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The Unsettlers: In Search of the Good Life in Today's America (Riverhead Books)
Today's Americans are looking to escape: faced with drastic increases in climate change, the rise of the One Percent, and a suffocating 24/7 work culture that seems to be keeping an entire population chained to their smart phones, it comes as no surprise that we are now, more than ever, yearning for "the simple life." Organic eating continues to gain popularity and minimalistic Tiny Houses seem to be popping up every direction--but why? And is it actually possible not only to walk away from the modern conveniences on which we've become so paralyzingly dependent but to adopt--even model--a truly sustainable ethical and authentic way of life?
In The Unsettlers: In Search of the Good Life in Today's America, Mark Sundeen follows a diverse group of Americans--urban and rural, female and male, black and white--on their complicated quest for a simpler life in modern times, raising fascinating and subversive questions about the way we live, eat, and work. We asked Sundeen what led him to write The Unsettlers, and he replied, "So many people have anxiety about the state of the world--climate change, extinction, financial inequality--but so few have an idea of what they can actually do to extract themselves for the system, much less change it. This book illuminates those who are trying with all their might."
There is no better writer to tell this story than Sundeen, whose writings on off-the-grid movements have appeared in the New York Times, Outside Magazine, The Believer, National Geographic Adventure, and McSweeny's. His previous book, The Man who Quit Money, was a sleeper hit, earning rave reviews from readers and critics--the Seattle Times deemed it "captivating," and Outside hailed it as a "critique that will resonate with anyone who has ever felt remorse on the treadmill of getting and spending"--cementing Sundeen's reputation as one of the preeminent translators of alternative communities and movements to the mainstream.
With the lively writing-style of Barbara Kingslover and on-the-ground savvy of Michael Pollan, Mark Sundeen simultaneously explores and contextualizes the fascinatingly complex history of simple living throughout American history--from the Founding Fathers to the present movement in which, among the other subjects he profiles, Detroit natives Olivia Hubert and Greg Willerer set out to revitalize their city by farming it.
Praise for The Unsettlers
"Rigorously reported and utterly enthralling. With Candor, wit, and live-voltage curiosity, Sundeen profiles pioneers who have developed better ways to live in our overdeveloped world."--Leslie Jamison, author of The Empathy Exams
"With his chronicles of modern-day American visionaries and iconoclasts who have opted out of the mainstream culture, I've come to think of Mark Sundeen as our poet laureate of a new era of alternative lifestyles."--Bob Shacochis, author of The Woman Who Lost Her Soul
Mark Sundeen is the author of several books, including The Man Who Quit Money and the coauthor of North by Northwestern, which was a New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller. He has taught fiction and nonfiction in the MFA creative writing programs at the University of New Mexico and Southern New Hampshire University. He and his wife divide their time between Fort Collins, Colorado, and Moab, Utah.
Photo by Isan Brant