The Literature of Solitude

"Loneliness," says Maggie Nelson, "is solitude with a problem."
In a time of social distancing, here are some of our favorite books on solitude and not, we hope, loneliness.


Desert Solitaire Cover Image
$17.00
ISBN: 9780671695880
Availability: On Our Shelves Now - Available to Ship to Your Home
Published: Touchstone - January 15th, 1990

The Word for Woman Is Wilderness Cover Image
$16.99
ISBN: 9781937512798
Availability: In Stock at Publisher - Available to Ship to Your Home
Published: Two Dollar Radio - March 19th, 2019

The Art of Solitude Cover Image
$23.00
ISBN: 9780300250930
Availability: On Our Shelves Now - Available to Ship to Your Home
Published: Yale University Press - February 18th, 2020

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Pond Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9780399575907
Availability: On Our Shelves Now - Available to Ship to Your Home
Published: Riverhead Books - July 11th, 2017

Like an anti-Thoreau, the narrator of Pond, a novel-in-stories lives alone in the Irish countryside, quietly and cheerfully coming a little undone. Sensitive and deeply attuned to the world around her, Bennett's book reads a little like Lydia Davis, a little like Beckett. A one point, the narrator says that English is not her first language, that she has not yet discovered her mother tongue, and by the time I finished Pond I felt exactly the same way - tongueless, disquieted, all anew.

— Madeleine


Think Little: Essays (Counterpoints) Cover Image
$10.00
ISBN: 9781640091733
Availability: On Our Shelves Now - Available to Ship to Your Home
Published: Counterpoint LLC - November 5th, 2019

A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail Cover Image
$15.99
ISBN: 9780767902526
Availability: On Our Shelves Now - Available to Ship to Your Home
Published: Broadway Books - May 4th, 1999

How to Disappear: Notes on Invisibility in a Time of Transparency Cover Image
$17.00
ISBN: 9781101980422
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Published: Penguin Books - February 11th, 2020

Blind Spot Cover Image
By Teju Cole, Siri Hustvedt (Foreword by)
$40.00
ISBN: 9780399591075
Availability: On Our Shelves Now - Available to Ship to Your Home
Published: Random House - June 13th, 2017

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Fire Season: Field Notes from a Wilderness Lookout Cover Image
$15.99
ISBN: 9780061859373
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Published: Ecco - February 28th, 2012

Following in the footsteps of Jack Kerouac, Gary Snyder, and Edward Abbey, Philip Connors spent summers working as a fire lookout, waiting in his 7' x 7' perch, 10,000 feet above sea level, watching lightning strikes and scanning the massive forest for signs of smoke. In between patrols, he pecks away at his typewriter. The result is a melodic rumination on nature, an elegy for dwindling wilderness, and a moving portrayal of human vulnerabilities.

— Beth


The Solace of Open Spaces Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9780140081138
Availability: On Our Shelves Now - Available to Ship to Your Home
Published: Penguin Books - December 2nd, 1986

At the Center of All Beauty: Solitude and the Creative Life Cover Image
$26.95
ISBN: 9780393608298
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Published: W. W. Norton & Company - March 10th, 2020

A Time to Keep Silence Cover Image
By Patrick Leigh Fermor, Karen Armstrong (Introduction by)
$14.00
ISBN: 9781590172445
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Published: NYRB Classics - October 30th, 2007

The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9781101911532
Availability: On Our Shelves Now - Available to Ship to Your Home
Published: Vintage - January 30th, 2018

The Names of the Stars: A Life in the Wilds Cover Image
$17.00
ISBN: 9781250139191
Availability: On Our Shelves Now - Available to Ship to Your Home
Published: Picador - October 3rd, 2017

My Side of the Mountain (Puffin Modern Classics) Cover Image
$7.99
ISBN: 9780142401118
Availability: On Our Shelves Now - Available to Ship to Your Home
Published: Puffin Books - April 12th, 2004

Too Loud a Solitude Cover Image
$11.99
ISBN: 9780156904582
Availability: On Our Shelves Now - Available to Ship to Your Home
Published: Mariner Books - April 27th, 1992

Silence: In the Age of Noise Cover Image
By Erling Kagge, Becky L. Crook (Translated by)
$14.95
ISBN: 9780525563648
Availability: On Our Shelves Now - Available to Ship to Your Home
Published: Vintage - December 4th, 2018

Into the Wild Cover Image
$15.00
ISBN: 9780385486804
Availability: On Our Shelves Now - Available to Ship to Your Home
Published: Anchor - January 20th, 1997

The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone Cover Image
$18.00
ISBN: 9781250118035
Availability: On Our Shelves Now - Available to Ship to Your Home
Published: Picador - June 6th, 2017

A Book of Silence Cover Image
$16.95
ISBN: 9781582436135
Availability: In Stock at Publisher - Available to Ship to Your Home
Published: Counterpoint LLC - August 17th, 2010

The Snow Leopard: (Penguin Orange Collection) Cover Image
$18.00
ISBN: 9780143129523
Availability: On Our Shelves Now - Available to Ship to Your Home
Published: Penguin Classics - October 18th, 2016

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The Wisdom of the Desert Cover Image
$12.95
ISBN: 9780811201025
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Published: New Directions - January 17th, 1970

Thomas Merton, legendary Trappist monk and Kentucky mystic, published this book in 1960, a curated collection of sayings and stories about the desert hermits of the fourth and fifth centuries. He asks why one might abscond to the desert to live in solitude. He asks what salvation might look like. He asks how we might refashion the world. A profoundly consoling book for those who find themselves longing to be alone.

— Madeleine


On Solitude (Penguin Great Ideas) Cover Image
$12.00
ISBN: 9780141399256
Availability: On Our Shelves Now - Available to Ship to Your Home
Published: Penguin Books - October 26th, 2010

My Year of Rest and Relaxation Cover Image
$28.00
ISBN: 9780525631934
Availability: Backordered - Possible to Order, May Take 10+ Days to Become Available
Published: Random House Large Print - July 10th, 2018

Wilderness Essays Cover Image
$16.99
ISBN: 9781423607120
Availability: On Our Shelves Now - Available to Ship to Your Home
Published: Gibbs Smith - April 1st, 2011

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How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy Cover Image
$25.99
ISBN: 9781612197494
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Published: Melville House - April 9th, 2019

A more accurate title for this book might be: "How To Reconsider What It Means To Do Something." Far from advocating inaction, Odell makes an extremely convincing and quite profound case, using an omnivorous mix of philosophy, art history, and good old rumination, that we should start paying attention to what we pay attention to, and to how that attention shapes, and limits, the scopes of our lives. Reading this book, I began to notice how I interact with the bodies around me—bird, tree, human, creek, neighborhood—and how paying them fuller attention might make me a better person, both happier and more truly alive. 

— Maddie


Hatchet Cover Image
$8.99
ISBN: 9781416936473
Availability: On Our Shelves Now - Available to Ship to Your Home
Published: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers - December 26th, 2006

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A Field Guide to Getting Lost Cover Image
$18.00
ISBN: 9780143037248
Availability: On Our Shelves Now - Available to Ship to Your Home
Published: Penguin Books - June 27th, 2006

Rebecca Solnit will force you to reconsider what an essay can do. Her writing in this collection is frighteningly clever and moves from Hitchcock to women's underwear to snakes to Yves Klein Blue with effortless ease, mirroring the circuitous, tangential way we speak and think (or at least the way I speak and think) in a way which is deeply comforting. This is the book I have given as a gift most often, and which I return to whenever I feel like the world and I aren't on speaking terms.

— Madeleine


Walden & Civil Disobedience (Vintage Classics) Cover Image
$11.00
ISBN: 9780804171564
Availability: On Our Shelves Now - Available to Ship to Your Home
Published: Vintage - August 26th, 2014

A Gentleman in Moscow: A Novel Cover Image
$17.00
ISBN: 9780143110439
Availability: On Our Shelves Now - Available to Ship to Your Home
Published: Penguin Books - March 26th, 2019

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Lolly Willowes Cover Image
By Sylvia Townsend Warner, Alison Lurie (Introduction by)
$16.95
ISBN: 9780940322165
Availability: On Our Shelves Now - Available to Ship to Your Home
Published: NYRB Classics - September 30th, 1999

Lolly Willowes is a middle-aged spinster of the old-school variety, who all of a sudden in the mid-1920s decides to abandon her relations in London, and up and move to a forest in the Chilterns. There, she becomes a witch. This is one of the best books I have read about women in nature, and women and their aloneness - there's not a love story to speak of. Women, says Lolly to Satan one evening, "know they are dynamite" and simply long for "the concussion that may justify them." Is that not still a universal truth?

— Madeleine