How to Be Alone by Jonathan Franzen

No critic rating

Waiting for minimum critic reviews

See 9 Critic Reviews



Passionate, strong-minded nonfiction from the National Book Award-winning author of The Corrections

Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections was the best-loved and most-written-about novel of 2001. Nearly every in-depth review of it discussed what became known as "The Harper's Essay," Franzen's controversial 1996 investigation of the fate of the American novel. This essay is reprinted for the first time in How to be Alone, along with the personal essays and the dead-on reportage that earned Franzen a wide readership before the success of The Corrections. Although his subjects range from the sex-advice industry to the way a supermax prison works, each piece wrestles with familiar themes of Franzen's writing: the erosion of civic life and private dignity and the hidden persistence of loneliness in postmodern, imperial America. Recent pieces include a moving essay on his father's stuggle with Alzheimer's disease (which has already been reprinted around the world) and a rueful account of Franzen's brief tenure as an Oprah Winfrey author.

As a collection, these essays record what Franzen calls "a movement away from an angry and frightened isolation toward an acceptance--even a celebration--of being a reader and a writer." At the same time they show the wry distrust of the claims of technology and psychology, the love-hate relationship with consumerism, and the subversive belief in the tragic shape of the individual life that help make Franzen one of our sharpest, toughest, and most entertaining social critics.


About Jonathan Franzen

See more books from this Author
Jonathan Franzen is the author of four novels (Freedom, The Corrections, Strong Motion, and The Twenty-Seventh City), two collections of essays (Farther Away and How to Be Alone), a personal history (The Discomfort Zone), and a translation of Frank Wedekind’s Spring Awakening, all published by FSG. He lives in New York City and Santa Cruz, California. Karl Kraus (1874–1936) was an Austrian satirist, playwright, poet, aphorist, and journalist. From 1899 until his death, he published the literary and political review Die Fackel.
Published May 15, 2007 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 316 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction, Biographies & Memoirs, Mystery, Thriller & Suspense. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for How to Be Alone

Kirkus Reviews

See more reviews from this publication

Before The Corrections, which led circuitously to “Oprah Winfrey’s disinvitation of me from her Book Club,” Franzen was perhaps best known to general readers as the author of an arch, funny, and contrarian essay recounting the reasons for his “despair of the American novel,” published in Harper’s...

Oct 01 2002 | Read Full Review of How to Be Alone: Essays

The Guardian

See more reviews from this publication

In the end, writers will write not to be heroes of some underculture but mainly to save themselves, to survive as individuals.' The author of Underworld also added an apocalyptic PS: 'If serious reading dwindles to near nothingness, it will probably mean that that thing we're talking about when ...

Nov 10 2002 | Read Full Review of How to Be Alone: Essays

Publishers Weekly

See more reviews from this publication

This quote, taken from his Harper's essay "Perchance to Dream," and later reworked for this collection as "Why Bother," was written before Franzen tasted huge success with his bestselling novel The Corrections.

| Read Full Review of How to Be Alone: Essays

Publishers Weekly

See more reviews from this publication

Bestselling and National Book Award– winning novelist Franzen (The Corrections) urges readers to say no to drugs, but not the pharmaceutical kind;

| Read Full Review of How to Be Alone: Essays

Book Reporter

Judging by these essays, I think Mr. Franzen is still slightly conflicted and, as readers, we can rejoice.

Jan 22 2011 | Read Full Review of How to Be Alone: Essays

AV Club

See more reviews from this publication

From his quizzical essays on the fate of fiction to anecdotes casting him as a blindfolded novelist quivering before the blank page, Jonathan Franzen is better-suited than most for the role of the model writer.

Oct 25 2002 | Read Full Review of How to Be Alone: Essays


As a big fan of Jonathan Franzen’s fiction, particularly The Corrections and Freedom, I was happy to receive his book of essays How To Be Alone for christmas from a good friend.

| Read Full Review of How to Be Alone: Essays

Los Angeles Review of Books

May 27th, 2012 reset - + WHEN JONATHAN FRANZEN PUBLISHED his first essay collection, How to Be Alone, in 2002, he was not yet the nation's foremost novelist.

May 27 2012 | Read Full Review of How to Be Alone: Essays

Ben Casnocha

Jonathan Franzen is known for his fiction work The Corrections, but the past couple days I’ve been reading his collection of non-fiction essays entitled How to Be Alone.

Jan 07 2006 | Read Full Review of How to Be Alone: Essays

Reader Rating for How to Be Alone

An aggregated and normalized score based on 109 user ratings from iDreamBooks & iTunes

Rate this book!

Add Review