The 7 Books That Taught Me How To Love Being Alone

Ad failed to load

We are taught that there is shame in being alone. For women, in particular, there lurks the implication that no one is ever willingly by themselves. There's this idea that o one wants to be single (and if they say they do, they're just kidding themselves) or that no one wants a life that is truly untethered. "Find me a husband!" has been at the center of book, movie and TV plots for centuries. But part of growing up — er, maybe not even "up," but "out" — has been learning to love singularity. These books taught me how to be alone - and why there's power in loneliness.

Though it took until I was out of college to realize this tendency, I have always fallen into a lifestyle of independence. I bought my own prom ticket my senior year (and some classmate's mom looked at me pityingly and said, "Just one?"). I had moved to two new cities, without much of a plan, twice by the time I was 21. And it wasn't until other people started pointing out that I'm the opposite of a serial monogamist, that I take (to them, oddly) long walks by myself and show up to parties by myself and eat meals in public by myself, that I began to feel ashamed of being alone, of loneliness. I downloaded all the dating apps, I began spiraling into depression. I started relying on other people to do my own emotional lifting. And then I started reading books about women who refused to shut up about the intricacies of loneliness.

As an extrovert, the process of loving alone time has been particularly challenging. I do gain energy from being in the company of others. I love to chat and socialize. But as Warsan Shire sagely wrote, "You can't make homes out of human beings." This reading list helped me learn that.

Ad failed to load

'The Lonely City' by Olivia Laing


I recently picked up a copy of Olivia Laing's The Lonely City and couldn't put it down. Maybe it's because I just moved to New York, as she once did in her mid-thirties, and books about the city have taken on a new meaning for me. Maybe it was that I was coming off a solo walk across town, as I so often do when trying to orient myself to a new neighborhood.

Through the lens of artists known and lauded for their handling of loneliness — Edward Hopper, Andy Warhol, David Wojnarowicz — Laing walks us, and herself, down a path of self-reflection regarding why we fear being alone and the ways in which we can reclaim the feeling.

Click here to buy.

'Their Eyes Were Watching God' by Zora Neale Hurston


I first read Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God early on in high school, and I had never, ever encountered a character like Janie Crawford, the fiercely independent woman at the center of Hurston's well-renowned novel. Janie fights for the right to self-definition, tirelessly and unapologetically. She makes room for herself in spaces where men dominate. And when she reflects on a life she's run ragged trying to figure things out for herself, she's content.

Now, admittedly, this book, written by a Black woman, for Black women, about the experience of being a Black woman in the South, was not made for me. And there is a spirit to this book that I won't ever know or truly understand, and Janie must overcome things that I will never have to encounter because of my privilege. But I do understand loneliness, and living in a world where people question your independence, and it's those elements of Janie that I continue to cherish.

Click here to buy.

'Wild' by Cheryl Strayed


There's a reason why Cheryl Strayed's now-classic memoir Wild is on, like, every single person's "Independence" reading list — it's because the power of Strayed's writing and story are undeniable. I read this book twice my first year out of college, when I was living in a new city, in a new state, working a new job and knowing absolutely no one. I didn't hike across the West Coast, but I was learning how to exist, fully, by myself, on my own. Get a meal by yourself and read this book and work on being okay, truly, as a singular person.

Click here to buy.

Ad failed to load

'Braving The Wilderness' by Brene Brown


Brene Brown is the queen of making you get emotional on public transportation. In Braving the Wilderness, Brown takes on the concept of belonging — and how devastating it is, in our society, when you feel a lack of acceptance into a group. Spoiler: you don't have to belong to a single place or group. You can define self-worth all on your own.

Click here to buy.

'A Field Guide to Getting Lost' by Rebecca Solnit


Rebecca Solnit is perhaps best known for her essay collection Men Explain Things To Me (and it's understandable why — great title, killer commentary), but her memoir-heavy collection on loneliness A Field Guide to Getting Lost is an incredible work of honesty and personal reflection.

Click here to buy.

'The Year of Magical Thinking' by Joan Didion


Within the space of two years, Joan Didion lost both her husband and her daughter. The Year of Magical Thinking covers what comes after the loss of John Gregory and before the loss of Quintana. She writes about what grows when the ground has been scorched, when your world has shattered, and when you are the last one standing.

Click here to buy.

Ad failed to load

'Little Fires Everywhere' by Celeste Ng

Though she's not the protagonist of Celeste Ng's 2017 novel Little Fires Everywhere, Mia Warren, who lives her life in self-imposed isolation with her daughter, Pearl, is a vision of survival. She wields loneliness as a weapon, as a defense mechanism. And Ng's handling of Warren's past makes you reconsider what being "alone" looks like.

Click here to buy.

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

11 Ways To Stay Positive When Dating Feels Like The Worst, According To Matchmakers

With every first date that leads to nowhere or every non-relationship that ends up being a waste of your time, finding love can seem far from possible. It can also be pretty rough on your self-esteem if you continually put a lot of effort into dating…
By Kristine Fellizar

I Tried Venus' New Facial Hair Removal Device & Will Never Get My Upper Lip Area Waxed Again

I remember the first time I realized I was growing hair above my upper lip. It was when a very rude seventh grader decided to point it out in front of my friends and me during our lunch break. He wasn't wrong — just mean — and ever since then, I've b…
By Sara Tan

Here Are The Exact Steps To Take If You Want To Travel All The Time & Work Remotely

When I first decided I wanted to become a digital nomad — someone who travels non-stop while working remotely — I was terrified and unsure if I would actually go through with it. I worried my work would suffer from all the travel and time zone change…
By Suzannah Weiss

7 Ways To Celebrate Your 30th Birthday That Are Feminist AF

Turning 30 is a pretty major milestone; it's one of those birthdays where large parties, floods of presents and many bouquets from besotted admirers seem to be in order. And as a woman and a feminist, I'm here to offer some additional 30th birthday i…
By JR Thorpe

Here’s Everything Leaving & Coming To Netflix In April

As the virtual shelf life for non-original Netflix programs grows shorter and shorter, fans of the streaming service are bidding woeful goodbyes to their favorite titles left and right. So, for those who need some time to prepare, here's everything l…
By Angelica Florio

Is Amazon's Alexa Making Our Relationships Weird?

Earlier this year, I started dating a guy who was in a very codependent relationship with Alexa. Alexa helped this guy (I'll call him "Paul") decide where to eat dinner and reminded him to work out. Alexa handled his to-do lists, restocked his toile…
By Sophie Saint Thomas

You Can Get Too Faced Mascara & Tarte Lipstick For HALF OFF At Ulta This Month

It's finally here! Ulta's 21 Days of Beauty Sale runs from now through Saturday, April 7 and is the retailer's epic "event" of the year. The promotion features "Beauty Steals," which means 50 percent off specific products for a single day. It also in…
By Amy Sciarretto

7 Things My 20s Taught Me About Toxic Relationships

I'll be turning 30 in less than a week, and while I'm trying to get all the habits of my twenties out of the way ASAP, I'm also reflecting on the what I learned over the past decade. And top of the list is the lessons I learned about toxic relationsh…
By JR Thorpe

7 Surprising Things That Happened When I Went A Month Without Drinking

If someone asked you if you could take a break from drinking alcohol, would you be able to do it? You may think it’s no big deal to take a month off from drinking, or you may think it’s a *huge* deal, as alcohol seems to be the center of many social …
By Natalia Lusinski

I Wore 'Dad Shoes' For A Week & They Were SO Much Cooler Than I Thought They’d Be

It’s no secret that fashion loves a good polarizing trend. Not too long ago, Birkenstocks made their high fashion runway appearance at Céline and Crocs followed suit on the runways of Christopher Kane and Balenciaga. Now, it’s time for the "ugly" sne…
By Dale Arden Chong

8 Ways Younger Millennials Communicate That Older Millennials Don’t Get

When comparing the ways our parents grew up communicating and the way we all grew up communicating, it seems like their generation and ours grew up in a different world. The technology our parents grew up with was so basic, it's ancient in comparison…
By Kaitlyn Wylde

This Is The ONE Sign That Won’t Be Affected By Mercury Retrograde This Month

It really doesn't seem fair that one astrological sign can ever enjoy the benefit of escaping the wrath of Mercury retrograde — that is, of course, unless that sign is your own — but it happens. Occasionally, the stars just align in the right way for…
By Kaitlyn Wylde

Why My Boyfriend & I Started Couples Counseling 6 Months Into Our Relationship

Right away, Kurt and I agreed on almost everything. We had met through a mutual friend in 2015, but we didn't start dating until we came across each other on Bumble a few years later. That's when we discovered that we were on the same page when it ca…
By Rachel Simon

This Primer & Mascara Combo Literally Doubles The Length Of My Eyelashes

Even as someone who loves beauty, I was never been particularly passionate about finding the perfect mascara. And then I got lash extensions for the first time. While I enjoy the long, full lashes that lash extensions provide, I always found myself j…
By Olivia Muenter

I Accidentally Fell In Love With My Friend With Benefits & It's Painful

Against my better judgment, I have fallen in love with my friend with benefits. I think I may have fallen in love with him month ago, but being stubborn AF, I fought against those feelings, tooth and nail, and, when it was suggested by a couple close…
By Amanda Chatel

This Viral Post About A Woman Breastfeeding In Public Actually Has A Happy Ending For Once

And today in things that will warm even the coldest of hearts, we have this: A story recently posted to the r/TwoXChromosome subreddit about a dad’s response to his daughter shaming a breastfeeding parent is everything. Posted by Redditor u/starsonwi…
By Lucia Peters

These March Beauty Launches Require Your Immediate Attention

I write one of these beauty editorials every month (feel free to check out January and February 2018 if you're in need of even more products to shower yourself with). Sometimes, I get worried that there won't be enough newness to share — especially b…
By Amanda Richards

Here's How You’re Most Likely To Get Your Heart Broken, Based On Your Zodiac Sign

Getting your heart broken can be one of the most painful experiences you can have in your life. But if you're into astrology, being familiar with your zodiac sign can be pretty helpful. For instance, when you know the ways you're likely to get your h…
By Kristine Fellizar

How I Learned Losing Your Job Isn't The End Of The World

Two and a half years ago, I was taking a day off from my marketing job at a San Francisco tech startup to host a friend when I got a call from the CEO. Apparently, I'd missed a pretty big day: 80 percent of the company, including the whole sales and …
By Suzannah Weiss

Meghan Markle's First Appearance With The Queen Included An Homage To Princess Diana

Fashion pundits love keeping a close eye on what the women of the monarchy are wearing, especially when there's an overlap with Princess Diana's sense of style. We're nothing but nostalgic when it comes to Princess Di and her on-point aesthetic. Find…
By Marlen Komar

Why Arizona's Exit From 'Grey's Anatomy' Is A Huge Blow To The LGBTQ Community

Whenever I re-watch Grey's Anatomy, I don't start with Derek Shepherd waking up in Meredith's apartment after their first hookup. I start with Season 5, when Callie first meets Arizona in a bar. I start here, because I want to watch someone like me f…
By Martha Sorren

I Couldn't Find A Beauty Campaign With Plus Size Models, So I Made One Myself

In the fall of 2015, I visited relatives in my hometown, a small suburb of New Jersey. There isn't much to do there, apart from dining at Applebee's or hitting the mall. As a plus size woman, cruising through a shopping mall is a mixed bag. Certain d…
By Marie Southard Ospina

The 21 New Books That Goodreads Users Are Most Excited About This Spring

Despite the fact the Northeast is being pummeled by yet another storm that threatens to trap the region in snow and ice for eternity, winter is finally almost over, and you know what that means. No, I'm not talking about April showers or May flowers …
By Sadie Trombetta

If You’re Addicted To Rewatching ‘The Office,' There’s An Actual Reason For That

A few weeks ago, I tweeted that I was looking for fans of The Office who can't stop, won't stop rewatching the series, and that they should email me if they'd like to contribute to an article about their obsession. By the next morning, I had 32 messa…
By Lia Beck