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The Good Life: Helen and Scott Nearing's Sixty Years of Self-Sufficient Living

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  1,729 ratings  ·  145 reviews
This one volume edition of Living the Good Life and Continuing the Good Life brings these classics on rural homesteading together. This couple abandoned the city for a rural life with minimal cash and the knowledge of self reliance and good health.
Paperback, 411 pages
Published January 3rd 1990 by Schocken (first published 1970)
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4.11  · 
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 ·  1,729 ratings  ·  145 reviews

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Feb 22, 2011 rated it really liked it
Flip the book over. The genre is written there on the top: Nature. "Nature"? This book is about "nature"? Are you kidding me?! See this is why I hate literary genres. Allow me to propose a few more: Philosophy; Environmentalism; Cultural Criticism; Agriculture; Health, Mind and Body; Building; Autobiography; Memoir; Home and Garden; History; Self-Improvement; Activism; American Dream; Food, Diet, and Cooking; Composting and Gardening; Simple Living; Radical Living; Aging, or Aging Well. "Nature" ...more
Sep 06, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Unabombers
Aside from their politics, aside from their philosophy, their ingenuity, their pioneering veganism and their unity of purpose, I was most impressed, and amused even, by the Nearings' regularly interspersed expressions of irritation with their neighbors, and the hippies who descended on their property in the sixties, and the bastards back in the city who excommunicated them, and, really, everybody.

Never were two people better suited to go back to the land. They loved each other and dedicated the
Timothy Finnegan
Feb 17, 2011 rated it really liked it
I went to college in New England. I became aware of the Nearings during the spring of 1972 when my roommate Jim Flagg enrolled in American intellectual history and discovered the Nearings as a research project. He wrote them a letter and received a timely response from Helen Nearing who invited him up to Camden, Maine for a weekend. (Perhaps on reading this Jim will memorialize his experience for posterity.) Scott and Helen Nearing invented the "back to the land" movement. The lifestyle involved ...more
Jun 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
I'd say this was the book that did it: effectively killed that far-off fantasy of procuring a small piece of land, building a little house, and living off mostly what we could do with our hands.
It's funny, because when I saw it one night at a used bookstore in Anchorage, it sang out to me, and I had this idea that all the answers were inside. In a way, they were. I learned that to live in the way described in this book requires just about everything you have, and I realized that the life I've c
Jun 11, 2010 rated it it was amazing

I love this book. It answered all my questions about how one would go about ditching the capitalist game and living self-sufficiently and it is a constant inspiration. The Nearings had me completely smitten until they got to their eating habits, which are basically vegan, raw vegetable, fruit, some nuts and grains and things and occasionally peanut butter. I love them as one can only love people you know as characters in a book, but what seems to me skipping out on a basic function of human soci
Nov 13, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: agriculture
Recommended to me by my Aunt after talking about reading Joel Salatin. Beyond politics, animal husbandry (which the Nearings avoided) and building with wood (Salatins) vs. stone (Nearings), Everything I Want to Do Is Illegal by Joel Salatin and Living the Good Life by the Nearings are pretty similar.

Living the Good Life is thought to have inspired a generation of back-to-the-earth types in the 60s accomplish just that. This book seemed to be used as a manual for better living through simple liv
Jul 12, 2011 rated it liked it
A homesteading how-to from the Nearings. Having worked on their archival papers and (as an unrelated coincidence) having lived within a mile of their homestead in Vermont at one point, I really should have read this one all the way through a LONG time ago. I admire their drive to live an independent life and follow through with it for the majority of their lives. They lived life as they thought it should be lived, and worked hard at trying to spread the word throughout the U.S. Is it the life fo ...more
heather utah
Mar 14, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: farm-and-garden
'the good life'? more like 'the hard life'!
as an actual homesteader, i was very much looking forward to reading this book and finding great bits of information and methods of improving our own farm. and while they are there, the terse tone, rigid methods, and military discipline of the nearings is quite frightful, and am amazed that readers find their methods inspiring to 'sell it all and move to the country'. [farming is actually more fun and easier than they make it out to be, and in reality i
Jul 24, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in alternative lifestyle, anyone who is a little daring.
Recommended to Chelsea by: My dad- Byron Babbish
The ideas presented in this book were both daring and delightful. It was such an appropriate read for the financial scare we've been in (and comforting!. How empowering that two people with no farming experience learned to care for themselves and their community through their studies and just trial and error. I picked up a ton of tips in this book that can help even the deepest city dweller appreciate the world around them and communities they live in. The book also helped me understand why some ...more
Nov 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
An honest glimpse into the life and two people trying to live their values. Though I don't have a lot in common with the Nearings, I appreciate so much this kind of book. It reminds me of an adult version of the Little House books, just an accurate portrayal of a human life. In some ways it is more interesting than the Little House books because the Nearings explain why they chose to live how they did. There is nothing arrogant or sell-y about this book. If anything, the tone is wistful and sad. ...more
Dec 14, 2018 rated it it was ok
So . . . supposed to be a classic in "basic living." And it does deal with that . . . 1930s-1950s. But these people are just a little too self-righteous for my taste. So proud that they don't eat meat. Fine. But they won't raise chickens for eggs or cows for milk. Calls them "slaves." Worse, they are down-right proud of how the refuse to make a "profit." If they make something that people want, they keep track of their hours of labor, and refuse to charge more than enough to pay them a basic wag ...more
Mel Rei
Nov 23, 2017 rated it liked it
The Nearings were an impressive couple who truly lived by their principles - a rare trait which makes for a real treat. My only grievances with this book are the, at times, lengthy descriptions of specific topics such as house building. They wrote separate books on these topics for readers who plan to put their philosophy and way of life into practice. But be forewarned, the Nearings were not distinctive in their beliefs but they were in the way they were able to put them into action, without do ...more
David Cohn
Sep 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
Much excellent exploration on the mindset of abandoning a city life in favor of communal self-sufficiency, and plenty of practical advice on challenges and techniques learned on the way. Some chapters are downright preachy, however, and with the hindsight of an additional 50 years of historical context, plain wrong (especially those concerning diet). But overall a valuable book and a remarkable chronicle of a remarkable adventure. Well worth reading for anyone considering adopting a "country lif ...more
Bobby Jones
Oct 24, 2018 rated it liked it
Definitely dated at times, and certain points on which they go into excessive technical detail are not worth the modern reader's time. The walls of quotes that bookend the chapters may have seemed nice when the book was published but here represent a frivolity and an annoyance to the reader. Overall, something I would recommend to anyone interested in self-sufficiency, but here the book's contours matter more than the firm details.
Jan 04, 2019 rated it liked it
The book is actually chock full of interesting and valuable homesteading information, however the heavy handed political and social criticisms do get rather tiresome. The couple’s endeavors are to be admired for sure and there is value and truth in some of what the authors discuss regarding cultural obsession with materialism and wealth building.
Jun 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
A homesteading how-to with snippets of philosophy, politics and opinion. Some of the how-to was cumbersome and some of the opinion was annoying, but overall I enjoyed reading about Scott and Helen Nearing. They sold land to the Coleman’s!
Christine Kenney
Mar 05, 2018 rated it liked it
Classic while making points that are still timely. Personal rating slightly lower because many of the topics were not reference-relevant to folks homesteading in frost free and semi-urban environments.
May 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A classic for homesteaders. They are the ones that started it all. The whole back to earth movement of the 60s, 70s and 80s.
Marnie Zorn
Apr 17, 2019 rated it it was ok
Didn't finish..
Stephany Wilkes
Nov 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
The Nearings' own words on p. 389 neatly summarize this book: "If we would have things done, we must be prepared to do them." The book is a fact-filled but engaging guide written by two people who were prepared to do things, and did. The Nearings are not most people.

The book is very clearly written, engaging, easy to read and -- unlike many books today -- does not skip out on details of what is required and HOW to actually create the life they did. I finished it with many how-to notes for my own
Nov 02, 2007 rated it it was amazing
While out living on the new homestead in upstate New York, I read Helen and Scott Nearing’s accounts of their 40+ years of homesteading in Vermont and Maine. This is actually two shorter books collected into one edition in 1989: Living the Good Life (1954) and Continuing the Good Life (1979). The first tells of their 20 years in Vermont, while the second tells of 25 years (and, at that time, counting) living in Maine. The second volume, though, doesn’t just recount a lot of the same things they ...more
I wanted to like this book, and I did learn a lot from a few chapters, but by the end I just wanted it to be over, and if I weren't such a completionist I probably wouldn't have finished. The Nearings were one of the original 'homesteading couples' as far as I am aware and they accomplished some amazing works. Their chapters on building with stone were particularly impressive to me, and their technique for such seems highly accessible. However reading this book in 2016 (originally published in 1 ...more
Oct 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
What an incredible journey for two people who actually LIVED the life many of us "say" we want. Helen and Scott Nearing lived on a VT farm for 20 years (1932-1952), and then moved to Maine to their "Forest Farm", which is now the "Good Life" Center. This book, The Good Life: Helen and Scott Nearing's Sixty Years of Self-Sufficient Living, chronicles their path. Pacifists and vegetarians, the Nearings lived a life to match their beliefs. The book is full of specific details on gardening, building ...more
Kim Sutherland
Dec 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
If you’ve ever fantasized about ditching city life for a more rural, self-sufficient existence, you’ve found your back-to-the-land bible. Published in 1970, The Good Life is an autobiographical, how-to book by Helen and Scott Nearing that tracks their move from life in New York City to a self-sustaining farm in rural Vermont in 1932. The goal is to encourage questioning of the systems that we depend on and to offer concrete examples for alternative ways of living.

Before farm life, Helen was a cl
Feb 11, 2015 rated it it was ok
Helen and Scott Nearing, pacifist, teetotaling, nonsmoking, caffeine-free, collectivist, and vegetarian, moved from New York City to Vermont's Green Mountains in 1932, already middle-aged, to homestead. These books cover their trials, accomplishments, and philosophies (read: politics) on that first plot and their second homestead in Maine. These books inspired more than a few of the 1970s back-to-the-landers, as I learned from Back From the Land . However, I also learned from that book that Hel ...more
Gowri N.
Apr 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
For some time now, I have been interested in sustainable living, and have been making efforts to reduce my footprint.

Scouting around for interesting reads on this subject, I came across "The Good Life", an account of how Helen and Scott Nearing, an American couple, practiced self-sufficient living for almost 60 years.

The book gives fascinating insights into what motivated them to give up city life and move to a place in the country, how they chose where to settle down, how they built up that wil
Feb 18, 2014 rated it it was ok
I have some really mixed feelings about this book. On one hand, the Nearing's seem to have some great observations about the poor state of the American food system, many decades before that was common knowledge. They also have some reasonable advice for how to live and appreciation of the simple pleasures in life.

On the other hand, there was too often an arrogant overtone to their approach as contrasted to their neighbors. I also couldn't help noticing how often they lauded themselves while only
Heidi Thorsen
May 28, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: instructional
The edition of the book I read included both books by this author, first the memoir about her years in Vermont, then the book about her years in Maine. Both were interesting, and there is much about homesteading I learned and can apply to my own life. The author and her husband were frustrated communists-- frustrated since they could not convince their neighbors to create a community based on shared labor. I must say I personally fall into the same camp as their neighbors and favor individuality ...more
Carisa Crosbie
Jul 03, 2010 rated it it was ok
I was really excited about this book the first chapter. They were living, well.... a good life. I liked their hopes, dreams, and ideals for the future and that they were actually living them and sharing them with others. I admired that they worked hard and gave up much, but gained much more. It was awesome that they realized 60 years ago how we are damaging our planet and were doing everything they could to live a healthy life for themselves and the planet. Then the book went into painstakingly ...more
Nov 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is an excellent book for anyone thinking of giving up the city or suburban life style to live in the country. The book takes place over 70 years ago to start so a lot iof things have changed, especially how much money you should prepare to have before making this type of move.Also barter was used much more in the 30's and 40's than it is nowadays where everything is cash in hand. The books title might have you think that Scott and Helen Nearing created a working farm all by themselves which ...more
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good life for some 1 25 Jun 24, 2008 01:38PM  

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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
“The value of doing something does not lie in the ease or difficulty, the probability or improbability of its achievement, but in the vision, the plan, the determination and the perseverance, the effort and the struggle which go into the project. Life is enriched by aspiration and effort, rather than by acquisition and accumulation.” 14 likes
“The store customer, who comes home with a package under his arm has learned nothing, except that a ten dollar bill is a source of power in the market place. The man or woman who has converted material into needed products via tools and skills has matured in the process.” 4 likes
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