It's hard to prepare yourself for a book like Seek You. Not quite memoir, not quite essay, and never what you'd expect, Kristen Radtke has somehow captured the essence of loneliness in an era that will surely be defined by it. There are panels of ocean tides and isolated sitcom-watchers that send me deeper into myself every time I see them—I've been those isolated sitcom-watchers; I've felt those ocean tides. Radtke diagnoses our loneliness without pity or preciousness. What else to call this but a masterpiece?
What's the difference between loneliness and solitude? What cruelties, or kindnesses are born out of the inevitable loneliness of living? This bleak and beautiful book tries to address those questions and more. Radtke bares it all in illustrations as compelling as her thoughts. It's an instruction manual for being human and a guidebook for this time.
“In Seek You, Kristen Radtke approaches the epidemic of American loneliness from a variety of angles. A thoughtful exploration of a complex problem that offers understanding, not easy answers.”
— Keith Mosman, Powell's Books, Portland, OR
From the acclaimed author of Imagine Wanting Only This—a timely and moving meditation on isolation and longing, both as individuals and as a society
There is a silent epidemic in America: loneliness. Shameful to talk about and often misunderstood, loneliness is everywhere, from the most major of metropolises to the smallest of towns.
In Seek You, Kristen Radtke's wide-ranging exploration of our inner lives and public selves, Radtke digs into the ways in which we attempt to feel closer to one another, and the distance that remains. Through the lenses of gender and violence, technology and art, Radtke ushers us through a history of loneliness and longing, and shares what feels impossible to share.
Ranging from the invention of the laugh-track to the rise of Instagram, the bootstrap-pulling cowboy to the brutal experiments of Harry Harlow, Radtke investigates why we engage with each other, and what we risk when we turn away. With her distinctive, emotionally-charged drawings and deeply empathetic prose, Kristen Radtke masterfully shines a light on some of our most vulnerable and sublime moments, and asks how we might keep the spaces between us from splitting entirely.
About the Author
KRISTEN RADTKE is the author of the graphic nonfiction books Seek You and Imagine Wanting Only This. The recipient of a 2019 Whiting Creative Nonfiction Grant, Radtke is the art director and deputy publisher of The Believer. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Marie Claire, The Atlantic, The Guardian, TheNew York Times Magazine, Vogue, and Harper's, among many other publications.
ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR: TIME, NPR, Boston Globe, Buzzfeed, New York Public Library, Electric Literature,Kirkus
A Goodreads Choice Award Nominee Shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal for Nonfiction A Finalist for the Kirkus Prize in Nonfiction Longlisted for the PEN/Jean Stein Book Award Nominated for Eisner Award in the Best Reality-Based Work category
One of ... Lit Hub's Most Anticipated Books of 2021 • BuzzFeed’s 28 New Books to Add to Your Summer Reading List ASAP • StyleBlueprint’s 2021 Summer Reading List picks • Vulture’s 35 Books We Can’t Wait to Read This Summer •Vogue’s Best Books to Read This Summer • Lit Hub’s 75 Nonfiction Books You Should Read This Summer • Daily Beast’s Best Summer Reads of 2021 •The Boston Globe’s Summer Reading 2021 Picks • BuzzFeed’s 58 Great Books to Read This Summer •The Washington Post’s 10 Books to Read in July • NPR’s July Book-Ahead Picks • Oprah Daily’s 18 of the Best Books to Pick Up This July •TIME’s 11 New Books You Should Read in July • Bustle’s 43 Most Anticipated New Books of July 2021 • Book Riot’s 2021 Reading List for Adults •The Millions’s Most Anticipated Books for the Second-Half of 2021
“[Radtke] portrays loneliness not as innate or natural so much as socialized, filtered through and irradiated by culture, politics, and media. For her, the feeling is shaped by the imperfect conditions in which we live . . . Paging through Radtke’s book, I was again pulled in by the deserted streets and darkened rooms, and by the anonymous, sifting crowds. Ambience can go where words cannot. One can sink deep into the images of Seek You.” —Katy Waldman, The New Yorker
“[Seek You] combines documentary, memoir, reporting, and stunning art . . . Through vivid images of people fumbling with house keys late at night, falling asleep on the subway, leaving a liquor store, Radtke shows how recognizable and universal loneliness is—but also how easy it is to remove ourselves from others’ loneliness, to turn theirs into an experience incompatible with our own. . . . [A] generous reading of other people and their loneliness is what Radtke’s book seems to call for—a willingness to read loneliness where we might otherwise see monstrosity, to read love where we see loneliness.” —Apoorva Tadepalli, The Atlantic
“Part literature review, part essay, part autobiographical meditation, Seek You exemplifies the capaciousness of nonfiction comics today . . . The book’s title, a nod to the amateur radio operator 'CQ call,' is evidence of Radtke’s significant command of interesting facts, which range over five sections dedicated to various senses (plus 'Click,' about life online, now its own special category of being in the world) . . . Radtke’s aesthetic is impressive, with clean, crisp black lines, swaths of white shadow and stylized, muted blocks of color. She has a designer’s eye for arresting graphics.” —Hillary Chute, The New York Times Book Review
“Kristen Radtke’s Seek You: A Journey Through American Loneliness defies categorization — and it does so in spectacular fashion . . . The beauty of Seek You is that it feels like a communal experience. Reading this book is reading about ourselves and our lives . . . The art is superb and each section uses different colors to set the mood, but words take center stage more often than the art, and that turns the art into the perfect companion . . . Seek You accomplishes a lot and its unique hybrid nature makes it a must-read.” —Gabino Iglesias, NPR
“[A] resonant, haunting volume of graphic nonfiction written and drawn in the key of Edward Hopper . . . It’s the juxtaposition of Radtke’s carefully researched, tightly composed text with the emotive immediacy of her art that amplifies the book’s impact . . . There’s comfort to be found too, in the skillful elegance with which the author conveys her ideas . . . Seek You is indeed for seekers.” —Heller McAlpin, Los Angeles Times
“Radtke weaves together snippets of scientific research, pop culture and memoir with her own evocative artwork. Forgoing the panel format typical to graphic novels in favour of one or two-page spreads, she captures the architecture of aloneness and the protective postures our bodies assume in shared spaces . . . The figures populating the pages of Seek You—their shoulders hunched over glowing screens—deftly depict this contemporary reality.” —Mia Levitin, Financial Times
“Seamlessly flipping between stories from her personal life and examples from pop culture and history, Radtke explores the relationship between loneliness and longing, and what happens when we shut ourselves off from the rest of the world. It’s a haunting read told through Radtke’s spare prose and often devastating graphics, coalescing into a powerful examination of why it can feel so hard to connect with other people.” —TIME
“A deeply engaging, masterful work of science and heart, and incredibly timely.” —NPR
“In a world more connected by technology than ever before, Kristen Radtke explores why so many Americans are facing loneliness on an unprecedented scale. Combining memoir, essay, and Radtke's soothing illustrations, the result is a powerful piece of nonfiction that brilliantly parses one of humanity's most fraught phenomenons.” —Elle, “The Best New Books to Read in Summer 2021 (So Far)”
“A captivating and emotional look at both personal and collective loneliness—and the social and scientific implications of each. Throughout the gorgeously illustrated graphic memoir, Radtke entrusts the reader with her own experiences of loneliness while also examining loneliness from a community, psychological standpoint.” —Kateri Kramer, The Rumpus
“The writer and illustrator’s latest work of graphic nonfiction is curious, compassionate, and, yes, occasionally whimsical. . . . Radtke is a seeker who finds romance in the seeking. . . . [She] speaks in a reverent hush, a tone mirrored in her gentle illustrations, which are, so often, of people. . . . Radtke is a sensitive writer and illustrator who sees the world with empathic eyes.” —Laura Adamczyk, AV Club
“Melancholy is nothing new for graphic stories, but Kristen Radtke achieves something a little more emotionally complex in this meditation on American loneliness. She shares studies and anecdotes in crisp, economical prose, but her drawings speak a different language, something like Edward Hopper’s — a darkness that consoles us.” —Los Angeles Times, “The 10 best nonfiction books to gift literature lovers this holiday season”
“Seek You stunned me. Kristen Radtke, one of the best of our literary artists, shines her brilliant light into modern America's experiment in loneliness with this supremely elegant and devastating book. It was my companion during a long, dark night of the soul; I emerged grateful to have had such sleekness and wit, such calm intelligence, to guide me back to daylight.” —Lauren Groff, author of Florida
“If you’ve ever felt alone in America, this is the book you have been waiting to hold, and the one that will hold you back.” —Mira Jacob, author ofGood Talk
“Kristen Radtke’s Seek You seems almost to invent something brand new: the comic strip feature documentary? The long-form graphic essay? I dunno, and it really doesn't matter, because the humanity so keenly summed up in every line and mark of Radtke’s hand transcendently transmutes both the seriousness of her investigatory aim and the genuine desperation which underpins its timely yet universal thesis—all the while magnified by the skill, empathy and great intelligence of its author.” —Chris Ware, author of Rusty Brown
“Rarely has nonfiction been as topical as in Kristen Radtke’s wide-ranging exploration of loneliness . . . Radtke expertly traces the cultural origins of loneliness . . . posing the question: what, specifically, do we lose—as individuals, and as a society—when we turn inward?” —Vogue, “The Best Books to Read This Summer”
“This stunning book is less a memoir than a long graphic essay, more a meditation and less a solution. How we disconnect may help us understand how to ultimately connect.” —The Washington Post, “10 Books to Read in July”
“Seek You is the kind of post-pandemic narrative we've been waiting for. It's sad, profound, and shows a superb understanding of the variety of ways in which we process trauma and isolation. A strange hybrid between a graphic memoir and something like a graphic essay, Seek You might just be what we all need to start truly processing the loneliness we've been through.” —NPR, “July Book-Ahead: What We're Excited to Read Next Month”
“Coming just as we begin to emerge from pandemic-related isolation, Radtke’s gorgeously drawn book examines our modern tendency toward an unhappy aloneness—a sad topic, but one she hopes we can understand and conquer, leading us back toward loving community.” —The Boston Globe, “Summer Reading 2021”
“In pages full of haunting illustrations, Seek You prompts readers to look inwards. In forcing us to confront our own loneliness, Radtke makes us feel a little less alone.” —TIME, “Here Are the 11 New Books You Should Read in July”
“Gorgeous . . . A genre-bending work that lays bare both the costs and benefits of solitude.” —Oprah Daily, “18 of the Best Books to Pick Up This July”
“Immersive, novelistic and intensely humanistic . . . [Seek You] curls through autobiographical episodes ranging from her Wisconsin suburban childhood to New York adulthood. . . These make up some of the book's lovelier sections with Radtke's enigmatic text contrasting with her richly precise, Chris Ware-ian illustrations of darkened buildings illuminated by bright rectangular windows framing people in solitude . . . [Seek You’s] aching, keening sense of humanity is almost as powerful as its evocative artwork.” —Chris Barsanti, Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Radtke seamlessly guides readers through the history of loneliness, with striking drawings and thoughtful reflections on the lengths humans have gone to combat or avoid their lone selves. Never has a study on loneliness made me feel less alone.” —The Millions, “Most Anticipated: The Great Second-Half 2021 Books Preview”
“A meditation on isolation and longing, examines the silent epidemic of loneliness in America, from the invention of the laugh-track to the unethical experiments of Harry Harlow. Radtke is a writer of enviable emotional intelligence, and one of our most elegant and virtuosic artists of devastation.” —Dan Sheehan, "Lit Hub's Most Anticipated Books of 2021"
“A marvelous deep dive into that universal emotion, blending science, memoir, journalism, research, philosophy, and pop culture to explore isolation and our desire to be close to one another . . . Seek You explores ways that loneliness is assuaged, even without our knowledge, like through the laugh track of sitcoms, created to make the viewer feel that others are there.” —Publishers Weekly, “Kristen Radtke Writes, and Draws, Our Loneliness”
“Radtke is unsentimental yet sincere, citing research on the impact of social isolation on life expectancy (it’s not good) and offering as salient a description of loneliness as I’ve read.” —Vulture, “35 Books We Can’t Wait to Read This Summer”
“Radtke pulls out moments from recent history that reveal a deeply felt need for connection . . . and connects them to her lived experience, exploring the possibility of deeper meaning with humility, grace, and remarkable insight into the human condition. It’s a bittersweet and especially moving journey following more than a year of unprecedented alienation and despair." —BuzzFeed, “28 New Books to Add to Your Summer Reading List ASAP”
“It’s difficult to think of anyone better suited to investigate this melancholy paradox than Kristen Radtke, whose graphic narratives convey—often with dizzying potency—the full range of how human solitude can manifest.” —Lit Hub, “75 Nonfiction Books You Should Read This Summer”
“Devastating and vital . . . Radtke perfectly captures what it’s like to live in a lonely body, as well as examining loneliness in a historical, scientific, and cultural context.” —StyleBlueprint, “Your 2021 Summer Reading List”
“This graphic novel is a striking blend of cultural history, memoir, journalism, and sociology.” —Book Riot, “2021 Reading List for Adults”
“Gripping . . . Combining personal narrative with social science, evolutionary biology, and pop culture analysis, Radtke’s work is innovative in form and painfully relevant in content . . . Somber illustrations range from journalistic to starkly symbolic, in variations on gray that establish a flat and lonely world, making the gradient sunset hues that sometimes burst through that much brighter . . . For a treatise about the perils of being alone, [Seek You] creates a wonderful sense of being drawn into conversation.” —Publishers Weekly,starred review
“Deeply affecting . . . Radtke is an engaging and thoughtful guide through our fear of being alone . . . Superb. A rigorous, vulnerable book on a subject that is too often neglected.” —Kirkus, starred review
“In graphic-essay style, Radtke centers her inquiry around four human behaviors—listen, watch, click, and touch—and devotes rich, meandering chapters to each . . . Radtke's crisp, vector-drawn illustrations more than hint at reality; rather, in their layering and arrangement, they seem to reproduce it in truer, more emotional detail. Provocative and companionable, this will spark conversation and, undoubtedly, connection among readers.” —Booklist, starred review
“In often poetic prose accompanied by stunning illustration, Radtke weaves together personal anecdotes and examples drawn from physical and mental health studies to create a meditation on the causes and cost of isolation . . . An insightful and compassionate investigation of loneliness.” —Library Journal, starred
“Through incisive, often disarmingly confessional writing, Radtke gets to the core of what loneliness is and what it does to our bodies and minds . . . Throughout Seek You, we are guided by Radtke’s beautifully muted art . . . Seek You is a captivating combination of raw emotional exploration and thoughtful, sophisticated imagination.” —BookPage, starred