solo : How to work alone is a book about working from home or in isolation. Originally intended for freelancers but repurposed for remote workers after the pandemic. It was published on 2020, a bit after the start of the lockdowns.

It has a broad scope as a self help book; rather than focusing on one problem and one solution, it approaches it as a personal experience with many angles and some pointers towards thing that worked or did not.

Unfortunately the broad scope pairs with unevenness in style, focus and amount of research. The book feels like a slide that starts with dense and unfocused chapters to get a general idea, then sharpens while keeping a good amount of references in the middle, to end a bit thinner.

The chapters that stayed with me the most where about meaningful work, long hours, resilience and focus. Also the second part on “Where to Work”.

The chapters that I didn’t like were the introduction and first 2 chapters, the planning chapter and anything after it. Flow is part of the focus chapter but it is not fully developed.

The style of writing felt odd to me. It has elements of personal blogging combined with self help. This particular combination of both made me feel like the author tried a lot of things with an open mind but not with excessive faith in them, while talking about her journey but not sharing too much of the struggle.

A notable exception is loneliness, where the advice felt more personal and directed. I got the same impressions from one of the interviews that the author made, stressing that being alone is not a requirement for freelance work

Most of self help books would describe either a personal struggle or clients desperate on needing help. That emotional connection is used to reflect the reader’s feelings from a safe seat: “I have that problem but I am not that bad”. Rebecca Seal might mention her own struggle, but as a paragraph reinforcing somebody else’s take.

On the other hand, I think that some self-help books manufacture emotional struggle narratives to the point of contempt. In that sense this book has a more respectful take on self help.

Overall I thought it was a good but not great book that had useful information on an unexplored topic but wasn’t particularly engaging.