Voluntary Simplicity: Toward a Way of Life That Is Outwardly Simple, Inwardly Rich
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

Voluntary Simplicity: Toward a Way of Life That Is Outwardly Simple, Inwardly Rich

3.58 of 5 stars 3.58  ·  rating details  ·  720 ratings  ·  93 reviews
First published in 1981, VOLUNTARY SIMPLICITY was quickly recognized as a powerful and visionary work in the emerging dialogue over sustainable living. Now-more than twenty years later and with many of the planet′s environmental stresses more urgent than ever-Duane Elgin has once again revised and updated his revolutionary book.

VOLUNTARY SIMPLICITY is not a book about livi...more
Paperback, Second Revised Edition, 240 pages
Published January 5th 2010 by William Morrow Paperbacks (first published 1981)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,659)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Audrey
I give this 3.5 stars actually. Truth be told, I give 5 stars to the concept behind the book, but just a couple of stars to the book itself. This was just full of too much "social scientist" speak -- I really would've preferred something that read less like a paper being presented for a major conference and more like something I could connect to as an individual, as someone wanting to embrace these types of changes and work toward making them an active part of my life. Still, it was very affirmi...more
Charity (CJ)
My husband and I took a "Voluntary Simplicity" discussion course back in 2000/2001. The course was from Northwest Earth Institute and was based on Duane Elgin's book and scads of other terrific writings about simplicity and mindfulness. It was remarkably influential on how we lived our newly-married life together, but for some reason, it took me more than ten years to pick up Elgin's original book (well, the 1993 revision).

When I finally did read the book, I was blown away by the simplicity and...more
Joy
Why did I read this? I should know better. I can't remember why I decided to get this out of the library, but I was very excited about it. And really, I don't know if a review from me about this Voluntary Simplicity book is fair because I recoil, simply recoil, from the brand of religiosity it represents. I will say, however, that if you are looking for how to simplify your life or how to think of your life in simpler terms or how to withdraw from the consumerism that overruns America, this is n...more
Sarai Mitnick
Though this book gives a solid overview of the many probable catastrophes we face and how they relate to materialism and consumption, it had a number of problems. I was a bit surprised by how little I liked it, given that I agree with most of the ideas, and that it's considered a classic.

It was not a well structured book. It seemed to move around from point to point with no real flow, often repeating the same information. This was my biggest issue with the book. Also, the inclusion of so many di...more
Tyler
Synopsis: Originally published in 1981 and updated in the 1990's, this book is considered by many to be the simple/sustainable living bible. The book covers the tenets of Voluntary Simplicity, which include frugal consumption, ecological awareness and personal growth. The book concludes with a vision of the global issues that will arise if more people do not choose a path of voluntary simplicity.

My Review: This book wasn't really what I had expected. The first third of the book is just rehashing...more
Kathleen
I have to admit that this wasn't exactly the book I expected, but then I remind myself that it was written in the 1980s and was at that time quite revolutionary. I don't doubt the need for simplicity and will read more books for specific ideas in how to do so.

Favorite passages: "It is a radical simplicity to affirm that our happiness cannot be purchased, no matter how desperately the advertiser may want us to believe the fiction that we will never be happy or adequate without his or her product...more
Christopher Corrar
I would've gave this book 2 stars until I read the last chapter "Living in a Green World". Elgin summed this book up well in the end, there was plenty of ideas and thoughts on how we can change ourselves positively in a time of climate change and the end of cheap oil. What was probably still "hippy ideas" in 1981 when this book came out is now a reality. I would love to see Elgin write a similar book with all updated info on this subject rather than a new version of an old book. I have to admit...more
Renate
Elgin likes to preach, a lot...
I agree mostly with the underlying message, that's why I picked up the book in the first place. I don't need to be convinced page after page. The tone got a bit too self-rightious and activist for me, so I gave up reading after a few chapters. Skimming the rest convinced me I wasn't missing much.
Giovanni Gigliozzi Bianco
Este livro espetacular de Duane Elgin apresenta a visão para a possibilidade de uma vida organizada por valores que não os da atual sociedade de consumo. Além de mostrar as boas razões ecológicas, psicológicas e sociais da Simplicidade Voluntária, a primeira parte do livro reúne também relatos de pessoas que vivem de forma simples.
Na segunda parte são apresentados os aspectos mais essenciais da Simplicidade Voluntária, como a integração com o universo e a consciência da morte. A possibilidade de...more
Kelli
I am very surprised at myself that I feel I have to issue the book one star. It is touted as a classic of the voluntary simplicity movement and I felt I was missing so much by not having read it.

Maybe I was just in the wrong mood, or maybe it's because it's a revised edition that the book did not flow well - the author says in the foreword that half the book is new material. It's got to be hard to do that to an existing work and have it blend well. He repeated ideas (sometimes verbatim) and jus...more
Katrina Dreamer
This book is a quick and simple read but it contains a vitally important message: that if we don't seriously curtail our addiction to consumerism, we face a catastrophe unseen in human history (read mass famine, water wars, mass extinction, continued and increased global warming, mass displacement). Many of these things are on the fast track to manifestation if we don't change our ways immediately.

It is a call for us to simplify our lives where we can. To stop mindless consumption...of water, o...more
Erica Rhodes
While this book did have it's wonderful points, I found it a little disappointing. It wasn't at all what I had expected, nor what the reviews on Amazon had given me the impression it would be. I expected something motivational. I ended up with something that I found highly frustrating at times.

The first segment of the book was well written. It talked about the common misconceptions of simplicity, such as that it requires taking a vow of poverty or denial of beauty. It also talked about some hist...more
Catherine
The first 3/4 of this book gets 5 stars... the last 1/4 gets 1 star. This book started out wonderfully by providing a great view into the personal/societal/spiritual reasons which drive individuals to choose simplicity in their every day lives. Really, really great stuff. I found myself alternating between agreeing out loud with points being made to putting down the book and pondering the view points that were being discussed. I didn't feel that any of these things were being forced on me as a r...more
Margot
A book about living simply, so that others may simply live.

Some excerpts:
"Just as boats of various designs leave very different wakes in the water behind them, so too do various approaches to living send out different waves of reverberating influence into the world. The disruptive wake that has been left by nearly two centuries of aggressive industrialization now threatens to swamp Western industrial nations and perhaps even the entire earth."(23)

"Our universe extends through reaches of space th...more
Stephanie
Parts of this book were really interesting and informative - and incredibly relevant today, even though it was originally written in 1981. If anything, the world has gotten more materialistic and chaotic, the environment more damaged, and the gap between rich and poor more prevalent. Clearly, the priorities of our culture are misplaced. Things are not working, and it's time for embracing a simpler, less selfish lifestyle.

Unfortunately, this wasn't a practical how-to manual. It felt very hippie-c...more
Felicia A
Very good and worthwhile book that EVERYONE should read. There were many things the author discusses as part of living a "voluntarily simple" lifystyle (like I AIN'T taking no vow of poverty just because there are poor people in the world!), but it was very informative and should be required reading for every citizen of the world.

The funny thing is that I already live a voluntarily simplistic, earth friendly, family centered, mostly happy and non-consumeristic lifestyle, I just didn't know my li...more
Susie
This book bored me, but there was one quote I liked:
The theme of sharing and economic justice seems particularly strong in the Christian tradition. Basil the Great, bishop of Caesarea, stated around A.D. 365: "When someone steals a man's clothes we call him a thief. Should we not gie the same name to one who could clothe the naked and does not? The bread in your cupboard belongs to the hungry man; the coat hanging unused in your closet belongs to the man who needs it; the shoes rotting in your c...more
Marjanne
I'm still trying to decide how I feel about this book. At first it reminded me of a book I read recently on spirituality. Then, at the end, it became kind of apocalyptic. Honestly, it was kind of depressing and really changed how I was feeling about the book. I suppose, in a way, that that was the point and that I should be all riled up about saving the earth and human civilization as we know it. Unfortunately, it kind of just made me want to stick my head in the oven. I also felt a little skept...more
Melissa
Aug 29, 2007 Melissa rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: people who don't mind boring books
This is the second book that I've started & put down in dislike this week! Goodreads, what are you doing to this diligent, "read-every-page" gal?

Anyway, Elgin's book is one of the cornerstones of the modern "simple living" movement, but it's pretty old (this revised edition is from 1993, but it does not substantially change the text from 1981) and you've probably covered all this ground already if you've read Your Money or Your Life or been on the Simple Living network web site. This could...more
Roxanne
Elgin makes some great global arguments for simplicity, and also gets down to the personal. I found his dire predictions for post-industrial Earth interesting and entirely probable, but not energizing. I can work toward greater simplicity for myself, and that may be where I need to concentrate. The only way I can "save the world" is to save myself first.

The first book I ever read on VS was Linda Breen Pierce's book Choosing Simplicity, and so it's my gold standard. It was such a relief to find a...more
Loren
This was a very hard read for me because I am not religious or "spiritual" at all. This book propagates that to be good one must embrace some sort of mythology. Being a humanist I obviously disagree which is sad because there is so much good in this book which is squandered on all these inserted religious validations. (Ie: quotes from Buddha & Jesus... Etc.) I therefore cannot endorse this propaganda. In lay man's terms I shall say, "wow this is totally me! Finally a social construct that un...more
Gloria
Aug 30, 2010 Gloria rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: Holistic Thinkers
Shelves: non-fiction
This is considered one of the core books on the subject of voluntary simplicity. At 185 pgs, it is easy to read in spurts. It provides a convincing philosophy for not only saving the earth, but also saving your own finances, and building a more spiritually rich life. Its slogan is "Toward a way of life that is outwardly simple, inwardly rich" and that pretty much sums up the tone. This is not a list of 1001 ways to save money or use less electricity; rather it urges people to live mindfully, awa...more
Denise
I thought this book was depressing. It would affect my mood each time I spent time with it. It illustrated some interesting civilizational trend possibilities and some concepts with which to avoid the dismal aspects but no real ideas how to implement them. So change TV programming, advertising and ways of communicating. But how? Yes, I feel very strongly change and consensus is needed if we are to survive as a nation and as a world. Once again how? How do we reach consensus when I don't even see...more
Tom
A classic, of course.
Ana
Sep 10, 2007 Ana rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: anyone interested in voluntary simplicity
Shelves: spirituality
Not necessarily the most dynamic writing, but a good reminder of the principles of voluntary simplicity. Once I started reading this I realized I had read it many years ago (about 8-9 years ago) before I started grad school.

I did really like it for its very straight forward presentation of the principles of voluntary simplicity and the fact that it did not come across as dogmatic. I nice reminder of what counts in life and the ways we can simplify our lives to make them richer.
Marla
Recommended to me by a Zen Master, the overall message is undeniably accurate. But there's a lot of repetition and it's written almost like a syllabus (in lists of 4, 5, 8 reasons why this or that...). I almost quit at the second chapter, which was nothing but pieces of letters received by people who took the Voluntary Simplicity Survey, along with "research shows....", "statistics prove..." and "63% of the people surveyed, said..." At times compelling, and at times a snore.
Scott
This was a pretty instrumental book in shaping my worldview. Sadly, it is all too easy to drift the ideals laid out here, but I am hopeful because Jenny and I share a similar desire to avoid amassing lots of crap and we have periodic binges of material possessions.
But the heart of the book is not 'throw away everything you own', but how to nurture inner simplicity of thought and desire. Enjoying the simple things and seeing beauty in them is a wonderful gift.
Darcey
I was... disappointed with this. It certainly did what it said on the tin - offering advice for living a life that is simple but rich for experiences and lifestyle - but it generally did not offer *how* to do such things with any comprehensive guidelines. Some may want those, some may not. I did enjoy the responses from a survey sent out a number of years ago, as to why people want to simplify their lives, what they get out if it, and what they consider 'simple'.
Nate
May 25, 2007 Nate marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Voluntary Simplicity by Duane Elgin, first published in 1981 and revised in 1993, is the sacred text for those wanting to liberate themselves from enslavement to a job and the pursuit of status symbols. Elgin's work emerges from a concern for the environmental consequences of our mass consumption lifestyles. His book exhorts us to save the planet and our souls by "living with balance in order to find a life of greater purpose.
Astrid
If I had not already worked out these ideas for myself, this book would be life-changing. I highly recommend this book for anyone who is looking for personal growth, an end to dissatisfaction in certain aspects of their lives, or who would like to help save our society and our planet. The cases for voluntary simplicity are many and varied, and I believe almost anyone will find one that resonates with them.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 55 56 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The Simple Living Guide
  • Choosing Simplicity: Real People Finding Peace and Fulfillment in a Complex World
  • Living More With Less
  • Radical Simplicity: Small Footprints on a Finite Earth
  • Simplify Your Life: 100 Ways to Slow Down and Enjoy the Things That Really Matter
  • Less is More: Embracing Simplicity for a Healthy Planet, a Caring Economy and Lasting Happiness
  • Your Money or Your Life: Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Achieving Financial Independence
  • Living Simply with Children: A Voluntary Simplicity Guide for Moms, Dads, and Kids Who Want to Reclaim the Bliss of Childhood and the Joy of Parenting
  • The Joy of Simple Living: Over 1,500 Simple Ways to Make Your Life Easy and Content-- At Home and At Work
  • Little House on a Small Planet: Simple Homes, Cozy Retreats, and Energy Efficient Possibilities
  • Making It: Radical Home Ec for a Post-Consumer World
  • Living the Good Life: How to Live Sanely and Simply in a Troubled World
  • The Complete Tightwad  Gazette
  • Simple Prosperity: Finding Real Wealth in a Sustainable Lifestyle
  • The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide: How to Declutter, Organize, and Simplify Your Life
  • In Praise of Slowness: Challenging the Cult of Speed
  • Affluenza: The All-Consuming Epidemic
  • Hope, Human and Wild: True Stories of Living Lightly on the Earth
The Living Universe: Where Are We? Who Are We? Where Are We Going? Promise Ahead: A Vision of Hope and Action for Humanity's Future Awakening Earth: Exploring the Evolution of Human Culture and Consciousness Living Legacies: How to Write, Illustrate and Share Your Life Stories The Living Universe: Where Are We? Who Are We? Where Are We Going? (BK Life (Paperback))

Share This Book

“To live sustainably, we must live efficiently - not misdirecting or squandering the earth's precious resources. To live efficiently, we must live peacefully for military expenditures represent an enormous diversion of resources from meeting basic human needs. To live peacefully, we must live with a reasonable degree of equity, or fairness, for it is unrealistic to think that, in a communications-rich world, a billion people will except living in absolute poverty while another billion live in conspicuous excess.” 2 likes
“Satisfactions are fulfillment of the heart. Dissatisfactions are the rumblings of the mind.” 2 likes
More quotes…