Book review: Lonely at the Top

Psychologist Thomas Joiner examines the pitfalls of man's pursuit of money, status and professional success.


Photo: Anna Lisa Sang

LONELY AT THE TOP: The High Cost of Men’s Success
(Palgrave Macmillan)
Thomas Joiner

There’s a school of thought out there that, whatever broad issues or pressures the male gender claims to be struggling with, they’re second-tier problems, and perhaps deserved. We’re supposed to work ourselves up into a state of moral panic because a bunch of middle-aged American white guys who have long enjoyed every advantage in the world have a case of the sads?

Florida State University psychologist Joiner isn’t pushing the big red button, exactly, but he makes a strong argument that there’s a trend among men worth noting. Their pursuit of money, status and professional success from an early age often comes at the cost of their personal relationships. The result is an escalating sense of loneliness over the course of their lives, which can lead to depression, drinking and divorce. Joiner’s exploration of this isn’t quite Dr. Phil, and he’s not advocating group therapy. As they age, he writes, men miss “gangship” (their groups of friends), so they need to suck it up and invest in rebuilding their oldest and best friendships. It’s not easy to pick up the phone and call someone every day, but Joiner thinks it’s necessary. “There is an ‘eat-your-vegetables’ quality to things,” he says, “and there is a reason that parents exhort kids to eat their vegetables.”