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There s the whole thing about how annoying Sundeen s personal stories are among the ones he s really trying to tell, but the real irritating part of the book comes when there s a whole discussion about white flight and how Detroit got so hurt as a result.and the bulk of the book is about a white dude seeing other white people who are going back to the land and off grid In other words, there s not a lot of self reflection going on Though Sundeen does offer us the beautiful insight about There s the whole thing about how annoying Sundeen s personal stories are among the ones he s really trying to tell, but the real irritating part of the book comes when there s a whole discussion about white flight and how Detroit got so hurt as a result.and the bulk of the book is about a white dude seeing other white people who are going back to the land and off grid In other words, there s not a lot of self reflection going on Though Sundeen does offer us the beautiful insight about how his deepest desire was to cheat on his wife That all said, the only part that is worth reading here is the Detroit section, which is by far the one that deservedpage time It s not about going off grid It s about working right where the people living there are A good and easy enough hate read for those who can t get enough of the idea of unsettling and or tiny living, etc I received a free advance copy of this book from the publisher via a Goodreads giveaway, and an honest review was requested This is a super interesting book, touching on food production and culture, consumerism, the environment, activism, spirituality, and ethics I came away feeling like I had a perfect window into worlds that I really didn t know much about I admit that I came into this book with some pre conceived notions about WTO protestors and locavores and similarly stereotyped grou I received a free advance copy of this book from the publisher via a Goodreads giveaway, and an honest review was requested This is a super interesting book, touching on food production and culture, consumerism, the environment, activism, spirituality, and ethics I came away feeling like I had a perfect window into worlds that I really didn t know much about I admit that I came into this book with some pre conceived notions about WTO protestors and locavores and similarly stereotyped groups of people, and I had all that blown away Sundeen is such an excellent writer, too I will definitely keep an eye out for future books from him and look up his backlist as well My only small quibbles with this book are 1 it felt at times like the protagonists were a bit self righteous and judgy, and the author, through what felt like an endorsement of them, was perhaps the same way and 2 kind words about The Farm irritate me to no end I know it to be a place where children were starved and emotionally abused and when people just gush on and on about how great The Farm was I wish they would go talk to some of the people who were children on those school buses traveling from San Francisco and ask them how much they liked going to bed hungry and being kept separate from their parents I HATE The Farm and I know my reaction to seeing it written about this way is pretty out of proportion but I really can t help it sorrynotsorry The Unsettlers is an unsettling book The author explores his subjects three couples each pursuing their simple living dream in quite different ways with an entertaining, narrative style journalism The book is unsettling because of the contrasts and contradictions in how each couple, and the author, approach the problem of simple living They all make compromises in different ways This leaves the reader, at the end, with a sense of bewilderment What exactly are we, as potential follower The Unsettlers is an unsettling book The author explores his subjects three couples each pursuing their simple living dream in quite different ways with an entertaining, narrative style journalism The book is unsettling because of the contrasts and contradictions in how each couple, and the author, approach the problem of simple living They all make compromises in different ways This leaves the reader, at the end, with a sense of bewilderment What exactly are we, as potential followers of the simple life, supposed to take away from all this Well, it s not clear, and to a certain extent that s the point Simple living is complicated The Missouri couple are the purest in intention and practice, rejecting much of industrial civilization s products to live what is essentially a farming life from a century or two ago The exception proves the rule Sarah accepts a ride to the hospital when she goes into labor with her first child They have freedom in exchange for poverty They also have almost no followers, though many outsiders come to listen to them The Detroit couple is enmeshed in civilization but tries to re establish contact with the soil by farming the vacant lots They have freedom in exchange for the constant tension of violence from humans and indifference or hostility from the city The Montana couple is somewhere in between, trying to set up a local farming enterprise before locavore became a phenomenon, again with a mixture of acceptance of civilization plus rejection of much of its fruits There are two unexplored directions the book could have taken and didn t The first is to explore why this is Why is simple living complicated Shouldn t it be an easy thing to scale back, and if not, why not Hint it has something to do with infrastructure The second direction is to look at vegetarianism and population Get a clue, guys There are too many people on the planet and there are too many cows In fact, biomass wise, there sof our livestock than there is of us, and most of the land used by humans is for their livestock Humans and their livestock are over 95% of the megafauna biomass on earth And yet what has the author presented us with Three couples all of whom choose to reproduce The earnestness with which they pursue children is sometimes painful to watch The Montana couple suffers eight miscarriages before successfully giving birth And the author has given us three couples all of whom choose to kill and eat animals, some with painful deliberateness The Montana couple kills a llama because it isn t behaving properly This is excruciating to read because the author is surrounded by vegetarian advocates whom he studiously ignores At one point in the book it is mentioned that the author s wife is or was at some point a vegetarian a point which he never returns to And at the end, he mentions a number of books which influenced the way he thought One of them is a book about Gandhi who was a vegetarian advocate , two of them are books by people from the Farm in Tennessee which was originally all vegetarian , and another was a book by Helen and Scott Nearing who were vegetarians and founders of the North American Vegetarian Society So anyway, this is a pretty good book once you wrap your brain around the fact that neither he nor the people he interviews are going to address the key problems responsible for the environmental crisis livestock and human overpopulation Hmmm..Okay, so Mark Sundeen went in search of the good life, but what he really did is find a few couples with some really extreme ideas lifestyles and whine a whole bunch about his own life And yet, I still kind of liked this book.Couple 1 are misleadingly billed as a classically trained opera singer and former marine biologist Really these people are ing crazy Portland area hipsters who haven t really held down any kind of normal job, but instead have traveled across the countr Hmmm..Okay, so Mark Sundeen went in search of the good life, but what he really did is find a few couples with some really extreme ideas lifestyles and whine a whole bunch about his own life And yet, I still kind of liked this book.Couple 1 are misleadingly billed as a classically trained opera singer and former marine biologist Really these people are ing crazy Portland area hipsters who haven t really held down any kind of normal job, but instead have traveled across the country by bicycle dressed as a super hero him , given away an inheritance also him , and traveled to France on a whim to learn to make goat cheese both of them on her whim Can you tell I wasn t really enad of this couple And, yet, I couldn t stop reading about them I mean, this is the stuff upon which Portlandia is based These are real people Real people who decide to never ride in a car again him , who buy an Amish farmstead in Misery, sorry, Missouri, sight unseen with no running water c mon, even the Amish have running water , and then can t understand why no one else wants to join them Couple 2, building a farm in the crumbling remains of Detroit, were muchsympathetic, because they are actually living in the real world In truth, their world is a littlereal than I d like to get This was, by far, the most interesting section Instead of trying to set a shining example in the middle of nowhere, these people are trying to make a legitimate difference in the middle of the worst urban disaster in Norte Americano The wife is also the only non white person in the whole darn book Couple 3 would probably smack some sense into Couple 1, if ever they all should meet Homesteading in Montana since the 1980s, they ve raised three children and helped usher in the locavore movement, but they especially the wife don t seem to be enjoying the good life very much Tangled in with all of these stories is that of the author, who practices a brand of absolute truth that I find painful I don t need to know that he took a break from buying organic, free trade, wild caught tofu to rip fried chicken off the bone with his teeth I don t need to know that his greatest desire was to cheat on his wife before the honeymoon period was even over His parents took out a second mortgage to finance his ivy league education How special He and his wife to whom he apparently has stayed faithful can winter in Mexico or Thailand, instead of Montana Fantastic While he s a good writer, I would have enjoyed this bookif he had been in it less I m not sure what I expected from this book, but I didn t quite get it A disappointing book as I think there is a purpose and a demand for this kind of book, but Sundeen s work falls well short of its potential Generally, it s a story of 3or 4 people or couples who in different ways seek to live simply, usually by living in a sustainable way and dismissing the societal norms of accumulating wealth and stuff Unfortunately, many of these stories are rambling and don t quite land the point if there is a point the book felt like it would have been better as a lo A disappointing book as I think there is a purpose and a demand for this kind of book, but Sundeen s work falls well short of its potential Generally, it s a story of 3or 4 people or couples who in different ways seek to live simply, usually by living in a sustainable way and dismissing the societal norms of accumulating wealth and stuff Unfortunately, many of these stories are rambling and don t quite land the point if there is a point the book felt like it would have been better as a long form article in Outside magazine The good life in these stories seem aspirational and noble, but they don t feel simple and didn t seem like the good life to me Like any life, simple or not, there was joy and pain, excitement balanced with sorrow, and lots of hard work and frustration and disappointment There was some preaching that I thought was unnecessary too In the end, the book is useful as a reminder to think about the importance of living simply which means different things for different people , thinking before buying, and thinking carefully about how you will measure you life in the end I thoroughly enjoyed this book Sundeen weaves his own search for the meaning of life with the stories of three couples who are pursing their own unique simple lives Though I kind of agree with Luci, who took issue with this description and loudly declared, Nothing simple about it I ll say I m a bit like Sundeen himself who ultimately realizes, I was the type to read a book about such a person Or write one I was in the category of most simple life dabblers seduced by the idea of it, r I thoroughly enjoyed this book Sundeen weaves his own search for the meaning of life with the stories of three couples who are pursing their own unique simple lives Though I kind of agree with Luci, who took issue with this description and loudly declared, Nothing simple about it I ll say I m a bit like Sundeen himself who ultimately realizes, I was the type to read a book about such a person Or write one I was in the category of most simple life dabblers seduced by the idea of it, repelled by the hardship Some may not find Sundeen as charming as I did He s painfully honest at times about his own life struggles, and they sounded so familiar that I was nearly cringing at times But he does realize that he s on the right track, much as he sometimes doubts himself And he has a great wife who really gets him She likened marriage to two stones in a polishing machine they tumbled against each other and it hurt but they emerged smoother andbeautiful than they would ever have become sitting alone on the ground Great book The section about Olivia and Gary in Detroit is the most interesting, but the section about Luci and Steve resonated the most, as it included how they live and raised their three kids to adulthood the other couples have kids but are in the earlier stages of parenting small children I relate to Luci when she acknowledges that she probably says fuck too much From the first few pages I was drawn to the story and the themes the author delves into I was glad the book wasn t solely about people living off grid and their day to day routines, but explored the reasons behind why they live as they do Each family group interviewed had such deep convictions that led them to live the lives they do, and I found that special They were authentic, raw and real, without trying, which, as the author notes, is something rare in today s liveauthentic culture The From the first few pages I was drawn to the story and the themes the author delves into I was glad the book wasn t solely about people living off grid and their day to day routines, but explored the reasons behind why they live as they do Each family group interviewed had such deep convictions that led them to live the lives they do, and I found that special They were authentic, raw and real, without trying, which, as the author notes, is something rare in today s liveauthentic culture The author intertwines his own story quite well as he relates to many of the moral reasons the homesteaders chose their unique paths This book explores religion, the history of the commune movement in America, morality, ethics, food production, environmentalism, minimalism, societal norms, politicsand likely a fewI m forgetting If you re looking for a book to challenge your views of modern Western culture, or are simply, like I am, interested in the topics touched on in the book, I d highly recommend this masterful piece of journalism The unsettler stories and issues in this are told clearly and concisely You get a good look at the ethical and historical underpinnings of the homesteader movement along with a good dose of reality about all the little lies we tell ourselves Those parts are wonderful The weak part of the book is Sundeen himself, who thinks his personal story is significantlyinteresting than it is Once you get past his navel gazing and weird marital confessions, the stories of the homesteaders themsel The unsettler stories and issues in this are told clearly and concisely You get a good look at the ethical and historical underpinnings of the homesteader movement along with a good dose of reality about all the little lies we tell ourselves Those parts are wonderful The weak part of the book is Sundeen himself, who thinks his personal story is significantlyinteresting than it is Once you get past his navel gazing and weird marital confessions, the stories of the homesteaders themselves will grab you The Detroit section in particular kept me riveted and up late If Sundeen had kept himself out of it, this would have been five stars, no question (DOWNLOAD EPUB) í The Unsettlers: In Search of the Good Life in Today's America Ø An in depth and compelling account of diverse Americans living off the gridLos Angeles TimesThe radical search for the simple life in today s America On a frigid April night, a classically trained opera singer, five months pregnant, and her husband, a former marine biologist, disembark an Amtrak train in La Plata, Missouri, assemble two bikes, and pedal off into the night, bound for a homestead they ve purchased, sight unseen Meanwhile, a horticulturist, heir to the Great Migration that brought masses of African Americans to Detroit, and her husband, a product of the white flight from it, have turned to urban farming to revitalize the blighted city they both love And near Missoula, Montana, a couple who have been at the forefront of organic farming for decades navigate what it means to live and raise a family ethicallyA work of immersive journalism steeped in a distinctively American social history and sparked by a personal quest, The Unsettlers traces the search for the simple life through the stories of these new pioneers and what inspired each of them to look for or create a better existence Captivating and clear eyed, it dares us to imagine what a sustainable, ethical, authentic future might actually look like This book is semi autobiographical and that s probably the weakest link for the whole thing and the source of my two stars Had the author left himself out of it and let a professional narrate his audiobook it would have been 100% better But he didn t and so it s maudlin to the point of near nausea Let me start with a full confession I m a permaculture fan I love homesteaders My next door neighbor doesn t hold a job or work for a company, but he and his wife are able to live self sufficie This book is semi autobiographical and that s probably the weakest link for the whole thing and the source of my two stars Had the author left himself out of it and let a professional narrate his audiobook it would have been 100% better But he didn t and so it s maudlin to the point of near nausea Let me start with a full confession I m a permaculture fan I love homesteaders My next door neighbor doesn t hold a job or work for a company, but he and his wife are able to live self sufficiently very well I gave him my flock of chickens, he has two incubators on semi permanent loan that he uses to hatch his own chickens and ducks He is up in Michigan this week catching salmon to stock his freezer alongside the saugeye he s caught locally, next to the venison and his own broiler chickens that he puts up himself He trains race horses that his mom owns His wife makes a variety of crafty stuff they sell all over It s this entrepreneurial spirit that makes America great and makes them great neighbors I believe the Millers of this book were those type of neighbors I d rather have heard about them than the author Sundeen wasinfatuated with these people than he was in love with them He is attracted to them, enthralled by them, and listens wistfully to the siren song of living off grid and independently I appreciate this I know where this affection comes from I ve yielded to it myself But there are some SERIOUS reservations I have about this book The largest is his disillusionment with the actuality of this type of life This is a man who admires hard work and even does it sometimes, but it s not him So when others find satisfaction in it, he sbemused and admiring than anything else At the same time, he is disappointed that the utopians and practitioners don t live up to his ethereal expectations These are normal people living a normal life of hard work, dedication to their ideals, and not according to the expectations of idealists like Sundeen Of course his disappointment is going to come through I knew something was up when he made NO mention of Joel Salatin or paid a visit to Polyface farm He met Paul Wheaton of permies.com but he never quoted his best line about doing good stuff instead of complaining about the bad guys Probably because Sundeen didn t get that message Or if he did, it didn t come through in the book On the other hand, I really would like to knowabout the people he wrote about I wish he had stood out of the way long enough for us to get to know them better Maybe in a follow up