Party of One

Solitude and the modern mind

In the finale of his first book, the Governor General’s Award–winning The End of Absence: Reclaiming What We’ve Lost in a World of Constant Connection, author Michael Harris wrote this: “Every technology will alienate you from some part of your life. That is its job. Your job is to notice. First notice the difference. And then, every time, choose.”

Harris’s second book, Solitude: A Singular Life in a Crowded World, swaps the notion of solitude for that of absence, but otherwise continues on much the same track, challenging readers to remain awake and alert to the seismic changes that layers and layers of new technologies are making to our brains, our relationships, our social norms, our cultures. His approach is an appealing patchwork of latest brain research, personal anecdote, journalistic reportage and sly but never cynical observation. It makes for a very readable mélange, even if the...