I don’t write a whole lot of book reviews here but this is one that is topical to many of the themes we discuss on this site as well as compelling, beautifully written, and a fun read.
Eric Brende is the exact opposite of the sort of person you would assume, on face value, to question his relationship with modern technology. He’s a MIT Graduate after all. Yet, like many of us, as he grew more and more attached to technology he began to wonder if our dependence on it is in some ways simply creating new sets of problems to solve another. He began to wonder what a life free of modern conveniences would be like. So, he set out to discover just that.
With a timeline of eighteen months and his new wife on board with his crazy experiment, he ventured to live with a remote community so primitive in its technology that even many of the Amish consider it antiquated — an Old Order Anabaptist group that he calls the “Minimites”. In fact, this particular community had broken away from a larger Amish community because they felt they were becoming too modern, permissive, and “English”.
The journey told is not a perfect one. There were times when I found myself nodding my head in agreement. There were others where I was shaking it in disagreement. I believe even the author found it hard to completely set hard of limits to his usage of modern technology during this time. For instance, there were a few times in the book where they took out their old Ford Escort to travel a long distance or in the case of an emergency (or, even, once when it was just easier).
I wont spoil the book and give away whether, ultimately, the grand experiment was a success or failure. I don’t think it matters much. I think we can all benefit from both hearing stories of and seeing examples of what life would be like living with such constraints and circumstances. I believe it ultimately helps us to decide and define our own choices.
That said, this is one of the more entertaining, fascinating, and well written books I have read in a long time. In fact, the prose is so well mastered that I have to wonder if the Author — who holds degrees from Yale and Washburn as well — has any in the literature arts. It was also an insightful look into Amish (and it’s related offshoots) culture and society. Something I have long been intrigued by.
With the Season Of Stuff approaching and product launches of new shiny objects upon us, this book is a great reminder that, sometimes, the stuff we own can end up owning us and that such is a choice we actively engage in.