There’s a metaphor for life hidden in an airplane safety demonstration: put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others. It’s not just, as the old cliché puts it, about loving yourself before you love someone else; it’s about knowing yourself, relying on yourself, and then using those abilities to change the world around you. This week’s book releases from some awesome self-reliant ladies are about standing on your own two feet with pride; they teach us how to be lonely (in a good way), how to be single, and how to be (or not be) an adult, as told through art, sociology, and cartoons. You’ll want to add these books to your “must read” list.
1. The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone by Olivia Laing ($16): A lot of us move to “the big city” in order to share our passions with millions of other people. What many discover, however, is that it’s surprisingly easy to find yourself alone in the middle of the crowd. Olivia Laing relocated to New York City in her mid-thirties, and found herself regularly confronting this “particular flavor” of loneliness, where “you can see them, but you can’t reach them.” She was captivated by the feeling, drawn toward fully experiencing and exploring the phenomenon that most refuse to acknowledge. Laing refuses to be embarrassed about or pathologize loneliness, reclaiming the feeling as a natural and valuable part of human existence. She does this through studying works of art that capture the feeling of loneliness in a modern, urban setting, and delving into the stories of their creators, from Edward Hopper to Andy Warhol. Laing shows us that being lonely can reconnect us to our desires and to what we hold most dear, and that it might do us more good to embrace it once in a while than to drown it in Netflix and cat videos.
2. All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation by Rebecca Traister ($15): Just like being in a crowd doesn’t mean you’re connected, being single doesn’t necessarily mean you’re lonely. “I always hated when my heroines got married,” journalist Rebecca Traister writes; it was as if their stories “were coming to a close.” She began her book about the phenomenon of the single woman in America shortly after Beyoncé’s immortal single-about-singles dropped. It was a good time to start: In 2009, for the first time, America boasted more single than married women, and as of now only 20 percent of women are married by the age of 29. As contemporary as this movement seems, Traister quickly found out that it’s not only Beyoncé who can begin a revolution. Whenever women in American history stopped marrying early, they started making big changes, from working against slavery to working for increased education. Traister’s done her research, interviews and academic work, but this isn’t just historical theory; it’s warm, moving, packed with stories and insights, and genuinely funny.
3. Adulthood Is a Myth: A Sarah’s Scribbles Collection by Sarah Andersen ($11): Lonely or not, single or not, all of us at some point have to be dragged kicking and screaming into the world of adulthood. Sometimes it’s not fun. Adulting means waiting in line and being polite. It means networking and responsibility, seeing people and doing things. It certainly means giving up cartoons. Or does it? Sarah Andersen draws a series of sketches for “the rest of us” who maybe aren’t completely into being adults. These adorable and relatable comics depict the anxieties of navigating the world, and the small victories that come with occasionally being able to curl up in your PJs and answer to no one. Introverts, neurotics and over-thinkers rejoice; this is your life. Who hasn’t felt the horror of a restaurant having no online takeout ordering option? Andersen, however, would like to assure you that there is absolutely no autobiographical material in this collection. (Sure.)
What books make you put your hands up? Tag us on your next amazing read @britandco.