Alone again, naturally
September 27, 2012 6:52 PM   Subscribe

Book recommendations please: fiction and non-fiction [including (auto)biographies] of people who lived alone, and their experiences and thoughts about it.

Not so much cool warrior/spy/athletic/mountain conquering superhuman dude/tte who just happens to be alone as s/he conquers the universe, but (ordinary-ish, probably geographically stationary) people who found it a challenge (even lonely), and reflected it on it.

Bonus points for ascetic lifestyles, including monks/nuns but without too much god stuff (as I can't relate to that).

Thank you.
posted by b33j to Media & Arts (21 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
An Island to Oneself by Tom Neale probably fits your bill quite nicely. Wikipedia calls him a "survival enthusiast" but that's not the impression I had from reading the book. He didn't come across as someone who wanted an "extreme" lifestyle -- just someone who wanted to live alone on a desert island, and wasn't afraid of the sacrifices and hard graft required to fulfil that dream. The book appears to be in print and available on Amazon, but there's also an edition available free online.
posted by pont at 7:08 PM on September 27, 2012

May Sarton's Journal of a Solitude. I read it decades ago, and I was quite moved by it. (This makes me want to pick it up again.)
posted by Fichereader at 7:14 PM on September 27, 2012 [5 favorites]

(kinda looking for reverse of survivalist type people - home bodies who live alone and not from choice but it looks like an interesting read).
posted by b33j at 7:14 PM on September 27, 2012

posted by backwards guitar at 8:35 PM on September 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Walden. Deals with many of the issues and also is a literary classic very fun to read.
posted by bukvich at 8:53 PM on September 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

A Very Small Farm

My Side of the Mountain

Not a book, unfortunately, but maybe worth your while: Alone in the Wilderness
posted by bricoleur at 9:17 PM on September 27, 2012

Florence King is a loner and a misanthrope, to the point that she considered taking the passenger seat out of her car so she wouldn't be expected to give people rides. She's a great, very funny writer (and yes, very conservative, but I love her writing even though we disagree on so many things).
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:59 PM on September 27, 2012

I like "Razor's Edge" for this
posted by rhizome at 10:53 PM on September 27, 2012

Cave in the Snow - This is the incredible story of Tenzin Palmo, a remarkable woman who spent 12 years alone in a cave 13,000 feet up in the Himalayas.
posted by unliteral at 11:45 PM on September 27, 2012

Walking Home - Lynn Schooler had recently lost a dear friend and was feeling his marriage slipping away from him when he set out on a daring journey-first by boat, then on foot-into the Alaskan wilderness to clear his head.
posted by unliteral at 11:52 PM on September 27, 2012

Island in the Sound
posted by humboldt32 at 12:59 AM on September 28, 2012

Just a short essay, but Thomas Merton's "Rain and the Rhinoceros". (It's not heavily religious.)
posted by peacrow at 3:10 AM on September 28, 2012

Alone by Richard E. Byrd.
posted by silence down below at 3:56 AM on September 28, 2012

Party Of One and Solitude: A Return to the Self
posted by Neeuq Nus at 4:51 AM on September 28, 2012

Another essay, rather than a book: "A is for Dining Alone" by M.F.K. Fisher
posted by josyphine at 5:18 AM on September 28, 2012

You could track down Hubert Selby Jr.'s novel 'The Room', but that runs more to the "I'm an aberrant criminal doing solitary" type of stream-of-consciousness, as memory serves. I last read it in 1998 or so.
posted by mr. digits at 5:52 AM on September 28, 2012

Sara Maitland, A Book of Silence.

Emily White, Lonely: Learning to live with solitude.
posted by paduasoy at 6:06 AM on September 28, 2012

A Room of One's Own, V Woolf
posted by theora55 at 12:12 PM on September 28, 2012

OK, this is sort of a self-help book from the 1930s. Wait! Wait! Don't run screaming yet! It's also full of sometimes goofy, sometimes charming, sometimes charmingly goofy anecdotes about women living alone. It's weirdly inspiring, and although some of the advice (one should, apparently, own at least four bedjackets) is outdated or possibly just bizarre to begin with, the fundamental message of the book is pretty timeless. And it has adorable illustrations.

Live Alone and Like It, by Marjorie Hillis.
posted by mskyle at 1:07 PM on September 28, 2012

An Unknown Woman, by Alice Koller, and The Outermost House by Henry Beston are considered classics of the solitude memoir.

Doris Grumbach's Fifty Days of Solitude is pretty amazing. I liked a lot of things about Leslie Marmon Silko's The Turquoise Ledge.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:08 PM on September 28, 2012

In this theme, I accidentally came across Drinking the Rain by Alix Kates Shulman and it's absolutely charming and soothing. I recommend it thoroughly.
posted by b33j at 1:20 AM on October 4, 2012

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