April 25, 2020

What Are Your Favourite Simple Living Books?

Millions of people have recently, through no fault of their own, become involuntarily un-jobbed. Has there ever been a better time to do some reading about simple living? 

Any time is a good time, but now is especially appropriate since many people have time to read, and plenty of reasons to want to learn more about getting by with less.

That leads me to a comment on a recent post, in which a reader (Mary) wrote, 

"...something I wanted to ask this community: what are your favourite simple living-type books?"

I have been wanting to ask readers the exact same question as I have been thinking about creating a "Readings/Resources" page to add at the top of this blog.

How nice, then, that as soon as the question was asked, you began to respond.I think it was Madeleine's comment that got us started.

"Hello Mary, off the top of my head here a a few all-time favourite books:  
Timeless Simplicity: Creative Living in a Consumer Society by John Lane - beautifully written and more philosophical than "how-to". I love it and have read it many times. 
Retrosuburbia: The Downshifters Guide to a Resilient Future by David Holmgren - a brilliant book that will give you hope for a better future and tell you how to do it (huge and about AUD $80, but well worth it). 
Down To Earth by Rhonda Hetzel - A timeless classic and especially good for anyone new to the how-tos and whys of simple living.  
She has a brilliant blog and it could take you a year to plumb the archives! Perfect for times like these."

Then, Mela left a comment that described a blissful evening including a pot of tea, a purring cat, a sofa, and a "frayed paged" copy of Charles Long's How To Survive Without a Salary, which has been described as,

"...more than a guide to financial management: it promotes a lifestyle program which advocates avoiding consumer traps, using budgets, analyzing needs, and finding alternatives to buying".  

I sure can get behind that. 

I'd like to see a few more titles in that series for the coronavirus lockdown, and for the new world that we will live in when it is over. 

Several come to mind:

- How to Survive Without A Grocery Store

- How to Survive Without Capitalism
- How To Survive Without Fast/Processed Foods
- How To Survive Without Killing The Planet
- How to Survive Without War, Police, and The State
- How to Survive Without Billionaires 
- How To Survive Without Avocado Toast

What are your favourite simple living reads? 

You can leave your selections in the comments, where Mary originally popped the question, or post a comment on this page below if you haven't already over there. 

Thank you to everyone that has weighed in already. We look forward to further responses, and to compiling them all into a master list for everyone to use to guide us toward gentler, slower, lighter, and in the end, better living.


  1. Anonymous4/26/2020

    Hello Gregg,

    somehow my words about Retrosuburbia have ended up describing Rhonda's book, which is not $80! (though Retrosuburbia is a 500 odd page book usually retailing for around $80). I have just discovered that the author has made Retrosuburbia available online for whatever people can afford to pay, in light of the need for it due to our current situation - brilliant!

    In a bit of synchronicity, I had literally just looked up the pictured book at my local bookseller before I opened your post.


    1. Hi Madeleine. I fixed that in the post, plus added a link to Rhonda Jean's Down To Earth Blog, which I agree is a great place to learn about the basics of simple home-based living.

      I also found the Retrosuburbia website here: https://retrosuburbia.com, where readers can download to the book. It looks awesome - perfect reading for right now.

    2. Anonymous4/26/2020

      Wonderful Gregg, thank you!


  2. Anonymous4/26/2020

    In Praise of Idleness by Bertrand Russell was the first thing I read that made me question why we even value being busy. Life changing.

    Good philosophical underpinning for the more practical works!

    Clara (Australia)

    1. I am sure millions of people are questioning busyness right now, and can see that idleness is not the evil sin that our masters have made it out to be. They lie.

      I promote lying down over telling lies. Imagine if everyone that felt like lying had a lay-down until the feeling passed.

      Linda and I have been delving into philosophy lately, so thank you for this recommendation. It fits right in. But first, Plato.

  3. John Lane's Timeless simplicity is a wonderful book. My copy is falling apart as i have read it so many times. Every word is a gem. He writes so beautifully in an understated 'English' way.
    I so enjoy your writings Greg. Thanks
    Sally UK

    1. Thank you for participating. I am looking forward to compiling all the excellent recommendations.

  4. Anonymous4/27/2020

    Thank you Gregg! I so enjoy researching new books, and all these suggestions are on the list. I found "Timeless Simplicity" in electronic form at my library and am enjoying it immensely. Many others suggested are in electronic form too, and on my For Later shelf - a place I can tag the books I want to read later so I don't forget! "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" was there but only one electronic copy and several in line to read it, which is good, so I just got in line to wait my turn.

    I've heard of Retrosuburbia and will check them out today. Also a big fan of Rhonda Hetzel and have two of her books.

    One of my favorite simplicity books is "Choosing Simplicity: Real People Finding Peace and Fulfillment in a Complex World" by Linda Breen Pierce. I own the Kindle version and have read it a couple times, and it is back on my reading list again. If folks have Kindle Unlimited there are numerous simple living type books available for free to read. I know, that is supporting a huge company like Amazon, but well, I do enjoy the Kindle Unlimited service and find I read a lot more with it.

    Looking forward to the resources page on the website, Gregg. With all these great suggestions it'll be super to have it all in one place.

    And thank you everyone for your ideas. Keep safe and read, read, read!

    - Mary

    1. So many good books. Read, read, read for sure.

  5. I am surprised no one has mentioned "Walden." That was the beginning of actually thinking about things for me. Leo Babauta's "The Power of Less" helped me sort out my job (what pays the rent)/career or vocation (what my heart wants to do)/home conundrums. After my husband passed away from mesothelioma, Barbara Ehrenreich's "Bright-Sided:How Positive Thinking Is Undermining America" really helped me clear the mental and emotional cobwebs the experience left with me. COVID-19 has given me the experience of working virtually (my children--who have been trying to convince me to try it for some time due to the safety issues involved with waiting for buses, etc. in a Winnipeg winter-- think it is hilarious that it took a pandemic to make me try it) and I have decided this is where I am staying when the emergency is over. I am 71 and they worry. This will save the equivalent of a full shift in travel time every week. Time that can be used for things more meaningful. Stay safe, Mela

    1. Oh, yes, Walden for sure. Sorry to hear about the hubby, but how nice that you were able to work through the grief. Good luck with working remotely - what a great opportunity to simplify further. This pandemic is going to change a lot, and it will be interesting to see how it all shakes out.

  6. Anonymous4/28/2020

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    1. Anonymous,

      You have some very legitimate complaints. However, your repeated comments contravene our community comment standards, and I can therefore not publish them here.

      If you wish to state your issues in a less abusive, hateful, and offensive manner, we can have a conversation. You may find that many of our readers agree with you.

      Perhaps targeting one particular group (and everyone in it) as responsible for everything your accuse them of, is not the best way forward. Maybe the people you find here are not the ones you need to go after. I do believe there are many billionaire boomers that have a great affect on the way the world works... or doesn't. As far as I know, none of them visit this blog.

      I suggest taking a good, long look in the mirror, and asking what you and your generation are doing to make things better. Something rather than complaining that the world went to shit on your watch, and how you are all frustrated because you can't gorge out like several generations did before you all came into this messed up world.

      I look forward to hearing about constructive actions in ameliorating the damage done by these previous generations that were beholden to consumerism, selfishness, and greed.

      Somehow I don't think hate is the answer. Nor is splitting society up into smaller and smaller antagonistic groups. To survive, humanity will have to grow up and work together.


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