There’s no denying that culturally, we live in a coupled world. If you are single, you likely feel like an outlier; however, the statistics tell a different story as today, only 20% of Americans between 18 and 29 are wed. More and more women are delaying marriage, and the number of singles in every demographic is on the rise. Still, cultural norms have a big influence on our self-esteem, so it can be difficult to feel good about being single in the America of 2016, where “married” is still the favored relationship status du jour. Here, 6 facts-heavy books that will make you feel less alone, happier, and hopefully even excited about your solo status.
5 Smart And Empowering Books For Single Ladies
I Don't: A Contrarian History of Marriage by Susan Squire
This book explains this historical origins of modern marriage and outlines its evolution over time. What it reveals is provocative and may upend some of your assumptions about the meaning behind marriage entirely. As the New York Times puts it: "What we know as 'marriage' is rooted in warring historical efforts at regulating procreation; tamping down sexual lust (especially female lust); and—only relatively recently—celebrating companionship and romantic love." The book is based on 13 years of intensive research by its author.
I Don't: A Contrarian History of Marriage, $9
Spinster: Making A Life Of One's Own by Kate Bolick
This sounds like the most depressing book of all time, but we promise you that it actually isn't. If you don't believe us, read the author's Atlantic piece "All the Single Ladies," which garnered her the book deal to begin with. Spinster is a refreshingly un-chic-lit-esque approach to being a single woman, and one that has us questioning whether or not we truly want to be wed, or if society has just programmed us to think that marriage is our greatest goal. The book details Bolick's research into five female writers who have inspired her professionally and personally—and their less than traditional lives—as the author makes peace her own potentially singular path. As the New York Times puts it, "Spinster is first and foremost a product of the author’s long-term obsession: to reject the conventional female trajectory for something that feels a little more expansive and full of promise."
Spinster: Making a Life of One's Own, $11
Singled Out by Bella DePaulo
This book got some buzz last week as astonished writers everywhere repeated its author's findings, which include the fact that single people are just as happy as their married counterparts (gasp!). There are so many likewise empowering studies cited in this book, along with many a quotable line. "The way coupling is envisioned in contemporary American society is not universal, it is not timeless, and it is not human nature. Instead, the reigning American worldview may well represent one of the narrowest construals of intimacy ever imagined. Where once the tendrils of love and affection reached out to family, friends, and community, reached back to ancestors, and reached up to the heavens, now they surround and squeeze just one other person—sometimes to the point of asphyxiation. It is not wise to relegate all the other important kinds of people—close friends, valued colleagues, mentors, and kin—to the dustbin of human relationships. Ironically, it is also unfair to the one relationship partner who is mythologized. No mere mortal should be expected to fulfill every need, wish, whim, and dream of another human.” OMG. #truth
Singled Out: How Singles are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After, $14
All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation by Rebecca Traister
All The Single Ladies explores the changing landscape of marriage and the failure of societal expectations, norms and judgements to catch up with the trends of the time. This Jezebel interview with author Rebecca Traister—who is married, by the way—is what first had us interested in this book, so if you don't have time to pick up the full text yet, it might be a good place to start. "One of the interesting things that’s happened coterminously with the decline in marriage rate is the rise of the wedding industrial complex and the fetishization of marriage as the signal achievement of female life," Traister tells Jezebel. "That’s happened even as women have been marrying less and less, and for a couple of reasons. One, the economic strata of women who still most consistently marry are the wealthiest women: you have a whole industry that’s built up around selling them very expensive weddings, and this industry now crosses classes. There’s a diffuse but very strong pressure to correct women’s move away from marriage by fetishizing it."
All The Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of An Independent Nation, $6
The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan
Depending on your social circles, it can be hard not to feel as though marriage is the be-all and end-all for women; however, it seems we've forgotten history in this sense, as marriage once was the be-all and end-all for women, and they were mostly miserable because of it. In the late '50s, The Feminine Mystique author Betty Friedan investigated what she called "the problem with no name" which was essentially that housewives were, based on her research, really unhappy. She proposed a new way of being for women, in which the home did not replace the office. Now that we are living her reality, should we really be so focused on the ring? This book can reframe your singledom in a way that is, hopefully, empowering.
Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise And Surprising Appeal Of Living Alone by Eric Klinenberg
We know by now you were hoping we'd just throw in a Bridget Jones book or something of the like, and while we love, love love those novels, and are huge fans of happy endings (which you will have, whatever that means for you), our goal here is to make you feel good in the now. Going Solo tracks the greatest demographic shift since the Baby Boom, which is the drastic increase in people living alone (1 in 7 in the U.S. with even higher numbers in Japan, Scandinavia and Europe). Author Klinenberg cites research that shows that rather than being lonely and miserable, these solo dwellers are more engaged in their communities, more social, and even, possibly, more mentally healthy than their cohabitating counterparts. To be clear, this isn't a book about being coupled or single so much as it's a study on the rising phenomenon of solo living (regardless of relationship status), but it's a refreshing perspective on a lifestyle choice which has been mostly culturally disparaged nonetheless.
Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone, $14