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

3.62 of 5 stars 3.62  ·  rating details  ·  949 ratings  ·  112 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
Paperback, Second Revised Edition, 240 pages
Published January 5th 2010 by William Morrow Paperbacks (first published 1981)
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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
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
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
Joy Lanzendorfer
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
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.
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
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
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
Sound, sage exploration of simple living, but a bit heavy-handed on the ecological/civilization aspects. However, it was an astute book and ahead of its time.
Laura Hughes
I love the concept of voluntarily simplicity, but for me, the most value of this book came in the title. I just could not get into the text. It's a revised version of a book originally written in the late 70s to early 80s, and it feels dated in a way that's hard to put my finger on. Just kind of a 1970s California woo-woo eastern-religion-fetishizing using-the-phrase-"consciousness raising" kind of tone. It's very abstract and didn't contain a lot of concrete ideas for simplifying, which in some ...more
Erik Akre
Jul 16, 2015 Erik Akre rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those who think about humankind's fate, or those who seek a more sustainable lifestyle
Duane Elgin's strives in his work for a hopeful and compelling vision of humanity's triumph over the current ecological crisis. The challenges he presents are daunting; he handles them compassionately, thoughtfully, with a good degree of inspiration. What he asks of his reader is the consideration of a new way of life, beyond consumption and greed. He sees the way for the human race to adopt this way, but definitely warns us of the consquences if we do not adopt it. It may be an important read f ...more
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Peyton Herrington
Love the concept, but the book seemed to be a dull march through conceptualizations of the idea. I enjoy the practical ideas and well thought reasons why the lifestyle makes sense. The writer lost me in drawn out discussions of social science ideas concerning the lifestyle. I'd recommend skim reading the book and skipping portions you don't seem to enjoy.
Daniel Polehn
This did a good job of pointing out the personal benefits of a simpler way of living. However the book also attempts to prove that unless we all simplify and live in one big hippy commune known as Planet Earth we are doomed for a sad and depressing future (more or less paraphrasing here), which might be true but isn't very helpful.
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
Gets pretty repetitive, and since it's older, a lot of the ideas are outdated and have been heard before (watch less TV and consume less). However, the fact that it's decades old marks this book as both somewhat prophetic for it's time and a huge alarm bell that we haven't progressed past it yet!!!!
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
I didn't finish this book. I'd been excited to read it for a while and my husband was very happy to start in on it, too. But it didn't take either of us long to abandon it for lack of interesting substance. We're very into books on simplicity, but not this one. Bummer.
I've been fascinated by voluntary simplicity and minimalism for years, and this book is a classic on those subjects. But I found the delivery a bit repetitive for my tastes. I also have a dislike for numerous case studies, which is basically the first quarter of the book. I'm glad I read it but it certainly didn't pull me along.
Heather G
Many sections of this book are terrifically inspiring. Some become esoteric. In all, a worthwhile read for anyone who is uncomfortable with the rampant consumerism that stifles real engagement in life today.
I stopped reading half way through the book. I was simply not feeling it. The gloom and doom tone is not something I appreciate in this kind of book.

I might try finishing it in a few months since there are so many good reviews on it. Maybe it's just my current state of mind that doesn't resonate with the book.
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
When this book first came out, it was very revolutionary thinking. It helped set the course to think about reducing our footprints on the earth.
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“Satisfactions are fulfillment of the heart. Dissatisfactions are the rumblings of the mind.” 3 likes
“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
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