of concepts laid out from the preface to the last page is well organized and clear without being overly pedantic or repetitive. The author refers to concepts and goals of previous sections of the book - even mentions upcoming areas that will be addressed later - and it all just flows really nicely. Very tightly written book - it's only 202 pages (the rest are notes). Second - this book does a really great job of talking about the need for solitude as a balance to the need for human relationships and interactions using the experiences of highly accomplished historical figures including Beatrix Potter, Kant, Dostoevsky, Newton and many others. This was originally published in 1988 - so many watershed events happened in the 80s, and most people in developed countries were on the precipice of previously unknown opportunity for connection, distraction and surveillance of each other's activities. "At the time of writing, it is generally considered that the highly introverted person is more pathological than the very extraverted person. This is because of the current emphasis upon object relationships, and the disregard of processes which take place in solitude." The premise is that people who want solitude or who are single are missing out and have something wrong with them. We even use the Greek word for a person who lives alone - troglodyte - as an insult to indicate some kind of stupid or defective person. Storr goes into detail about the intrinsic need for humans to spend time alone -- sleep, for example, and dreams -- they provide our brain with time alone to integrate and heal and process experiences, ideas and thoughts about things. Humans always crave some kind of solitude -- and even in the face of social convention and obligation, we come up with ways to get time to ourselves -- Florence Nightingale feigned a health complaint so she could get time alone to study and write. Victorian women would have time to "rest" in the afternoons after spending so much time being empathically focused on the needs of others. So - why is it that 30 years after this book was written, it seems like we are still not allowing people to take or make space to integrate their thoughts, experiences and ideas so that they can be healthier, happier and more productive? I'm thinking specifically here of corporate professional work and the move to crowd people into "open workspace" areas and the retraction of control over where one works (many employers are repealing remote/work from home policies). It seems counter productive to require an "always on", in the office for 8 hours workday when that's not really how human brains function. Being alone is necessary not just for personal life - but for professional life as well. While corporate culture values ideation, collaboration and consensus for decision-making -- where is the space for integration and problem-solving on an individual level? Lots of great material to dig into here -- it feels like this is just another spot on the tip of the iceberg of a subject that fascinates me: the psychology of creativity. If you enjoy reading "Finding Flow" and other books by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi -- you'll enjoy this book.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    I don't know entirely where I stand on this. On the one hand, it features lots of lovely tidbits about how people have dealt with solitude, most of them miserable depressives. The whole thing is a defense of solitude as an essential component of well-being, written as it was at a time when interpersonal relationships were deemed to be of paramount importance, and long before lots of basement-dwelling assholes started claiming that their "introversion" was why they were assholes. I mean, it is a p I don't know entirely where I stand on this. On the one hand, it features lots of lovely tidbits about how people have dealt with solitude, most of them miserable depressives. The whole thing is a defense of solitude as an essential component of well-being, written as it was at a time when interpersonal relationships were deemed to be of paramount importance, and long before lots of basement-dwelling assholes started claiming that their "introversion" was why they were assholes. I mean, it is a product of its time. Especially in the beginning, there's a little too much Freudianism for my taste, and the moronic statue of Abraham Maslow is erected at one point, but it doesn't obscure a good argument. And parts of it are downright moving -- the moment towards the end where he mentions that the much-discussed loss of former interests in depressive patients isn't a loss of former interests per se, it's a loss of interests due to the burdens of work and familial requirements, something that terrifies me, deeply.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Bethany

    This was such an excellent find...almost lost in the midst of the sidewalk sale at Second Story books in Dupont Circle. Dr. Storr is a psychiatrist as well as a talented writer and researcher. The book is full of fascinating biographical jewels on great minds like Kant, Newton, Henry James, Beatrix Potter, P.G. Wodehouse, Freud, Jung and many more. Storr's main premise is to challenge the predominant theory today that a well-balanced life revolves around deep, significant relationships. He does This was such an excellent find...almost lost in the midst of the sidewalk sale at Second Story books in Dupont Circle. Dr. Storr is a psychiatrist as well as a talented writer and researcher. The book is full of fascinating biographical jewels on great minds like Kant, Newton, Henry James, Beatrix Potter, P.G. Wodehouse, Freud, Jung and many more. Storr's main premise is to challenge the predominant theory today that a well-balanced life revolves around deep, significant relationships. He does not dismiss the significance of relationships themselves but proffers that interests, hobbies, work, religion, nature and art can meet the same needs and desires of men and women of all types. My only criticism, which is something that Storr acknowledges but doesn't ever truly answer, is the focus on great creative minds who often had the means to take advantage of solitude rather than offering a potential answer for ordinary people who feel they could benefit from the same. Overall, an incredible, rare find that straddles the fields of psychology, sociology, the arts, religion and science.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Yvonne

    I love this book. I have read it a few times. It always makes me feel good and gives me new insight into things that are important to me. Maybe it is time to read it again. The main message it holds is that a person can make their own satisfaction and happiness.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Santiago F. Moreno Solana

    When I finished this book almost two weeks ago, I felt the essay constituted a great analysis worth reading, short but in many aspects dense and detailed, which answered many questions about my own self, someone who enjoys very much the pleasures of solitude and considers that both interpersonal relationships and solitude itself provide happiness, but who is also convinced that the hills of happiness which define solitude outshine and dazzle even the highest mountains of happiness which define i When I finished this book almost two weeks ago, I felt the essay constituted a great analysis worth reading, short but in many aspects dense and detailed, which answered many questions about my own self, someone who enjoys very much the pleasures of solitude and considers that both interpersonal relationships and solitude itself provide happiness, but who is also convinced that the hills of happiness which define solitude outshine and dazzle even the highest mountains of happiness which define interpersonal relationships. The big question the book tries to answer, and accomplishes in most of the cases, is whether interpersonal relationships are the sole (or main, by far) source of happiness for the human being. The author shows with many examples, convincinly in my opinion, why such needs not/must not be the case. Solitude 'alone' may be the fountain from which common people, geniouses, mentally deranged ones, sexually constrained and/or people deprived of liberty drink. Solitude may also be able to a large extend to quench their thirst (the thirst of happiness). In fact, happiness is not void, is not hollow in the eyes of a human being who enjoys and make a higher use of solitude and a minor use of personal interrelationships. In other words,  solitude 'alone' fills and generates all the happiness a human being needs, since solitude doesn't need human relationships to complete happiness or convey the feeling of happiness of a human being (or not in all cases). Solitary activity is enriching, no doubt. Some people are able to spend most of their lifetime alone however enjoying happy and fulfilled lives. In many cases, interpersonal relationships do have a mere testimonial importance for them and they cannot be considered as feeling empty or being unhappy at all as a consequence. Much on the contrary. While the book highlights the importance of being alone and the fact that solitude is for many the main source of happiness, the author explores throughout the different chapters a variety or nuisances of 'solitudes' like e.g. the enforced one (e.g. that of people on prison or deprived of liberty for other reasons) and compares them to cases or solitude types/nuisances in which entering a solitary status is rather a voluntary decision. Biographies and lifes of musicians, poets, writters, artists, geniouses of all kinds, are explored and analysed. Solitude in itself, in most of the cases presented, regardless of its kind (enforced or voluntary), seems to become a strong source of creativity, satisfaction and fulfillment for the one making use of or suffering from it if filled with creativity, such creativity appearing thanks to or as a consequence of a solitary status. For instance, geniouses have been making use mainly of solitude in different periods of history in order to develop and progress in their works rather than interpersonal relationships. Without solitude their success and accomplishments would have probably not been achieved. But also solitude is presented as a way of healing which invites people with psychological problems to make use of it as a means for mental repairment with sound results. In conclusion, solitude may mean for many human beings a great deal of happiness, such happoness not needing to be fed with interpersonal relationships in order to fill the soul of a human with joy to end up with a life fulfilled. Absolutely recommendable.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Zade

    When I started this book, I did not realize the author was a renowned psychoanalyst. Had I known that, I doubt I'd have given it a try. I am, however, glad I read it. Storr's examination of the value of solitude and the role it plays in both creativity and the development and preservation of mental health embodies a warmth and humanity rarely found in psychoanalytic literature. Storr argues convincingly that modern psychology and psychoanalytics place too much emphasis on the role of interperson When I started this book, I did not realize the author was a renowned psychoanalyst. Had I known that, I doubt I'd have given it a try. I am, however, glad I read it. Storr's examination of the value of solitude and the role it plays in both creativity and the development and preservation of mental health embodies a warmth and humanity rarely found in psychoanalytic literature. Storr argues convincingly that modern psychology and psychoanalytics place too much emphasis on the role of interpersonal relationships in mental and emotional health. Even today, nearly 30 years after the books original publication, our culture sees solitude as a sign of instability, pathology, or weakness. Although there have been some popular books lately that seek to rehabilitate the image of introverts, the mere fact that such volumes merit particular notice reflects our cultural preference for gregariousness. Storr uses the lives of famous artists, writers, musicians, scientists, and philosophers to illustrate the importance of solitude for the creative process and also its usefulness in overcoming injuries or handicaps in some people's psyches. He does not argue against the importance of relationships, but rather suggests that a balance of relationships and interests, proportioned according to the individual's unique needs, makes for the most balanced life and the best chance of achieving "happiness." The book is well written and quite readable, although a basic knowledge of the people Storr uses as examples makes the going easier. Fortunately, he provides enough information that even if one is unfamiliar with the details of, for example, Wittgenstein's philosophy, one can still get the point. Of course, a quick Google search can provide more background if needed. So, why not five stars? In part, because Storr does go on a bit in some places. He uses three or four examples where one would do. I realize he was fighting an uphill battle against an entrenched psychoanalytic culture and needed to bolster his defenses, but for the lay reader, it does get tedious at times. Another factor is that Storr says he's arguing that solitude is important for average people, not just the great creatives, and that very solitary people need not be pathological, but rather can be quite healthy, but his examples include a preponderance of clearly neurotic people and he devotes no time demonstrating how the experiences of these geniuses can translate into the lives of average men and women. While most readers will be able to find plenty of useful validation for their own need for solitude, the book would be more useful to a lay audience were the uses of solitude in everyday life addressed directly and with examples to whom readers might relate more easily. Despite these caveats, _Solitude_ is a deeply informative and provocative book. I recommend it strongly to anyone who has felt the need for "alone time" or to anyone who wonders why another person should need such time.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Daniel G.

    This is a now fairly old title that is well worth picking up nonetheless. Storr, an Oxford professor of psychology (a Jungian from what I can gather) discusses solitude, its benefits, some of its perils, and its basic impact on the human mind. For Storr, solitude is an important part of a healthy human life, though it plays different roles for different people. He pushes back quite a bit here on psychological systems that only emphasize the significance of relationships in psychological health, This is a now fairly old title that is well worth picking up nonetheless. Storr, an Oxford professor of psychology (a Jungian from what I can gather) discusses solitude, its benefits, some of its perils, and its basic impact on the human mind. For Storr, solitude is an important part of a healthy human life, though it plays different roles for different people. He pushes back quite a bit here on psychological systems that only emphasize the significance of relationships in psychological health, pointing out that what we do with the mind when we are alone plays a crucial role as well. Storr's approach is holistic and theoretical, not heavily research driven, using myriad examples of creative people and artists for exploring how the mind works. I enjoyed his chapter on the unitive function of creativity (especially poetry in this case) in solitude in shaping a human mind capable of dealing with what life really brings--loss, pain, estrangement, and all other forms of suffering. Storr does not write from a religious point of view, but he has a very healthy respect for religious thought and sees the religious thinkers whom he discusses as examples of psychological health. This is refreshing as the decades since the release of this book have brought ever-greater rejection of religiosity among many psychologists and social scientists. In the end, this book has given me a much greater capacity to think about the role that solitude plays in my mental life, and how to use solitude as a God-given tool for promoting mental and emotional health. One small warning to the Christian reader--Jung's approach to free-association, which is discussed very briefly at the end of the book, is something to be wary of. While clearing the mind can be crucial for making a space there for God (as so many ancient ascetics have realized) it is not God alone whom one might find there. This small caution in mind, I highly recommend _Solitude_ for anyone wanting to think more rigorously about what it means to be alone.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    I was very disappointed in this book. It's description touted it as "a profoundly original exploration of solitude and its role in the lives of creative, fulfilled individuals". It was none of the above. Rather, it is the author's personal rebuttal to most of Freud's philosophy (which I could care less about). It was NOT an exploration of how solitude fueled creative minds, but a depressing litany of all the artists who were neglected, imprisoned, exiled, or institutionalized. While Storr could I was very disappointed in this book. It's description touted it as "a profoundly original exploration of solitude and its role in the lives of creative, fulfilled individuals". It was none of the above. Rather, it is the author's personal rebuttal to most of Freud's philosophy (which I could care less about). It was NOT an exploration of how solitude fueled creative minds, but a depressing litany of all the artists who were neglected, imprisoned, exiled, or institutionalized. While Storr could have given many anecdotes of happy, well-adjusted creative people who enjoy their own company, he chose to highlight the worst-case scenarios. I have no idea where the subtitle "A Return to the Self" fits in, because it certainly wasn't addressed in any meaningful way. I believe Mr. Storr needs to seek his therapy regarding his conflict with Sigmund Freud elsewhere, and also possibly take a course in basic composition - specifically, "what is a main idea", "what is your supporting evidence", and "remove extraneous details". Complete waste of time. P.S. I don't leave negative comments unless it is truly abominable, and I honestly can't recommend this for a single person.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Oussama Nakkal

    A very perceptive book that can walk you through some unreachable inner places you've never knew they were there in your entire life. Some aspects about yourself you might be ignorant or oblivous of or just afraid to think about you will consider them definitely after reading this book, in the most blatant and spooky way. Using a very technically preceptive arsenal of theories from psychoanalists such as Freud, Jung and Winnicott, Storr gives you a relatable explanatory process of how you became A very perceptive book that can walk you through some unreachable inner places you've never knew they were there in your entire life. Some aspects about yourself you might be ignorant or oblivous of or just afraid to think about you will consider them definitely after reading this book, in the most blatant and spooky way. Using a very technically preceptive arsenal of theories from psychoanalists such as Freud, Jung and Winnicott, Storr gives you a relatable explanatory process of how you became the person you are right now (essentially when it comes to interpersonnal relationships). Illustrating each part of the book with biographical aspects of great men and women of genius; how solitude made poets, philosophers, and great composers came to an understanding of their core and helped their creativeness to leave such considerable achievements behind them (regardless of being succesfully sociable). Personally, I felt attacked at some point while reading some paragraphs (especially Winnicott's transitional objects theory) from the accuracy and the relatability of my past relationships (I was like Hold the fuck up man. PLEASE stop being so accurate! lol) Such an important book for any psychonaut out there trying to be in harmony of whatever makes us struggle to understand our ourselves in order to make sense of the outer world and eventually have meaningful and healthy interpersonal relationships.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Talie

    The summary of the book as written in the last chapter: "This book began with the observation that many highly creative people were predominantly solitary, but that it was nonsense to suppose that, because of this, they were necessarily unhappy or neurotic. Although man is a social being, who certainly needs interaction with others, there is considerable variation in the depth of the relationships which individuals form with each other. All human beings need interests as well as relationships; a The summary of the book as written in the last chapter: "This book began with the observation that many highly creative people were predominantly solitary, but that it was nonsense to suppose that, because of this, they were necessarily unhappy or neurotic. Although man is a social being, who certainly needs interaction with others, there is considerable variation in the depth of the relationships which individuals form with each other. All human beings need interests as well as relationships; all are geared toward the impersonal as well as toward the personal. The events of early childhood, inherited gifts and capacities, temperamental differences, and a host of other factors may influence whether individuals turn predominantly toward others or toward solitude to find the meaning of their lives. The capacity to be alone was adumbrated as a valuable resource, which facilitated learning, thinking, innovation, coming to terms with change, and the maintenance of contact with the inner world of the imagination. We saw that, even in those whose capacity for making intimate relationships had been damaged, the development of creative imagination could exercise a healing function. Examples were also given of creative individuals whose chief concern was with making sense and order out of life rather than with relationships with others; a concern with the impersonal which, we suggested, tended to increase with age. " The writer makes some good points but there are some aspect of the book which i don't like: 1.The book is full of repetition and self refrences. It also repeats lots of the author's opinion about Freud,which he expresses in his book about Freud. 2. It also suffers from some deviation from the topic. For example, the reader can be lost in the details of lives of authors and composers discussed in the book. 3. When I chose this book to read I expected general analysis of the issue. But the book often limits itself to some specific circumstances for example: the role of solitude for elderly people or peole who are not able to establish good relationships with their parents or carer in their childhood.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Amaan Cheval

    This book was so much better than I even expected it to be. Storr has put together a really comprehensive book representing different aspects of not only solitude, but also research on human well-being in general - the capacity to enjoy one's own company, the reasons forced isolation can wreak havoc on us, various theories on attachment and meaning, and dozens of glimpses into the lives of various interesting people throughout history (from psychologists to composers to scientists). I think I've This book was so much better than I even expected it to be. Storr has put together a really comprehensive book representing different aspects of not only solitude, but also research on human well-being in general - the capacity to enjoy one's own company, the reasons forced isolation can wreak havoc on us, various theories on attachment and meaning, and dozens of glimpses into the lives of various interesting people throughout history (from psychologists to composers to scientists). I think I've highlighted more excerpts in this book than any other.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jackie St Hilaire

    It's an uphill climb to the finish line. Starting all over again is not easy. Where does one start? The author as well as numerous philosophers and psychologists tell us that we should look to the place in our lives where our growth was challenged. For many it will be adolescence for others depending on their circumstances as early as childhood. Returning to oneself is not always easy, you ask yourself questions like: "Where did I go wrong". "How come my life went in that direction?" The author sugg It's an uphill climb to the finish line. Starting all over again is not easy. Where does one start? The author as well as numerous philosophers and psychologists tell us that we should look to the place in our lives where our growth was challenged. For many it will be adolescence for others depending on their circumstances as early as childhood. Returning to oneself is not always easy, you ask yourself questions like: "Where did I go wrong". "How come my life went in that direction?" The author suggests that we go back to the beginning, move forward and return to ourselves. This will led us through pain, healing and peace. It will circle around us all through our life, eternally. When you think you have it together, it will appear again and again depending on how much you have to resurrect, depending on how much you have lived, how much you have conquered, how much you have loved. If you reach the finish line, you are way above average, you have found your bliss, you have reached nirvana, heaven, God the source. We are given illustrations of other people who have touched our lives as writers, philosophers, composers and artists. Anthony Storr is well acquainted and well educated and artistically gives the reader a thorough background in these fields. The following is his teaching on how one comes full circle in ones life. FIRST PERIOD The artist has not fully discovered his individual voice. (That means all of us individually) SECOND PERIOD Mastery and individuality are clearly manifest and the need to communicate whatever he/she has to say to a wide public is possible. THIRD PERIOD Integration-Unification-Light-Circular-Totality-New Vision-Diversity-Reconciliation-Relaxation-Peace. There is no need to convince. No concerns about other's following or understanding. Genuine abandonment of the conventional, traditional. It is more personal and not public. Simplicity, you have come home. Ecclesiastes 3:1 (NIV) There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens. "What's Love Got to Do with It?" It seems that the author differentiates solitude and loving relationships. I guess he wants to make a point but he seems to be leaning toward solitude but in the end he states that it is a balancing act. To achieve wholeness one has to have a good center and centering means one has to go into solitude, pursue your quest alone and detach your consciousness from the world. One needs to regain the Spirit. A tired, restless body drives out the Spirit. The Spirit should always be the master. One has to find his/her place in the sun. One has nothing to give or contribute to life if one has not found his/her proper place in the universe. Growth in the only evidence of life. In the end or the beginning, love is all that matters.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Caryn

    This is not one of those feel good, self help, make me feel okay with the world kind of books. This piece of work is dense. It's a lot to chew. It's amazing. These are just my thoughts after finishing the book, not really a review of the book itself. Our culture tells us that one of the worst things that can happen to a person is to die alone. This is a blatant lie that many of us tend to believe. Working on the self is not placed at any importance and so while immature emotionally, mentally and sp This is not one of those feel good, self help, make me feel okay with the world kind of books. This piece of work is dense. It's a lot to chew. It's amazing. These are just my thoughts after finishing the book, not really a review of the book itself. Our culture tells us that one of the worst things that can happen to a person is to die alone. This is a blatant lie that many of us tend to believe. Working on the self is not placed at any importance and so while immature emotionally, mentally and spiritually we put all our energy towards being loved and loving another being. This usually ends up in mental prisons, dragging each other down to the depths of neurosis before the development of the internal ever had a chance to begin. We can treat other people in such a better and uplifting way if we don't see them as an ends to a mean. There is so much more to experience and a lot of the wonders (thinking, discovering, creating, observing the mind) can only be done in solitude. Space is needed in your life to notice the amazing elements that we toss aside when we are too busy. If we didn't start chasing a partner as soon as we could, and sometimes pop out babies before we even know ourselves, we would be able to remove our neurosis and create humans with a far more intelligent DNA, one where they can see clearly and therefore can treat themselves and those around them with unconditional love. The ecstasy that comes from uniting with another human being while in love is truly amazing and beautiful. It's not a state that be reached and parked on. It's temporary and is truly the highs of life. There are so many ways to get it and there is no need to be desperate about it. You can get it from being aware of your body and taking care of it. You can get it from meditation. You can get it from finding a new interest that opens up a new world to you. You can get it from hiking a mountain. You can get it from creating an art piece. You can get it from reading a book written by an intelligent mind. The entire world is our playground and solitude can bring just as much happiness as a healthy relationship.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Cody

    This was another one of those very well researched, very human studies about how solitude can help you, about how being alone allows us a chance to recover our true selves- the "I" that is hidden from the rest of the world. There are also many very concise summaries of psyches and solitude cravings from famous authors, suggesting that some creative people may thrive in solitude for it allows themselves a chance to collect their thoughts and express themselves, while being lost in an illusion of This was another one of those very well researched, very human studies about how solitude can help you, about how being alone allows us a chance to recover our true selves- the "I" that is hidden from the rest of the world. There are also many very concise summaries of psyches and solitude cravings from famous authors, suggesting that some creative people may thrive in solitude for it allows themselves a chance to collect their thoughts and express themselves, while being lost in an illusion of solitude (or a reality of solitude as the case may be). Personally, I really rather identified with this book. I just enjoy my solitude, and my "me" time is pretty important to me, but Storr also highlights in his profiles of these famous creative individuals how their solitude affected their personal relationships (or was a reason for their lack of interpersonal intimacy). This doesn't hold true for the whole book though, for Storr was really concentrated on the beneficial aspects of solitude. Here he was pretty much preaching to the converted, since I already heartily enjoy my solitary moments. It just gave me renewed appreciation for how important they are.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Sophy H

    4.5 stars I really enjoyed this title. Despite my absolute consuming passion for reading, I have a very hard time spending time alone and sometimes struggle with solitude so I wanted to explore Storr's take on the fact that some people are better adapted and indeed seem inherently geared towards solitude. His findings that creative and artist types are solitude seeking resonated with personal experience. I was interested to read how our childhoods and upbringing may affect our ability to be able 4.5 stars I really enjoyed this title. Despite my absolute consuming passion for reading, I have a very hard time spending time alone and sometimes struggle with solitude so I wanted to explore Storr's take on the fact that some people are better adapted and indeed seem inherently geared towards solitude. His findings that creative and artist types are solitude seeking resonated with personal experience. I was interested to read how our childhoods and upbringing may affect our ability to be able to cope with and/or revel in solitude; depending on how we interacted with our parents/caregivers, and how we managed when left without them. The findings for me were very compelling and I found the book a fabulous read. The only criticism I do have is the over reliance on swathes of quotes in the closing chapters concerning music composers. Its as if Storr ran out of his own observations at this point and turned to every music biographer he could to provide quotes regarding the introverted nature of composers. Nevertheless an intriguing read and well worth a look.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Joseph Boquiren

    As an extreme introvert I picked up this book in the hopes of learning more about my peculiar eccentricity. Anthony Storr makes a good case that interpersonal relationships are not the only source of happiness. Many of the people listed in his book lived lives of solitude with the world being better off because of it. Isaac Newton, Solzhenitsyn, Kant, Wittgenstein, Beethoven, Kafka, etc. all labored in relative isolation and because of this their work continues to shape, inform and enrich our li As an extreme introvert I picked up this book in the hopes of learning more about my peculiar eccentricity. Anthony Storr makes a good case that interpersonal relationships are not the only source of happiness. Many of the people listed in his book lived lives of solitude with the world being better off because of it. Isaac Newton, Solzhenitsyn, Kant, Wittgenstein, Beethoven, Kafka, etc. all labored in relative isolation and because of this their work continues to shape, inform and enrich our lives today.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Samantha Seaman

    A thoughtful defense of solitude. I especially liked the discussion that marriage/relationships are only one aspect of the realm of social relationships, and should not be viewed as necessary to be well-adjusted/normal/the only valid type of relationship. The book broke down how solitude is essential for meditation, creativity, innovation, and also addressed the darker sides, which he defined as grief, mental disorder, depression.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Hildegunn

    First half of the book is interesting and pretty good. But somewhere along the line the author goes off track and forgets his own topic. Second half of the book seems to be about everything else but solitude. It becomes dreadfully blabbering and boring before you reach the end. Almost not worth the read.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Ani

    As a writer with a contemplative nature who is deeply embracing her love and need for huge swathes of solitude as never before, I was eager to read Anthony Storr’s book. I was drawn immediately after reading that “Solitude”, originally published in 1988, “was seminal in challenging the established belief that interpersonal relationships of an intimate kind are the chief, if not the only source of human happiness.” In my experience, it is rare to find someone arguing that intimate relationships a As a writer with a contemplative nature who is deeply embracing her love and need for huge swathes of solitude as never before, I was eager to read Anthony Storr’s book. I was drawn immediately after reading that “Solitude”, originally published in 1988, “was seminal in challenging the established belief that interpersonal relationships of an intimate kind are the chief, if not the only source of human happiness.” In my experience, it is rare to find someone arguing that intimate relationships are not necessarily the essential hub of a healthy life and what gives life meaning. I deeply appreciate Storr’s valuing of the capacity to be alone—generally not valued, taught nor fostered in a positive way in children—the favor being given to interpersonal development. He speaks of this capacity as a “valuable resource, which facilitated learning, thinking, innovation, coming to terms with change, and the maintenance of contact with the inner world of the imagination.” Storr, a doctor and psychiatrist, has previously written about the importance of interpersonal relationships and goes deeply into the Freudian take, from which his own training and work emerged. But bravely, and with lots of elucidating examples, he cites why he finds the Freudian framework limiting. I was glad to also hear him include mention of Bowlby’s work on maternal attachment (whose work I had studied as a a professional in child development). Storr presents a bigger context that does not deny the crucial bonding that takes place in an infant’s developmental journey, and the impact of its lack. But he also integrates his insights and numerous examples of the healing effects of imagination and creative pursuit where there has been deprivation, without diminishing creativity as a substitute for more meaningful engagement with life. I also so appreciate Anthony Storr’s insights about how isolation—though not defending extreme, punitive degrees— can lead to more engagement with the imagination and how challenges in familial bonding as a child can lead to prescient awareness that can inform one’s art positively. Storr is not, in my opinion, romanticizing deprivation and its impact on the development of the artistic temperament. Rather he is stepping back and opening the lens precisely not to pathologize or oversimplify tendencies towards solitude and away from prioritizing interpersonal relationships as inherently unhealthy. Throughout the book, Storr offers examples of creative individuals whose chief concern was making sense and order out of life rather than prioritizing relationships with others. Summarizing at the end of the book, he writes: “We saw that, even in those whose capacity for making Intimate relationships has been damaged, the development of the imagination could exercise a healing function.” Here are a few other telling quotes from the book: “Only those who exalt human relations to an ideal position in the hierarchy of human values could think that creativity was no more than a substitute for such relationships.” “Work, especially of a creative kind which changes, progresses and deepens over the years, can, I believe, provide the integrating factor within the personality…” If anyone reading this review has other books to recommend that celebrate solitude and offer a perspective that counters the prevailing bias that fulfillment is to be found chiefly in intimate relationships, please let me know.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Melchor Moro-Oliveros

    Ok, let’s go: I had doubts between 3 and 4 stars. I finally give it 3 (but be aware I mean 3,75 … :-) …). Here are my reasons: The book starts excellently, very promising, but it goes too much and too soon into single examples of famous personalities of fields of arts and science and it focuses too much on only one aspect of personality: creativity. As if creativity was the ultimate goal in the search for hapiness and fullfilness. Additionallty, it lacks on an clear conclusion (an unambiguous pe Ok, let’s go: I had doubts between 3 and 4 stars. I finally give it 3 (but be aware I mean 3,75 … :-) …). Here are my reasons: The book starts excellently, very promising, but it goes too much and too soon into single examples of famous personalities of fields of arts and science and it focuses too much on only one aspect of personality: creativity. As if creativity was the ultimate goal in the search for hapiness and fullfilness. Additionallty, it lacks on an clear conclusion (an unambiguous personal author’s position to the topic). At least I missed one, may be because I was searching for clarity to myself and my expectations were too high. Now, you might want to skip the rest of my review as I may uncover some book details you better want to unfold yourself: The book, as I said, starts great, really great. It presents the topic of solitude (loneliness) in a kind of disruptive way toward society understanding of it: If we look at society, we are expected to couple, at best through marriage. We are expected to have and raise children under the same roof (family deifnition). Women around the age of 30 claim to feel a biological call from nature to become mothers. But, is it biological or is it the need to fit into society standards?. We are expected to hold a fulfilling social life. This is seen as a sign of success. Having lot of friends is better seen than having only one or two friends. Having no friends is weird (also to me, actually) … Having public recognition by others is better seen than experiencing self-realization. Typically, we need recognition and affirmation by others to develope self-confidence. This book puts all this under discussion. It presents Solitude as something not to be ashamed of, but rather something we all should to a certain extend strive. It is something necessary which not everybody is capable of. A lot to do with this incapability to be alone, so the author, is a consequence of the childhood one had (I agree with this, too). It also says that the need of recognition by others depends, as well, on the kind of childhood one had. A child needs to feel protected by their parents (specially by their mother). If a child feels protected and loved, he or she tends to have no problem to play alone and be ok in the abesence of them. This will help develop the capibility of being alone as well as the imagination. Vey good thought. The author states that solitude is the key for creativity and the source for many aspects of hapiness. It is even mandatory for doing “great things”. We perform at best when we are busy with ourselves. I also agree with this. The number of examples in the book is large, from musicians like Beethoven or Strauss, through some of the all time best story tellers like Mark Twain or Kafka up to the most relevant scientists like Edison or Newton. However, all these great people are at the same time presented in his private life as kind of weird freekies with partial schizoid disorders. This is something I had already realized many times while reading biographies of great men. Hermann Hesse for instance comes right now to my mind. I understand the book so, that these weird behavoir is a consequence of bringing solutide too far. In fact, the author explains how a total isolation of prisioners in war was one of the most terrible tortures one can undergo. Another reason to exagerate solitude is because they were incapable of socializing, mostly because of a “dificult” childhood (here is were Freud references come to play in the book). Finally, at least so I understood it, the author points out interpersonal relationships as the human need for co-operation. We need a partner (co-operation) to have sex. In the ancient time, and even today, we need a partner (co-operation) to accomplish the most basic needs like hunting for food or protecting ourselves from enemies and dangers. So seen, it looks like interpersonal relationships are more a matter of interests than a natural human necessity. I do beleive, and I had read it somewhere else, that we need a sense of belonging as a key factor for hapiness. In fact, I do not think that a complete isolation is healthy. My personal conclusion is that, in the search of a happy life, at the end of the day solitude weights 75% and interpersonal relationsships 25%. However, like in the exams at the university, one needs to score a minimun at each. Yo can’t be proficiency at one and badly fail at the other. One last thing: something is comming to my mind right now, which may contradict the previous paragraph. In the movie "Into the wild", Chris McCandless, when aware that he was going to die, wrote in one book by Tolstoy he was reading the note “Happines only real when shared”. However, according to the book Solitude this could be because he needed protection in that specific moment (co-operation from another human being) as he felt helpless.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Amanda Moser

    I found this a really lovely exploration of the acts of creativity and self discovery (and the value of such) that occur in solitude. Storr’s main hypothesis is “Intimate attachments are *a* hub around which a person’s life revolves, not necessarily *the* hub”. This book was written in 1988 and its fascinating to think what new content a modern update might include. Storr makes only brief mention of an increasingly connected world (and bemoans the car phone!) but maintains a rear-oriented perspe I found this a really lovely exploration of the acts of creativity and self discovery (and the value of such) that occur in solitude. Storr’s main hypothesis is “Intimate attachments are *a* hub around which a person’s life revolves, not necessarily *the* hub”. This book was written in 1988 and its fascinating to think what new content a modern update might include. Storr makes only brief mention of an increasingly connected world (and bemoans the car phone!) but maintains a rear-oriented perspective using examples from painters, composers, authors, and other artists of the past. It reads more as psychology text book than a modern self-help manual (which is candidly what I was after). There is little in the way of instruction and the reader will have to draw their own conclusions about how the content is relevant to their own experience. It stands, though, as an thoughtful and caring opposition to a narrative that has only grown more prominent in the 32 years since the book’s publication: life’s meaning is found in other people.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Bryan Fox

    I liked this book progressively less and less as I moved through it. The author clearly did his research (or has encyclopedic knowledge) on the lives of many famous people, but instead of reflecting and expounding on the value of solitude in the lives of ordinary people, he seems content to keep mentioning cases of famous thinkers, writers, composers and how solitude was necessary for them to achieve what they did. The nods to Freud/Jung/psychotherapy were interesting deviations, but this book c I liked this book progressively less and less as I moved through it. The author clearly did his research (or has encyclopedic knowledge) on the lives of many famous people, but instead of reflecting and expounding on the value of solitude in the lives of ordinary people, he seems content to keep mentioning cases of famous thinkers, writers, composers and how solitude was necessary for them to achieve what they did. The nods to Freud/Jung/psychotherapy were interesting deviations, but this book could have been so much more valuable if it had focused more on what solitude means to us philosophically, rather than professionally.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Sean Helvey

    I enjoyed the book and think that it was helpful, but was expecting more practical advice. The focus was on creative genius throughout history and the tone was very philosophical.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Gil

    Stopped @ 37%. The thesis is interesting, but I started skimming quite a number of parts, like Freud’s ideas and Storr’s rebuttals. Might pick it up again one day, though.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Samantha

    well, this was way better than the previous book on solitude that I read, but it still wasn't really what I was looking for. I have a book on silence where the author explores silence in different places, I wanted something more along those lines - experiences of solitude. this is by a psychoanalyst and honestly, I don't think he's talking about solitude per se. the actual point of the book, to my mind, is: freud et al have gone way too far in locating the meaning of life in sexual (romantic) fu well, this was way better than the previous book on solitude that I read, but it still wasn't really what I was looking for. I have a book on silence where the author explores silence in different places, I wanted something more along those lines - experiences of solitude. this is by a psychoanalyst and honestly, I don't think he's talking about solitude per se. the actual point of the book, to my mind, is: freud et al have gone way too far in locating the meaning of life in sexual (romantic) fulfillment, ignoring fulfillment available outside of relationship, i.e. through interests/gifts/talents/work/hobbies. it's not so much just about being alone as it is about things people do that don't involve other people. I guess that's a subtle distinction, but the book spends very very little time talking about the actual experience of being alone, which is what I wanted. instead, it talks about how once an infant has established a secure relationship with a caregiver, s-he is able to be alone, so that solitude is not just a response to a flawed relationship, but to a healthy one. and then he spends most of the book talking about famous poets, writers, and composers. but not about their experiences of being alone, about how they created in response to loss and pain, how in the latter third of life people turn more inward for their inspiration, and synthesize the themes and ideas they've been working with all their lives. so, mostly about how creativity can be a response to and healing of pain, but how being alone isn't just a consolation prize for being disappointed in love or unable to make social relationships, how even if it has its genesis in these failures, it has its own rewards. a quote: "in chapter five, I referred to winnicott's concept of "transitional objects", and suggested that 'these very early manifestations of investing impersonal objects with significance are evidence that man was not born for love alone.' it is also the case, as we have noted, that it is the securely attached child who is most able to leave the mother's side in order to explore the environment and investigate the objects which it contains. thus, the earliest manifestation of 'interests' cannot be regarded as a substitute for affectional ties, but rather as bearing witness to their adequacy." p. 152-153 I mean, I'm down with all this. I had classes in college where we refuted freud and read winnicott. I'm at a very unromantic period where I am annoyed by the pervasiveness of the concept that being partnered is the most important goal. I agree that "interests" gets short shrift - when, in fact, that's what advances the world. we don't have inventions because people fell in love. we have inventions because people were inspired by need to create. love does inspire art, but the failure of love inspires just as much if not more. so, yes, I'm all in for the message that freud was too sex obsessed (team jung all the way) and that having a romantic partner isn't the be all end all of existence. yes. but I still want to read a book that discusses the actual human experience of solitude, and this wasn't really it, and that junk I read before, sue halpern's migrations to solitude sure as hell wasn't it. but, that's two books off my to-be-read shelf and sitting in my to-give-away pile, so yay.

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