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Living the Good Life: How to Live Sanely and Simply in a Troubled World
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Living the Good Life: How to Live Sanely and Simply in a Troubled World

4.15  ·  Rating details ·  280 ratings  ·  27 reviews
Living the Good Life, like Walden Pond, is deeply rooted in an enduring American tradition of dissent from the majority and respect for the land. Moreover, it is the distillation of twenty--not two--years in the woods, and it offers wisdom and practical guidance to city dweller and prospective homesteader alike.

This book is a harvest of congenial and specific advice on har
Hardcover, 210 pages
Published June 1st 1970 by Schocken Books (first published January 1st 1954)
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Sep 27, 2013 rated it liked it
This book is the first-person account of a determined, conscientious couple who decided to check out of the Great Depression and head to the woods to find a different way of life. It's a fascinating look at the practice of homesteading, which Scott and Helen Nearing successfully accomplished for two decades in rural Vermont, starting in 1932. Although the book feels outdated in some ways, I was pleasantly surprised at how many of the Nearings' insights still hold true today. They were ahead of t ...more
Apr 19, 2010 rated it it was ok
I imagine this book was pretty radical for its time, but I yawned my way through it. Her ideological hiccups were too hard for me to jump over. . . Anti-capitalist, fine. But then to ignore the fact that your years working the rat race in NYC earned you enough $$ to buy up two or three long-standing farmsteads in Vermont. Anti-meat-eating, fine. But then to suggest that *anyone* who keeps animals--even does so humanely and with loving care--is "enslaving" them? Etc. A bit too black/white for me; ...more
Jan 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
a great book for those who wish to live more simply and healthy.
Linda Robinson
May 14, 2010 rated it it was amazing
The Nearings left NY in 1932 to create a quiet life, powered by bread labor, muscle, good healthy food - and to liberate themselves from the hurly burly, planet-destroying, warmaking urban world. From the preface: "We were against the accumulation of profit and unearned income by non-producers." They wanted a use economy instead of a cash economy. They hoped to replace worry and fear with serenity and purpose. They did all that. Scott and Helen Nearing didn't just wander off into the Green Mount ...more
Steve Comstock
Sep 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: farming
After reading this, I will never be able to apply the word "diligent" to myself again. The level of dedication and rigid devotion the Nearings applied to crafting a new life for themselves is really inspiring. This is not an ideological book, though the authors are obviously ideological people. Their tone was frank and helpful not one of proselytization. Along the way they shared some very helpful information about composting, planning, building with stone, and winter gardening among other thing ...more
Mary Wescott
Apr 01, 2011 rated it really liked it
It's a book I need to buy to make notes! I have a fantasy of living off the grid and being self-sustainable. That seems like an awful lot to do at once, so maybe I'll just start with buying a few chickens and attempting at growing yet another garden! ;-)
Jul 02, 2012 is currently reading it
The preface alone is a great manifesto for the back to the earth, away from the rat-race lifestyle.
Jungsook Chung
Jun 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
I read the people's book reviews on 'Living the Good Life' by Helen and Scott Nearing and am surprised that this book is said interesting by some of them.

I felt the first three chapters are lengthy and boring with too many details since I have no desire or intention to build a house or farm, but I admire and respect the couple's accomplishments.

(Scott Nearing is thought to follow Gandhi or Tolstoy's way not to chase the world but pursue self sufficient living style. Scott and Helen led a real
Aug 05, 2017 rated it liked it
In lots of ways very interesting. In lots of ways super annoying, as only self-satisfied vegans can be (says the former self-satisfied vegan).

My biggest take-away is probably either that if something is not pressing, don't worry about finishing it; or, four hours "bread labor" every day, four hours other pursuits. (The term "bread labor" was one of the things I found annoying, but in the end is super descriptive and useful).
Krista Stevens
Mar 24, 2019 rated it liked it
This couple bought a farm in the 1930s and endeavored to live self-sufficiently without meat, dairy etc. Their chapter on building a house of out stone was very interesting - as was the chapter on how to keep a garden in the northeast producing far earlier and later in the season. Quite interesting.
Keri Calhoun
Nov 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
mostly excellent thought the loooong chapter on building a stone house was a bit of a slog.
Mar 27, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this book mostly interesting because of the time period. I didn't think that the liberal values in this book were already developed in the 1930s. The anti-capitalism, back-to-the-land, largely raw organic vegan ideals of theirs are mostly attributed to the 1960's and 1970's, and have made a comeback today. I know Thoreau did a lot of the same things in Walden (which I started reading years ago but I hope to read soon) but as far as I remember, I didn't see him fitting into the modern lib ...more
Nov 09, 2010 rated it liked it
This is an interesting, before-its-time account of two individuals, Helen and Scott Nearing, and their experiences while homesteading in rural Vermont from 1932-1952.

I call the book forward-thinking for several reasons. The authors were actually Marxists attempting to build an existence for themselves that was independent of the capitalist economics of their country, especially in the wake of the Great Depression when they began their venture. Thus, as intellectuals, they held many opinions tha
Sep 18, 2011 rated it liked it
I ran across this book while scanning the library shelves for books about Vermont for a fall trip. I had heard of Helen and Scott Nearing but didn't know much detail about their lives. They were socialist vegans living a purposely subsistance farming life in a Vermont valley from 1932-1952. They built their house and farm buildings by hand from stone, grew almost all their own food, and did it all working only four hours per day. They would have loved to set up a communal way of life with other ...more
Jun 30, 2013 rated it liked it
I've had this on my shelf for years and finally I decided to pick it up in hopes of clearing out "to do" reading. So I didn't go into this book with the best of intentions. I found myself semi interested in Helen and Scott's 1930 homesteading adventures and skimmed through most of the book. My takeaway was that I was reading about hippies before hippies were even thought of and "organic" farmers before there was the big organic movement. Also they are a bit insufferable - which is true of many t ...more
Oct 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
This is a fascinating account of the Nearings' efforts to live off the land, as simply as possible and in a communal spirit during the 1930s through the 1950s. What fascinates me are the innumerable parallels to current times: their disillusion with modern society and their neighbors reactions to their lifestyle. We think the world is changing so much, but some themes are timeless. While this may have been a little dry, it was a very fast read and I think it's important to learn more about this ...more
Feb 24, 2014 rated it really liked it
I liked it. It was fascinating reading. Lots of good lessons in this book. I really loved reading about the building techniques and the gardening techniques used.

The annoying part to me was the sad assumption which is made obvious in the summary that being an 'individualist' is bad and being a 'collectivist' is good. Can't everybody realize that these are two very important and character traits, and that they need not be mutually exclusive. Both are necessary and important to strong vibrant inno
Jim Krosschell
Sep 03, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: maine-books
Helen (1904-1995) and Scott (1883-1983) Nearing began their “good life” by leaving New York in favor of Vermont in 1932. Driven out of Vermont by the development of Stratton Mountain ski resort, they moved to Cape Rosier on the east side of Penobscot Bay in 1952 and lived in Maine until Scott’s death at the age of 100 and Helen’s death at 91. Living the Good Life: How to Live Simply and Sanely in a Troubled World is as inspirational now, especially now, as it was when published in 1954.
Carol Miller
I read this book nearly 10 years ago when I wanted to know more about Mrs. Nearing and her husband, Scott. I do not think I could live this spartan of a lifestyle, but it is amazing and satisfying to know there are others out there who realize the importance of "less being more". They are both truly examples of lives well-lived. Bravo!
Andrew Fitzhugh
Mar 02, 2011 rated it really liked it
Long before Pollan, Kingsolver et al -- an astonishing 50 years before! -- the Nearings were telling us many of the same things about food. This book is sprinkled with quotes from books as far back as the 17th century. I love the historical perspective this book adds to contemporary writing on healthy food.
Feb 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
A primer for the lifestyle I'm headed toward.
David Bates
Nov 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
I grew up in rural New Hampshire surrounded by back-to-the-land baby boomers.

It was so strange to pick up this book and suddenly sight back down the trajectory of the whole project.
Jul 16, 2013 rated it really liked it
Great book on self-sufficiency written at a time when it was far from popular!
Robert Cymbala
Jun 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is a deep book. It's a lot of detail on top of a solid ethical, values, social, economic, happiness "good life" theory. It does the hard thing: combine theory and practice. Bravo!
Jennifer Talarico
The ideas in this book are as relevant today as they were when Helen and Scott Nearing set out to live off the land in the 1930's.
Feb 27, 2016 rated it liked it
Decent book outlining why one should live simply, with practical tips of how to do so. Drawbacks: Quite dated, a bit narrow-minded, and slow at times.
Patrick Mertaugh
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Sep 09, 2012
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Jan 02, 2017
Jamie Quirk
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Jun 06, 2013
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Jul 15, 2017
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Helen Knothe Nearing was an American author and advocate of simple living. She and Scott Nearing started a relationship in 1928 and married nearly 20 years later, on December 12, 1947.[3][3] The couple lived in rural Vermont where they grew much of their food and erected nine stone buildings over the course of two decades. They earned money by producing maple syrup and sugar from the trees on thei ...more

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