The Lonely American: Drifting Apart in the Twenty-First Century

Jacqueline Olds, Author, Richard S. Schwartz, Author Beacon $24.95 (228p) ISBN 978-0-8070-0034-2

This workmanlike book takes up where Robert D. Putnam’s classic Bowling Alone left off in examining the disintegration of community in 21st-century America. Americans, say the authors (both associate clinical professors of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School), have a conflicted views of community: on the one hand, they glorify rugged individualism and, on the other hand, they encourage community and look down on those who cast off community to go it alone. Drawing on interviews with their patients and on numerous studies, Olds and Schwartz point out that being a loner isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and many who shun community are surprised at how lonely and socially isolated they feel. The authors conclude that Americans drift away from social connections because of the frenetic and overscheduled intensity of modern life as well as the American pantheon of self-reliant heroes. The authors restate what numerous studies have already shown: social isolation can lead to unhappiness and can have a detrimental impact on one’s physical well-being and that of the larger society. The repetitious and slightly haranguing style detracts from, rather than adds to, the authors’ message. (Feb.)

Reviewed on: 12/15/2008
Release date: 02/01/2009
Peanut Press/Palm Reader - 241 pages - 978-0-8070-9596-6
Paperback - 336 pages - 978-0-8070-9800-4
Paperback - 228 pages - 978-0-8070-0035-9
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