When we’re lonely, it often feels like everyone but us is having a great time. In reality, loneliness is a widespread feeling. We’ve rounded up book titles and genres to help you deal with loneliness, along with information about common misconceptions to guide you along the way.
Each title has been chosen based on its ratings and reviews. If you've read any of the books below or have any of your own to add to the list, let us know on social media!
Lost Connections by Johann Hari
Amazon UK rating: 4.6/5 with 2,689 reviews
Goodreads rating: 4.31/5 with 18,267 ratings
Good for: Understanding loneliness from a larger perspective.
Book quote:” Loneliness isn’t the physical absence of other people, he said—it’s the sense that you’re not sharing anything that matters with anyone else.”
Johann Hari’s New York Times bestseller doesn’t focus specifically on loneliness. Instead, he touches on the subject by examining how society deals with depression and anxiety. The book is formatted around the idea of disconnection, the things we have been cut off from but innately need. One of these disconnections is the disconnection from other people.
Hari focuses on his own experiences as well as academic research and other people’s experiences. Lost connections have received high-profile reviews from everyone from Elton John to Hillary Clinton.
The Lonely City by Olivia Laing
Amazon UK rating: 4.3/5 with 321 reviews
Goodreads rating: 3.9/5 with 16,866 ratings
Good for: Rethinking loneliness and creativity.
Book quote: “Loneliness, longing, does not mean one has failed, but simply that one is alive.”
The Lonely City by Olivia Laing explores what it means to be alone. Inspired by her experiences of loneliness in New York City, Laing looks at the link between loneliness and creativity. She delves into links between art and loneliness for artists like Warhol and Hopper, redefining what loneliness means as she goes. Laing’s website describes the book as “humane, provocative and moving.”
Happy by Ferne Cotton
Amazon UK rating: 4.6/5 with 5428 reviews
Goodreads rating: 3.9/5 with 3488 ratings
Good for: Looking at what makes you joyful.
Book quote: “When we forget to make sure we are doing okay; we can’t then give our best to the people we care about.”
Happy was Fearne Cotton’s first book, published in 2017. It was then followed by Calm and Quiet and became part of a well-received brand. Each chapter in Happy examines a specific element of happiness, such as a happy mind or happy choices. Although the book doesn’t often deal with loneliness directly, it might help you bring out the positives in your life.
Happy also includes an interactive element with activities to help you focus on the content. This makes it the perfect choice for those who don’t like a long read. And, if you enjoy the book, Ferne Cotton hosts a free podcast called Happy Place.
Good for: Escaping to another world.
This one isn’t a specific title, but it’s an important addition to the list. Books we read for pleasure might be a surprising remedy to loneliness, but they’re seemingly very effective. A 50-page report from the charity The Reading Agency claims that reading can significantly reduce loneliness.
The extensive study was funded in conjunction with other organisations, including Arts Council England. Among its recommendations, the report's authors call on the government to "fund £200m national loneliness intervention that uses reading to tackle loneliness for all ages”.
With this in mind, choosing a book you’re interested in might just help you alleviate feelings of loneliness. It can be helpful to pick books in a series that you can get stuck into or with characters that you particularly like. It isn’t all about escapism, either. A good book entertains, educates, and even helps you see the world differently.
If you’re not usually a big reader, delving into fiction can be daunting. Choosing audiobooks over paper copies can be an excellent way of getting into novels. Platforms such as Audible let you take back books that you don’t like and feature highly trained narrators who bring the stories to life.
"I have friends. I shouldn't feel lonely"
Experts believe loneliness arises when we’re unhappy with the quality of our relationships. So, the feeling can affect those who are surrounded by people and those who are isolated. Equally, you might spend a lot of time on your own but be perfectly happy with the relationships you have.
“Loneliness is an older person’s problem”
Loneliness doesn’t seem to discriminate based on age or gender. It’s certainly not a problem limited to older people, either. According to the Office for National Statistics, people over 75 are 63% less likely to report loneliness than those aged 16 to 24. However, Age UK points out that, with the over 50s population growing, the number of older people who feel lonely may soon increase.
“It’s embarrassing to admit I’m lonely”
Age UK predicts that there will be 2 million lonely over 50s in the UK by 2025. So, many people are in the same position. Feeling lonely isn’t a reflection on you and is nothing to be embarrassed about. Opening up to people around you might have a surprising effect. Just because somebody doesn't look lonely doesn't mean they're not experiencing the same feelings.
If you’d like to talk to someone about feeling lonely, you can also speak to your GP or contact a charity. For example, The Silver Line supports older people across the UK, and their phone lines are open 24/7 for anyone who needs to talk. The charity Mind also offers excellent tips on managing feelings of loneliness, including how to connect with others and take care of ourselves.
Here at Pension Times, we frequently publish articles on wellbeing. For more tips and advice, have a look at our loneliness pages.