Twelve By Twelve: A one-room cabin off the grid & beyond the American dream by William Powers.
I’m not much into writing book reviews, but really liked this one so at least wanted to let other people know about it. The back of the book can summarize better than I can:
“Why would a successful American physician choose to live in a twelve-by-twelve-foot cabin without running water or electricity? To find out, writer and activist William Powers visited Dr. Jackie Benton in rural North Carolina, where she shared her wildcrafter philosophy of living on a planet in crisis. Powers, just back from a decade of international aid work, then accepted Benton’s offer to stay at the cabin for a seaon while she traveled.”
So the book is mostly a memoir of this guy’s time living in the 12 x 12 and getting to know the neighbors also living “alternative lifestyles”. He writes a lot of his thoughts about how the world works in relation to simple living, and also includes stories from his time abroad.
One passage I could especially relate to:
“In international aid work, the philosophical chasm between living well and living better can lead to culture clash – as well as to serious marital problems. I know a French aid worker who married a woman from Burkina Faso. Their most difficult problem isn’t money or in-laws but idleness. His wife, he confided to me one day, “has to have five or six hours a day of doing absolutely nothing in order to be happy.” My friend is inclined to fill every available moment with work, hobbies, and travel, but his wife prefers to simply sit on the stoop watching the breeze in the trees, idly chatting and joking. If she doesn’t get this idle time, she becomes grouchy.”
I read that and thought “that’s me!” I’m happiest when I can spend hours sitting on my porch in the sun reading, or taking long aimless walks – I just wish I could find other people to do them with me. My ideal life would be to have other stay at home moms on my block who weren’t rushing around to scheduled activities, who weren’t so busy, who just wanted to spend the afternoons casually hanging out.
Anyway, this book is great. It made me think a lot about how I want to live my life, it’s easy to read and the writing is perfect balance between philosophy, interesting stories, and drama between the neighbors and in Powers’ own life.