Book Review: Radical Simplicity

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First of all, a couple of confessions. 1.) I’ve been known to threaten family while watching latest Hollywood blockbuster on 30 inch Trinitron that we’re moving off the grid so start polishing up your library cards. 2.) I drove the mile to the library on a sunny day to write this review instead of taking my bicycle (time pressure was my excuse although I still managed to read a battery of periodicals before starting this). 3.) I was inclined to like Dan Price’s book Radical Simplicity and read it straight through. Of course, you can see by numbers one and two that I live in a delusional world where wishes and reality rarely meet and number three? Well, that’s just throwing gasoline on everything.And yet, that is one of the charms of Radical Simplicity. The author is very honest about some of the contradictions he presents (for example, he notes the critical importance of a life mate but cannot change the lifestyle that drives said life mate away - she wasn’t willing to live in a tipi complete with outhouse and sweatlodge), nevertheless, he conducts his life with a certain integrity that seems so sincere that to follow any other path would be the true lie. Another example. He sells his car, walks 350 miles home, praises the merits of riding a bicycle, but, when his life stumbles into a phase where he needs a car again, he gets a car. (For the record, the self-subsistence off-grid tome, Living the Good Life, states that the one thing they could not do without was their pickup truck).

Radical Simplicity is not really a guide to living a life where less is more, rather, one man’s story about evolving a lifestyle which reflects this attitude. If the advanced minimalist finds the philosophical component of Mr. Price’s efforts a bit thin, consider the fact that it is a twenty-odd year journey of self-discovery in which he doesn’t necessarily know the answers and doesn’t consider it a violation of his principles when he finally installs a hot shower of sorts or invests in an expensive copier [although his practice of dismantling, filling in and selling (as in tipi fabric), recycling or burning previous domiciles gives him a harsh introduction to the concept of equity when approaching the banker for copier loan]. And because we have the benefit of twenty years experimentation, the evolution of his less is more takes on a certain sophistication that lends itself to the phases everyone’s life passes through, or, in other senses, the reality that confronts his utopian lifestyle such as theft and ants.

When I summed the merits of this book up and asked myself whether or not it is worth $12.95, one thought flashed through my mind: You might not use Dan Price’s tips to help build your Hobbit hole, but if this book helps you trim 500 square feet off your next real estate purchase, then it’s a value.

by Paul Armas Lepisto