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The End of Solitude

Selected Essays on Culture and Society

Author: William Deresiewicz

The End of Solitude

The End of Solitude


About This Book

A passionate, probing gathering of over twenty-five years of groundbreaking thought on culture and technology and its effect on the human spirit, by one of our most respected critics and...

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Book Details

A passionate, probing gathering of over twenty-five years of groundbreaking thought on culture and technology and its effect on the human spirit, by one of our most respected critics and essayists—former Yale English professor and National Book Critics Circle award–winner William Deresiewicz

What is the Internet doing to us? What is college for? What are the myths and metaphors we live by? What is the purpose of art, and what can we learn from the past?

These are the questions that William Deresiewicz has been pursuing over the course of his award-winning career. In “The Disadvantages of an Elite Education,” his viral piece from 2008, he sounded the alarm about the Ivy League admissions frenzy and the kind of student it produces. In “Solitude and Leadership,” his 2009 address at West Point—a piece that went on to be taught throughout the military and corporate worlds—he issued an early warning about the threats from social media to our inner lives. In “On Political Correctness,” from 2017, he dissected the culture of ideological intolerance that has spread, since then, from campus to society at large.

The End of Solitude brings together these and more than forty other essays from such publications as Harper’s and the Atlantic and introduces four that are published here for the first time. Ranging widely across the culture, they take up subjects as diverse as Avatar and Mad Men, Merce Cunningham and Harold Bloom, the meaning of the hipster and the belief that food is art, the nature of religion and the possibility of friendship between the sexes. Drawing on the past, they ask how we got where we are. Scrutinizing the present, they seek to understand how we can live more mindfully, more meaningfully, more freely. Behind their questions lies a fundamental one: What does it mean to be an individual, and how can we sustain our individuality in an age of networks and groups?

Imprint Publisher

Henry Holt and Co.



In The News

“William Deresiewicz is his own man, he thinks for himself, and he has thought deeply about the way we live now. So much of what he says is right on the money, but even where one might disagree, he is always stimulating and provocative. He uses the essay for its classical purpose: to know himself better and in so doing to put forth wisdom.”
Phillip Lopate

“William Deresiewicz is one of my favorite cultural critics working today and these essays remind me why. He doesn’t just interpret the culture; he builds onto it as he goes. Through sheer force of his own fine writing, he makes more culture. He also makes a kind of exultant and endless sense. His subjects here are wide-ranging—he examines everything from education to technology to friendship—but his depth of knowledge and precision of thought make this collection its own succinct and deeply satisfying entity. It will be a permanent fixture on my bookshelf.”
Meghan Daum, author of The Problem with Everything: My Journey Through the New Culture Wars

“Restless, shrewd, probing, melancholic (in a good way!), William Deresiewicz’s essays seek out the largest of questions—the condition of self and soul in illiberal times—skewering pieties with a deliciously rapier wit, daring us to imagine more intellectually honest ways of encountering the world.”
Laura Kipnis, author of Unwanted Advances

Praise for William Deresiewicz

“[Deresiewicz] is a striker, to put it in soccer terms. He’s a vivid writer, a literary critic whose headers tend to land in the back corner of the net.”
Dwight Garner in the New York Times

“Deresiewicz has spent his career as a sort of Henry Adams figure, passionately invested in learning rather than in formal education, character rather than persona.”
Hua Hsu in the New Yorker

About the Creators

The End of Solitude

The End of Solitude