Copyright © 2008 by James Park
A few books on
simplifying and focusing our
selected and reviewed by James Park,
arranged in general order of quality, beginning with the best.
To Have or To Be?
(New York: Harper & Row, 1976) 215 pages
Fromm explores the
history and psychology of two character modes:
having (possessions, power, people)
and being (caring, sharing, giving).
Of course, he recommends the being mode
—and suggests several ways we can move in that direction
as individuals and as a culture.
Modern society has taken away our lives and humanity
and given us money and possessions instead.
But we are capable of changing our fundamental life-values
and the basic modes in which we organize our lives.
Simplify Your Life and Enrich Your Soul
(New York: Simon &
(ISBN: 0-684-83813-3; hardback)
(Library of Congress call number: BV4647.S48Y68 1997)
A journalist makes
persuasive arguments for simplifying our lives
—and many practical suggestions for reforming our selves.
The book is well organized and deals with the following themes:
work, relationships, solitude, love, faith, prayer, retreats.
is rather superficial.
Yount affirms a kind of civic religion,
which is short on details but strong on faith-in-general.
But it can still be a place to begin one's spiritual quest.
It helps us turn away from distractions
and ask the deeper questions of life.
At the end, the author and the reader remain middle-class people.
They still hold jobs and have families.
The Circle of Simplicity:
Return to the Good Life
(New York: HarperCollins,
(ISBN: 0-06-017814-0; hardback)
(Library of Congress call number: BJ1496.A53 1997)
We can simplify our
lives if we shop less, consume less, recycle,
buy products produced locally rather than shipped around the world.
This book is rich with details of how actual people
have moved from a high-consuming life to a simpler life-style.
We can examine our basic values and revise our ways of life.
Study circles can help provide ideas and support for such changes.
Altho this book does
not call for radical changes,
it does give lots of gentle guidance
for beginning the process of simplifying our lives.
If we follow the advice of this book,
we would remain basically middle-class persons
with a somewhat simpler style of life.
The Simple Living Guide:
A Sourcebook for Less Stressful, More Joyful Living
(New York: Broadway Books,
(ISBN: 0-553-06796-6; hardcover)
(Library of Congress call number: BJ1496.L84 1997)
The founder and editor
of the Simple Living Journal
shares her insights and the suggestions of other contributors
about simplifying our lives and making everything work better.
The writing is good.
The advice is practical rather than utopian.
The philosophy-of-life is sound.
Readers are welcomed into this new way of thinking,
rather than being made to feel guilty about their prior way of life.
This book is definitely
for middle-class people,
who already have families, houses, & cars.
In general the advice is about downsizing our already-too-complex lives.
Small adjustments are possible, as well as more comprehensive changes.
And the book includes many actual examples
from real people who have simplified their lives.
The book is large,
but it can be read selectively—and in any order.
There are well-organized chapters on:
time, money, inner simplicity, work, simple pleasures & romance,
virtues, families, holidays, cooking & nutrition, health & exercise,
housing, clutter, gardening, & travel.
Elaine St. James
Living the Simple Life:
A Guide to Scaling Down and Enjoying More
(New York: Hyperion,
(ISBN: 0-7868-6219-X; hardback)
(Library of Congress call number: BJ1496.S73 1996)
How one middle-class
couple simplified their life-style
in dozens of small ways—with practical suggestions for everyone.
A quick and easy book to read.
The chapters are well named
so you can immediately turn to a suggestion you need.
In Quest of Fulfillment: Money,
Achievement, Marriage, Children, Pleasure, & Religion
(ISBN: 0-89231-920-8; paperback)
(Library of Congress call number: BJ1481.P37 1999)
book explores the
six most frequently trodden paths
toward attempted self-fulfillment:
One chapter is devoted to each of the following:
(1) Money & Possessions;Even if we have not explicitly formulated a philosophy-of-life,
(5) Pleasure & Enjoyment; &
However, the possibly-surprising
thesis of this book is that
none of these six paths ultimately leads to fulfillment.
We can certainly find relative happiness on each of these paths,
but ultimately fulfillment comes only in a way we do not expect.
chapter, after exploring
money, achievement, etc.,
shows how Existential Freedom—release from our Existential Malaise—
is much more fulfilling than anything we could achieve.
more information about
Quest of Fulfillment
click that title.
Please suggest additional books encouraging
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read other book reviews by James Park,
go to the Book Review Index ,
which will lead you to over 400 book reviews,
organized in over 40 different bibliographies.
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