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10 books which teach us about loneliness and connection

In celebration of World Book Day, we got together at Marmalade HQ to compile a list of 10 compelling reads exploring loneliness and the transformative power of human connection. From Kae Tempest's poetic exploration to Vivek H. Murthy's insights on the impact of loneliness, these books provide profound perspectives on the human experience.

Our team's top picks

Loneliness books

On Connection - Kae Thempest

Kae Tempest's "On Connection" explores the transformative impact of genuine human bonds in our rapidly changing world. Drawing on twenty years' experience as a writer and performer, award-winning poet, rapper and storyteller Kae Tempest explores how and why creativity - however we choose to practise it - can cultivate greater self-awareness and help us establish a deeper relationship to ourselves and the world.

Loneliness books

Together- Vivek H. Murthy

The world seems more connected than ever, and yet, even before so many of us went into lockdown, loneliness was at epidemic levels. But what effect is it having on us, and how can we treat it – even at a distance? Dr Vivek Murthy’s prescient book reveals the importance of human connection, the hidden impact of loneliness on our health, and the social power of community.

When Obama appointed him Surgeon General of the United States, Vivek Murthy observed the growing health crisis of isolation first-hand. In this ground-breaking book, he traces the roots of the problem, and shows how loneliness lies behind some of our greatest personal and social challenges, from anxiety and depression to addiction and violence. But he also reveals the cure.

Loneliness books

The Lonely City - Olivia Laing

When Olivia Laing moved to New York City in her mid-thirties, she found herself inhabiting loneliness on a daily basis. Increasingly fascinated by this experience, she began to explore the lonely city by way of art. Moving fluidly between the works and lives of some of the city's most compelling artists, Laing conducts an electric, dazzling investigation into what it means to be alone, illuminating not only the causes of loneliness but also how it might be resisted and redeemed.

Loneliness books

You’re Not Listening - Kate Murphy

When was the last time you listened to someone, or someone really listened to you? As a society, we’ve forgotten how to listen. Modern life is noisy and frenetic, and technology provides constant distraction. So we tune things out or listen selectively – even to those we love most. We’ve become scared of other people’s points of view, and of silence. Now more than ever, we need to listen to those around us. New York Times contributor Kate Murphy draws on countless conversations she has had with everyone from priests to CIA interrogators, focus group moderators to bartenders, her great-great aunt to her friend's toddler, to show how only by listening well can we truly connect with others.

Loneliness books

The Cure for Loneliness - Dr. Bill Howatt

We are wired for social connection; our mental health depends on it. From a simple smile from a stranger on the street to a hug from a relative or close friend, we humans thrive when we feel connected to one another. And yet, loneliness is on the rise.

The good news is, you don’t have to continue suffering in silence. In this powerful guide and workbook, renowned mental health expert and addictions counselor Dr Bill Howatt drills into the root causes of isolation and loneliness―including the double-edged sword of digital technology―and shows you how to conquer them to achieve a more fulfilling, enriching life.

Loneliness books

A Sense of Belonging - Dr Holan Liang

A sense of belonging - being liked, understood, accepted for who we are - is vital for our mental health. Whether it is fitting in at school, struggling to connect with colleagues in a new job, or just feeling out of place in our own family, we all, at various stages in our lives, find ourselves questioning our identity. Warm, wise and full of humanity, A Sense of Belonging will help you to: understand the causes of loneliness, reprioritise the people and things that matter, stop people-pleasing, and learn how to accept yourself in order to find genuine connection.

Loneliness books

Navigating Loneliness - Cheryl Rickman

Solitude – being alone – is often a choice. Loneliness never is. The good news is that there is a way to live a life-less-lonely, one that is enriched with connection and fulfilment. This book is a warm hug for anyone who has ever experienced the painful feeling of loneliness; let it be your companion as well as your guide, leading you gently towards greater connection both with yourself and with others.

We were delighted to have Cheryl Rickman involved in Loneliness Awareness Week! Read her article here >

Loneliness books

Loneliness - John T. Cacioppo, William Patrick

Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection was written by a social neuroscientist that has conducted years and years of research on the effects that loneliness has on the human condition. In the studies, Cacioppo found that feeling isolated can affect everything from immune systems to a person’s ability to think. Unlike many books about loneliness, this is not only a self-help book. Instead, it also gives the reader a scientific look on the very large impact that isolation and a feeling of being lonely can have on a person physically and emotionally.

Loneliness books

Lost Connections - Johann Hari

Hari’s book is a reminder of how devastating loneliness can be, despite all its creative possibilities. This is an important study of depression as a social problem, against a backdrop of medical reductionism: depression as a problem of mind (or rather, brain). It is unmet need that Hari sees at the centre of rising levels of depression and anxiety. We are back to Cacioppo’s need for social connections – with Hari’s conclusion that their loss, as the book’s subtitle suggests, is the real cause of depression.

Loneliness books

Atlas of the Heart - Brené Brown

In Atlas of the Heart, Brown takes us on a journey through eighty-seven of the emotions and experiences that define what it means to be human. As she maps the necessary skills and an actionable framework for meaningful connection, she gives us the language and tools to access a universe of new choices and second chances—a universe where we can share and steward the stories of our bravest and most heartbreaking moments with one another in a way that builds connection.


Have you got suggestions to add to the list? Let us know below!

1 Comment

Mar 12

I absolutely love this idea of a book list! As usual, you guys and gals at the Marmalade Trust are leading the way in the conversation around loneliness and connection 😀

I would would add The lonely Century by Noreena Hertz - very thought provoking particularly in the light of 16-24 year olds now being the loneliest generation 🤔

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