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How to Be Alive: A Guide To The Kind of Happiness That Helps The World
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How to Be Alive: A Guide To The Kind of Happiness That Helps The World

3.63  ·  Rating details ·  416 ratings  ·  64 reviews
The author of No Impact Man and founder of the No Impact Project returns with this trailblazing guide to living a meaningful and fulfilling life while also contributing to the wellbeing of our communities and the planet.

When Colin Beavan embarked upon a yearlong experiment to lead a zero net-impact existence in the middle of New York City, he had no idea what a profound ef
Hardcover, 448 pages
Published January 5th 2016 by Dey Street Books (first published August 11th 2015)
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Average rating 3.63  · 
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Rift Vegan
Sep 18, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2016
Ha! I got this book because the title intrigued me. I actually know how to be alive, and I happily help the world every day. But I was interested in how someone else does this. um, yeah. Some serious *rolls the eyes*. The premise of the book is to find one little thing in your life to fix, and then ALL OF A SUDDEN! the universe makes it easier to fix bigger things which helps others and the planet and of course makes you happy. gah.
AJ Hadigan
Jan 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. I found it helpful to break up my life into small segments and start making small changes instead of seeing improving my life as a major undertaking. It is easy to feel completely disabled by personal and world problems that you do nothing because it is so overwhelming. Instead, I was able to look at one small thing I could do to improve my life and the world and make that change. I have also been changing my mindset, instead of feeling helpless to feeling like there is someth ...more
May 03, 2016 rated it liked it
I think I would like this guy a lot - but he's kind of "preaching to the choir" with this book. Some good advice about priorities, most of which I already follow, and some really good insights about social connections that made me rethink some things about how I tend to be a bit "isolated". Some of it gets a little "hippy-dippy" for me, but I think his heart is in the right place and I didn't feel offended at all by any of this. Nothing profound, but a pretty good little read if you are looking ...more
Bonnie G.
Jul 25, 2016 rated it did not like it
Shelves: stalled
What... What is this? I fell asleep during this book several times. Who signed this off? This weird self help book is embarrassing
Mar 17, 2017 rated it it was ok
Ugh. I grabbed this after seeing it on the UUA bookstore in hopes of finding something vaguely spiritual for Lent, but I wasn't impressed.

His advice was mostly based on the idea that you have some inner True Self, and if you can just find it and act accordingly you'll be happier yourself and improve the world. I find that kind of individualism theologically questionable and morally insufficient - what if the desires that you decide make up your True Self are kind of shitty?

On this shaky founda
Lisa Lewis
I would like to give 3.5 stars, but I will round up because I think Colin is a good guy and I would like to encourage people to read his stuff. This book, as well as his blog and other activities, focus on finding the way to being happy while helping the world. His premise, which I very much agree with, is that being happy and helping the world are not mutually exclusive goals, and are often quite in alignment. The book includes stories of real or imagined individuals to illustrate ideas, and th ...more
Sonia Faruqi
Jan 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
How to be Alive is a terrific book! It is so very detailed and well thought-out. The author Colin Beavan has considered every aspect of the modern life and offered thoughtful, well-considered suggestions on how to make the most of the one-time offer that is life. Among other things, he helps us decide how to eat, how to engage with community, how to make friends, how to live in alignment with one’s values, and how to find purpose in life. He proposes that we think about how we can help the world ...more
Nov 15, 2017 rated it it was ok
While there was some good material in the book, I found it disappointing. It promised much, and delivered little. I was intrigued with his last book--No Impact Man. His honesty, and philosophical inquiry in that book was matched by his pithy advice. No Impact Man had a specific purpose and the author's experience was to the point. With this book the subject was too broad, and the advice too diffuse and unsubstantial. It is basically a "follow your heart" (so long as your heart encourages you to ...more
Jan 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this book overall, although it's dense, perhaps tries to tackle too many subjects, and I think could benefit from editing. That said, it offers two key messages that I really enjoyed investigating: the idea that we can return to our original selves and reject some of the conditioning we have been taught to blindly accept and the answer to the question of what creates happiness is connection and service to others and our values. I would've liked to see more practical application in the ...more
Jan 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone who is unsatisfied with their life and searching for their passion.
Fantastic book. It's clear, well-written, and inspiring. I think it's 5 star for many people, a lot of this I already knew, there were a few chapters less meaningful (though still a good read), like the ones on kids was less significant for me, but many good stories and lessons on here on how to live a good life, be useful, and make the world a better place. ...more
Timothy Stobbs
Mar 09, 2016 rated it it was ok
I wanted to like this book. In fact when I started to read it I was a bit excited by what I was reading. Yet overall I was disappointed by the book.

It doesn't really cover much new material so if you read similar books you won't learn anything new. Also there were long parts that were not needed and seemed to repeat similar concepts.

In the end, save your time and read something else.
Eric De Feo
Jul 15, 2017 rated it liked it
I found this on a library bookshelf and skimmed for 3 hrs - I was always interested in the story of No Impact Man, but the book doesn't really address lowering your carbon footprint so much. It's simply a good refresher for life inspiration, but could have been edited down. Always interested in learning new tools that make people tick. ...more
Mar 24, 2016 rated it it was ok
I did not care for the underlying agenda of the author, who is very biased against things like oil exploration and eating meat, neither of have anything to do with living a meaningful and balanced life.
Kadi Viik
Funny. I really enjoyed the No Impact Man. But this book was just... tedious. The style is turbid and feels unedited. Like a mind-flow. I don't know how many times I read "bear with me, I will get to this later". If you have to write down instructions like that, there IS a problem with your style. ...more
Samantha Puc
Dec 05, 2015 rated it really liked it
3.5 stars. Full review on The Verbal Thing. ...more
Nov 14, 2017 rated it did not like it
I loved the no impact man documentary but did not enjoy this. Not what I was hoping for. Long winded and overly philosophical.
Allison Denny
I picked this up while going through a hard time and did not finish it. I started running instead.
Jan 24, 2019 rated it did not like it
This book is what people who make fun of self-help books think self-help books are.
Jan 09, 2020 rated it it was ok
1. Pay attention to the stories you tell yourself about the world and notice how they have huge assumptions you can likely prove false/how they shape your worldview.

2. Small steps and changes will accumulate into much bigger actions

3. Be true to yourself

There, I saved you from having to read this extremely long and meandering and self-praising self-help book.
Belle Beth Cooper
Jul 31, 2020 rated it liked it
Pretty repetitive and I didn't like how the author used capitals for words like Truth and Self and his own made-up jargon a lot. I got something out of it but not heaps, and it felt longer than it needed to be. ...more
Sean Goh
Aug 04, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: relating, pers-dev
Generally agree with the message of the book, which is care for each other, and start with yourself. Form a community, question the status quo, build your own life. My main beef with it is that it's very Ameri-centric. Still, a worthy goal to strive towards, especially personal community.

Shifting from self-help to each-other help gives you a deeper, wider and more satisfying idea of what success means.

The time when "you have to grow up" is actually the time many of us stunt our own growth. Be
Feb 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
A book that has joined me on a personal journey over the last couple of years from the moment I spotted it in the UN bookshop in NYC.. Some truly thought provoking activities to help ourselves and the planet at the same time.
Jan 27, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: spiritual
While this book had some tips and ideas that were new and helpful to me, it also had a lot that wasn't.

A lot of the author's suggestions were naive or impractical and after a while they began to stick in my craw. He suggests giving up your car and walking everywhere and states that even bad weather is no deterrent: he likes walking in the rain. That's fine, but if you're heading somewhere important, or are carrying something walking in the rain and getting wet may not be such a source of pleasur
Feb 12, 2018 rated it liked it
The standard life approach doesn't work for most people: get good grades, go to a good college, land the perfect career that makes enough money to live well, marry the love of your life, live happily ever after. That might have worked at one time, but the world has changed. So why not take responsibility and develop the life you want? Live in line with what matters to you. Ask "How can I help?" in each situation, and see what happens.

I read the first section, then started skimming (it is long...
Mar 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Beavan brings a wealth of norm-challenging ideas to the table. How to Be Alive is truly an interesting and challenging read which calls the reader to examine various aspects of their life and see where they are aligned with their "True Self, " and even calls into focus what that "True Self" and essentially "good life" exactly means for them. The biggest take away for me from this book was to question and rethink some of the norms or "standard life approaches" we're born into given the society we ...more
Dec 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
As far as self-help lit goes (is this that?), I find this book to be helpful thoughts to have swirling around one's life. Doing or even reflecting upon many of the exercises in here are interesting and useful. Sometimes I wondered if it wasn't a call to Occupy or dumpster dive, but I...given my poetic leanings...didn't mind that too much. Reminds me of the admirable John Dewey's overall philosophy quite a bit (and I'm paraphrasing here): be simple & by the way, being simple is one of the hardest ...more
Mar 10, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: memoir, read-in-2017
I went into this book fresh of of No Impact Man. I loved No Impact Man. It was a great memoir: funny, informative, challenging. I loved it. This, however, was not good. It was preachy, it was bordering on pretentious, and I just do not love or like it one bit. I finished it cause I kept thinking it would change, and it never did.
Apr 16, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: ebook
I am a big fan of Colin's other book, No Impact Man. Although I found How To Be Alive slow and sometimes painful to push through there is value here. So even if you question why you have read 200 pages of this like I did. Read on, have some patience. Like in life, not everything is clear and simple right away. ...more
Helena Zhu
Oct 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
The book has intriguing ideas, but the research included are not well cited. Nonetheless, I believe there is value in learning his theories and perspectives. After that, we can start finding evidence to either support or refute his theories. I thought of it as an idea bank to at least get the conversation going.
Jan 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
An indispensable toolbox of multidisciplinary magic for 'life questers' learning to survive and thrive in a world largely disconnected from everything that actually matters. Superb storytelling by someone who continues to walk his talk with remarkable generosity, creativity and compassion. Thank you Colin! ...more
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