Friday, November 20, 2009

The Good Life

In the past few years, a number of books have been written about people leaving their current lives to pursue simpler, more self-sufficient lives in rural areas. These books are typically a mix of memoir and how-to and usually end up reflecting that living a "simpler" life is rewarding but not exactly simple. If the book market is any kind of gauge, it would seem that many people are interested in reading about this sort of transition. The authors of these books often find modern life alienating, unaffordable, and completely disconnected from nature, so I wonder if this is a popular sentiment of readers today. More likely, the popularity of these books is related to the rise in popularity of DIY projects and crafts coupled with a greater awareness among the general public of where their commodities come from and how those commodities are produced.

This type of book is anything but new. Many were written in the 1970s, a time in our country's history when a significant number of disillusioned people moved to farms and communes. But other than books like Thoreau's Walden, the earliest of these types of accounts that actually influenced the 1970s movement are Living the Good Life and Continuing the Good Life by Helen and Scott Nearing (collected into one volume called The Good Life). The Nearings departed their New York City life during the Great Depression in 1932 and moved to a rural area in Vermont (and later Maine) where they began producing their own food, built their own shelter, and provided entirely for themselves on very little money. What was particularly remarkable about such a move is that the couple had no prior experience in any sort of self-sustaining activities. It's simply amazing, inspiring, and motivational to read their account. After reading about the Nearings, I've become addicted to memoirs and nonfiction accounts of stories similar to Helen and Scott's, like these:

The Backyard Homestead

Best Person Rural: Essays of a Sometime Farmer

Confessions of a Counterfeit Farm Girl

Country Wisdom & Know-How: Everything You Need to Know to Live off the Land
This is an excellent comprehensive guide to country skills and knowledge published by Storey Publishing - an excellent publisher of quality country living and skills books, including one on making cider by Annie Proulx.

The Good Life: Helen and Scott Nearing's Sixty Years of Self-Sufficient Living

The Good Life of Helen K. Nearing
A biography of Helen Nearing

Made from Scratch: Discovering the Pleasures of a Handmade Life

The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Recipes from an Accidental Country Girl

The Road Washes out in Spring: A Poet's Memoir of Living off the Grid

A Scott Nearing Reader: The Good Life in Bad Times
Scott Nearing was well-known for his writings on a number of social issues. Here is a collection of rare writings.

Siesta Lane: A Year Unplugged, or the Good Intentions of Ten People, Two Cats, One Old Dog, Eight Acres, One Telephone, Three Cars, and Twenty Miles to the Nearest Town

The Unlikely Lavender Queen


Anonymous said...

What!! Move away from the LIBRARY??

Carlos said...

Nice post. A lot of great suggestions.