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Psychology Personality


A Singular Life in a Crowded World

by (author) Michael Harris

Doubleday Canada
Initial publish date
Apr 2017
Personality, Creative Ability, Social Psychology
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Apr 2017
    List Price
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Dec 2017
    List Price

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Governor General's Award-winner Michael Harris explores the profound emotional and intellectual benefits of solitude, and how we may achieve it in our fast-paced world.

The capacity to be alone--properly alone--is one of life's subtlest skills. Real solitude is a contented and productive state that garners tangible rewards: it allows us to reflect and recharge, improving our relationships with ourselves and, paradoxically, with others. Today, the zeitgeist embraces sharing like never before. Fueled by our dependence on online and social media, we have created an ecosystem of obsessive distraction that dangerously undervalues solitude. Many of us now lead lives of strangely crowded loneliness--we are ever-connected, but only shallowly so.
     Award-winning author Michael Harris examines why our experience of solitude has become so impoverished, and how we may grow to love it again in the frenzy of our digital landscape. Solitude is an optimistic and encouraging story about discovering true quiet inside the city, inside the crowd, inside our busy and urbane lives. Harris guides readers away from a life of ceaseless pings toward a state of measured connectivity, one that balances solitude and companionship.
     Rich with true stories about the life-changing power of solitude, and interwoven with reporting from the world's foremost brain researchers, psychologists and tech entrepreneurs, Solitude is a beautiful and convincing statement on the benefits of being alone.

About the author

MICHAEL HARRIS is a contributing editor at Western Living and Vancouver magazine. His award-winning writing appears regularly in magazines such as The Walrus and Frieze and has been featured in several books. He lives in Vancouver.

Michael Harris' profile page


  • Long-listed, RBC Taylor Prize

Editorial Reviews

National Bestseller
Longlisted for the 2018 RBC Taylor Prize
A Maclean's Best Book of 2017

"I came away from this book a better human being. Michael Harris's take on existence is calm, unique and makes one's soul feel good, yet never once does he rely on feel-good techniques." —Douglas Coupland

"In this beautifully wrought and engrossing meditation, Michael Harris observes how hard it is to find solitude in our buzzing, interconnected world. Silence can nourish mind and soul. Solitude is the provenance of seers and saints, and stillness a requirement for creative achievement. Harris cuts himself off for a week at a remote cabin and after a period of fear and boredom sees anew how truly we are shackled by 'all that clicking and sharing and liking and posting.' His return to the noisy world is softened by wisdom and love." —2018 RBC Taylor Prize jury

"Solitude is well-researched, deftly reasoned and a wake-up call for a generation addicted to staying connected. . . . Harris is his generation's McLuhan—a media critic and philosopher whose discerning eye deconstructs its subject, looking well beyond the obvious message." ?The Province

"Lively and concise. . . . Solitude is less a study of aloneness, whose benefits—the generation of fresh ideas, more meaningful connections with oneself and others—Harris readily extols, than an accounting of the insidious, ever-proliferating technologies that imperil its achievement." —Maclean's, "Must-read Books for May"

"An insightful, lively meditation on why this increasingly scarce component of our lives should be preserved." ?The Globe and Mail
"Harris's beautiful ruminations on solitude sparkle. . . . A book about solitude could be many things. It could be a lament at the ubiquitous technology that robs us of solitude's nourishment. It could be a self-help instruction manual for snatching up more of these valuable moments in our busy lives. It might chronicle a solitary, enlightenment-seeking adventure in the wilderness. In Michael Harris's hands, however, solitude is all of these droplets in a ponderous, shimmering ocean—beautiful and alluring, yet vast and formidable." —Winnipeg Free Press

"A poetic, contemplative journey into the benefits of solo sojourning." “Elle Canada

"Harris reflects personally and powerfully on the paradoxical feelings of isolation that emerge from being constantly connected and draws on the latest neuro-scientific and behavioural research to tell stories about the transformational power of solitude which can make us happier, more productive and, ultimately, more human." “The Bookseller (UK)

"A manual for cutting out your life's unwanted noise and embracing the quiet." “Zoomer
"Solitude is a gorgeously written and fascinating book, richly detailed and thought-provoking throughout. I highly recommend it." —Michael Finkel, bestselling author of The Stranger in the Woods

"This is an excellent book by a first-rate writer. Michael Harris brings his insight and eloquence to bear on one of the most insidious problems of our time: how to break free from the seductions of technology and reclaim our inner selves." —Deborah Campbell, award-winning author of A Disappearance in Damascus

"Michael Harris's Solitude is a delightful reminder that, contrary to current wisdom, we cannot be fully human unless our minds are free to wander. An essential and spirited companion as our digital culture accelerates into the unknown." —Andrew Westoll, award-winning author of The Chimps of Fauna Sanctuary

"We should remind ourselves that a life without solitude is a diminished life. What makes this book so valuable and so timely is that it serves both as a reminder of solitude's worth and as a spur to resistance." —Nicholas Carr, author of The Shallows
"In a time of unrelenting connection, solitude becomes a radical act. It also becomes an essential one. Michael Harris makes a thoughtful and deeply felt case for why the art of spending quality time with oneself matters now more than ever—and the steps we can take to reclaim it." —Brian Christian, author of The Most Human Human and Algorithms to Live By
"A timely, eloquent provocation to daydream and wander." ?Nathan Filer, award-winning author of The Shock of the Fall

"Reading Harris's book is like smashing your Google Glasses and looking through your unique lenses for the first time." ?William Powers, award-winning author of Twelve by Twelve, Off the Grid & Beyond the American Dream and New Slow City

Other titles by Michael Harris