Sierra's January/February 2006 Let's Talk book selection: Better Off: Flipping the Switch on Technology
A book by Eric Brende
Review by Jennifer Hattam
What it's about
It was a contrarian quest for an MIT student: to see how little technology is needed to get the most out of life. In search of an answer, Eric Brende and his new wife moved to an Amish-like community in rural Pennsylvania, where they traded electric lights for kerosene lamps, tap water for a pump and cistern, and desk jobs for sorghum farming. Somehow, more physical labor allowed for more leisure and, for the Brendes, a more satisfying lifestyle. At the experiment's end, they embarked on the biggest challenge of all: rejoining the modern world without abandoning their minimalist ideals.
Where to get it Better Off is widely available at libraries and bookstores.
About the author
Eric Brende received a graduate degree in political science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1992. He and his family now live in St. Louis, where Brende makes soap and drives a rickshaw.
What did you think about the Brendes' time with the "Minimites"? Did it seem like a satisfying way to live, or one filled with hardships?
What technologies have had a positive impact in your life and/or your community? Which ones have had a negative impact?
Pick one technology (car, television, heating/air-conditioning system, etc.) to go without for a week, a month, or more. Report back to the group on your experience. How did you adjust your life to accommodate the change? What was frustrating about it? What was liberating?