Why is it that so many of us lead insular lives? Somehow, we have good intentions, we promise to visit friends or relatives whom we haven't seen for years yet we put it off because we tell ourselves that we are "just too busy."
Before we know it, the months have passed. We bury our heads in the sand and carry on with our busy lives, becoming more and more insular.
Juddering along in the Tube the other day, deep under London, I was struck, not for the first time, by how much I love the personal essay form. I was reading a scintillating collection by the fine American writer, Phillip Lopate, in one of those compact and handsome Notting Hill Editions.
By Annie Cohen-Solal Yale University Press, £18.99
The adjectives "spiritual", "ethical", "religious" - and indeed the word "Jewish" - make frequent appearances in this new biography (part of Yale's Jewish Lives series) of one of the acknowledged giants of post-war American art.
Heaven save us from the post-feminist, feminist novel. At least I think that's what American writer Elisa Albert's book is. It's hard to tell, because Albert is a "literary stylist", so she experiments with new forms and isn't always coherent.
The stories we read and love as children are almost all about friendship. Surveying the costumes at my kids' school on World Book Day recently, I saw wizards, packs of forest animals, miniature pirates: all of them heroes and heroines of collective adventures.
Imagine a community where speech is soundless and hands do the talking. Such a place was Martha's Vineyard, now a stylish summer retreat but once home to so many deaf families that even the hearing conversed in signs.