• We're thrilled to announce our August Book of the Month is Alone by Daniel Schreiber

  • Schreiber's European best-seller examines society's and his own attitudes to living outside the romantic ideal of coupledom, while also looking at friendship and loneliness

  • We have therapists and counsellors who talk to people about relationships and loneliness - find them here

German essayist Daniel Schreiber has written an unlikely best-seller, Alone. A slim book of 150 pages, it combines his personal experiences and reflections with philosophical, psychological and cultural insights into the subject of living alone. The fact that 40% of adults in Europe live alone is not reflected in the way society continues to push the idea that coupling is the correct and most wholesome way to live. He wants us to open our eyes and consider that we might have been culturally conditioned into thinking that way.

Schreiber is an intellectual who revels in a wide range of the culture. He's as happy to reference Dolly Alderton or Friends as he is to name-check Aristotle or Hannah Arendt. For him, a single gay man living in urban Germany, the Covid-19 pandemic lockdowns were long and lonely, but also a kind of godsend. The book on friendship that he had been writing for many years, was deftly turned on its head when he was forced to live without others, for long enough to make him look and think seriously about the subject of solitude.

While he doesn't doubt that "you can live a very fulfilled life without a romantic partner; I do and so do others I know", he is also very honest about loneliness. This is something that most of us see as shameful, and we even shy away from others in that state. The acute psychological sense of loneliness during the pandemic encouraged many of us to start talking about loneliness, perhaps for the first time. Schreiber now senses that as we move further from that time, the conversation has quietened.

He encourages his readers to ignore the discomfort and go there. "Loneliness has a big role in our lives, and there are certain things we can only learn when we are lonely." He believes getting ahead of that understanding, before we become waylaid by any of life's surprises, such as grief or becoming ill, is wise and helpful. 

On a brighter note, Schreiber writes beautifully about friendships and his own friends. They shouldn't be seen as a substitute for a romantic partner but something different altogether. "They are important in their own right," and he believes getting to really understand our friends, to be endlessly curious, rather than lazily presuming they will stay close, is the act of someone who values their friends.

Thoughtful, inclusive, and at times poetic, this is a quietly beautiful book that I can imagine many people, alone or coupled, relishing for its insights.

Daniel Schreiber is the author of Alone , Welldoing's Book of the Month for August

Further reading

What is intimacy, anyway?

Therapy helped me see there is strength in asking for help

What does it mean to belong?

How being lonely is different from being alone

6 ways to nurture your friendships