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Books about loners
November 11, 2007 7:34 PM   Subscribe

I am looking for some fiction where the main character is a loner and seems to be OK with it. (possible spoilers)

Harry Potter is making me depressed because he has some close friends in Ron and Hermione (sp?), and I have none.

Wicked also made be depressed because, Elphaba seemed to have some friends in college and everything fell apart afterward.

Ditto for It and the Lord of the Rings.

I think these books make me depressed because I am comparing my current life with those of the characters - I had a fragile "fellowship" of friends twice in my life, both years ago.

Now I am alone and trying to deal with my "isolation".

Are there any fictional books where the main character (protagonist?) also deals with the same thing, but eventually finding inner peace with his/her solitude?

Ideally, I would like the "answer" to be related to "inner peace" - not necessarily finding a wife/husband, winning the lottery/Nobel prize - but accepting and loving his/her situation and living "happily ever after" just the way he/she is.

Thanks!
posted by bitteroldman to Writing & Language (45 answers total) 40 users marked this as a favorite
 
The Sue Grafron alphabet mysteries might fit the bill. The central character, Kinsey Millhone, is very much a loner and very comfortable in the position.
posted by OlderThanTOS at 7:44 PM on November 11, 2007


sounds like you might like the works of haruki murakami
posted by eedele at 7:45 PM on November 11, 2007


Some from my shelf...
Dogsong, Woodsong, To Kill a Mockingbird, Into the Wild, Johnathan Livingston Seagull, The Catcher in the Rye, Fahrenheit 451...that's a good start.
posted by TomMelee at 8:17 PM on November 11, 2007


The Fountainhead. A heroic loner is the main character of the novel.
posted by capcuervo at 8:21 PM on November 11, 2007


I don't know about fiction, but I've just started reading a non-fiction book that might agree with you.
posted by rhizome at 8:23 PM on November 11, 2007


Most of Margaret Atwood's books. Read "The Blind Assassin". Or "Cat's Eye".

Also (a BIG also) the Alexandria Quartet by Lawrence Durrell, starting with "Justine". A meditation on isolation, with memories of friends and lovers. Fantastic.
posted by hermitosis at 8:40 PM on November 11, 2007


I just finished "The Pleasure of my Company." It is very funny and very interesting and the main character has very few people in his life.
posted by thebrokenmuse at 8:44 PM on November 11, 2007


1984 is pretty good too, although the main character does find love.
posted by thebrokenmuse at 8:47 PM on November 11, 2007


With a quick glance at the book shelf, the Dexter series by Jeff Lindsay pops out.
Serial killers tend to be loners.

I just hope you are not the serial killer type.
posted by Widepath at 8:49 PM on November 11, 2007


Suggestions from a friend: Pretty much any crime novel where there is a male lead character. Phillip Marlowe might be a good place to start.

BTW - good friends are hard to find and keep.
posted by sien at 8:55 PM on November 11, 2007


Jack Reacher, ex-military policeman, is featured in Lee Child's novels, ranging from "Killing Floor" (1997) to "One Shot" (2005). I think Child has written a couple more Reacher novels since then.
posted by Smalltown Girl at 9:05 PM on November 11, 2007


Samuel R. Delany's Dhalgren.
posted by ikkyu2 at 9:19 PM on November 11, 2007


I'd say read Haruki Murakami's A Wild Sheep Chase and the (even better) sequel Dance Dance Dance for a start.
posted by number9dream at 9:21 PM on November 11, 2007


Non-fiction, but really great. The Outsider by Colin Wilson.
posted by zenpop at 9:37 PM on November 11, 2007


I just hope you are not the serial killer type.

What a mean thing to say.
posted by rhizome at 10:02 PM on November 11, 2007


Sorry, i don't mean to be mean.

I just wanted to put a (failed) lighthearted spin on my comparing personal solitude to that of a killer.
posted by Widepath at 10:28 PM on November 11, 2007


Phillip Marlowe
posted by kirkaracha at 10:47 PM on November 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


A Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole. By a loner, about a loner, for loners.
posted by nasreddin at 10:58 PM on November 11, 2007 [2 favorites]


Not fiction, but if you're a fan of nature and self-sufficiency, you might enjoy reading some of the books by/about individuals who lived alone in the wilderness for extended periods of time.

I just started reading Indian Creek Chronicles by Pete Fromm. He seemed to have a lot of friends before he left on his trip, but the book is about his 7-month stint wintering in the Idaho wilderness.

In this same vein is Cache Lake Country by John J. Rowlands (though if I remember correctly, he had one or two neighbors that he saw once in a while).

There's also More Readings From One Man's Wilderness: The Journals of Richard L. Proenneke, 1974-1980 by Richard L. Proenneke. This last one I haven't yet read. However, I've seen the two DVDs that document Dick Proenneke's life in the Alaskan wilderness, and I can vouch for the fact that he was the ultimate loner (in a very good way).
posted by splendid animal at 11:00 PM on November 11, 2007


So basically, books about lonely people for when you're feeling lonely? The tricky part is the "happily ever after."

best bets: Slaughterhouse Five or Deadeye Dick- Kurt Vonnegut. There's a slight sci-fi element in Slaughterhouse that might appeal to you.

Now, if the happy ending is optional, or at least ambiguous, here are some other great books that are sort of about loners:

Steppenwolf, Demian, The Ciderhouse Rules, One Hundred Years of Solitude, For Whom the Bell Tolls, The Catcher in the Rye, Crime and Punishment, The Stranger, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, Jesus' Son, Of Human Bondage, Bartleby the Scrivener, The Baron in the Trees, Notes From Underground, All the Names, Walden, The Remains of the Day, Ham on Rye.
posted by Wayman Tisdale at 11:22 PM on November 11, 2007


The Virginian by Owen Wister is a masterpiece that created the first loner cowboy. Clint Eastwood might not have had a career without this great book.
posted by wsg at 12:13 AM on November 12, 2007


I second, third, and fourth books by Haruki Murakami. Wild Sheep Chase and Wind-Up Bird Chronicle stand out for me. The narrator/protagonists in each are loners and deal with it in what I consider emotionally productive ways. Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World is also about a loner character, whose 'emotional defense system' is the source of an interesting double-narration. Check it out.
posted by farishta at 12:45 AM on November 12, 2007


For what it's worth, rhizome's nonfic suggestion (Party of One: The Loners' Manifesto) comes to me on highly reliable recommendations as well. Haven't read it myself.
posted by churl at 2:12 AM on November 12, 2007


The Power of One.
posted by methylsalicylate at 3:29 AM on November 12, 2007


"Party of One" is excellent, though it's nonfiction. However, I feel exactly like you a lot of the time bitteroldman. When reading a good book, or even sometimes when watching a tv or movie, it can bring me down when it's difficult to relate. There is little positive reinforcement for lonerdom in contemporary society (which is the point of "Party of One", to present positive portrayals of lonerdom, the benefits of being a loner, and to rant a bit against contemporary society's prejudice). Reading that book is definitely good for a lift if you're needing it.
posted by Danila at 5:30 AM on November 12, 2007


Heh, I was going to suggest Dhalgren too but if you are reading LOTR and Harry Potter that may a little too adult themed for you!
posted by JJ86 at 6:01 AM on November 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


One of the storylines of Greg Egan's Distress has the main character abandoning any hope of intimacy with anyone ever again, and being okay with that, for SFnal reasons.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:30 AM on November 12, 2007


Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger)
Perks of Being a Wallflower (Stephen Chbosky)
posted by sprocket87 at 7:41 AM on November 12, 2007


People keep recommending The Catcher in the Rye, but Holden Caulfield basically has a psychological breakdown in it, so I don't think it qualifies.
posted by orange swan at 7:54 AM on November 12, 2007


The Razor's Edge (I've only seen the movie, not read the book, so the ending could be different. But the movie matches what you want, at least. Plus, it's really, really good.)
posted by Coventry at 7:56 AM on November 12, 2007


Snowcrash.
posted by Camofrog at 8:44 AM on November 12, 2007


The Island, but it's more for adolescents. Still a good book though.
posted by jeffamaphone at 8:54 AM on November 12, 2007


Kate Christensen's The Epicure's Lament is about a loner misanthrope. I enjoyed it.
posted by booth at 8:57 AM on November 12, 2007


orange swan - People keep recommending The Catcher in the Rye, but Holden Caulfield basically has a psychological breakdown in it, so I don't think it qualifies.

I disagree - I think it's the quintessential answer for this question. From the Poster's question:

Ideally, I would like the "answer" to be related to "inner peace" - not necessarily finding a wife/husband, winning the lottery/Nobel prize - but accepting and loving his/her situation and living "happily ever after" just the way he/she is.


That pretty much sums up the book to me. I'd elaborate but don't want to give away any plot details to the OP, in case they decide to read it.
posted by sprocket87 at 8:59 AM on November 12, 2007


Dick Francis' characters are often loners. You might want to start with To the Hilt, whose protagonist was particularly so.
posted by timepiece at 9:36 AM on November 12, 2007


Wendell Berry's Jayber Crow.
posted by sulaine at 10:03 AM on November 12, 2007


Uh, it's a little depressing, but so well written, A Fan's Notes by Frederick Exley is such a classic loner text. I don't even like football and I found it wonderful.
posted by history is a weapon at 10:22 AM on November 12, 2007


Assuming you're male, bitteroldman, avoid Sue Grafron Grafton (I couldn't take her, intolerably feminine). Like they're recommending upthread, Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe books. More hard-boiled detective action in the Continental Op stories by Dashiell Hammet. Detectives lead us naturally to secret agents and Ian Fleming's original 007 books can't be beat, always better than the films; but Bond's a wimp compared to Adam Hall's Quiller.

Which brings us to my main point: he's slid off the charts since his '91 suicide but look into Jerzy Kosinski for the ultimate loner, especial The Painted Bird, Blind Date and Cockpit. If they're too violent you might appreciate another literary has-been, Thomas Wolfe. Delve into these classics and you'll regret ever wasting your time on Harry Potter.
posted by Rash at 12:22 PM on November 12, 2007


Suttree, by Cormac McCarthy, if you're up for 500+ pages of fantastically complex prose.
posted by newmoistness at 2:23 PM on November 12, 2007


Second Snowcrash, also Zodiac, and Cryptonomicon - all by Neil Stephenson. Dalva, by Jim Harrison. (She has partners and family but is perfectly happy and confident alone.)
posted by salvia at 5:02 PM on November 12, 2007


Smilla's Sense of Snow.
posted by mattholomew at 6:10 PM on November 12, 2007


Actually, I take back my recommendations for the Neil Stephenson stuff -- he alternately revels in being a loner and wishes for the perfect relationship, so I don't think he's really "at peace" the way you're looking for.
posted by salvia at 10:59 PM on November 12, 2007


Fathead by Robert Lesser. About the only thing I can compare it to is A Confederacy of Dunces (although it's far more bizarre than Confederacy).
posted by JaredSeth at 4:06 AM on November 14, 2007


I just realized that a book I'm now reading, Book of Dreams by Catherynne M. Valente, would fit your criteria. It's about an old woman who lives on a mountain near a Japanese village, set in medieval times. The narrative is poetic, but structured as prose.
posted by philomathoholic at 11:05 PM on November 17, 2007


Plus, the main characters in Snow Crash, Zodiac, and Cryptonomicon all ended up with their long-sought-after objects of affection.
posted by twins named Lugubrious and Salubrious at 10:49 AM on November 30, 2007


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