The Year of Less

A Hygge-lism Book Review

**Caution** This review pays no mind to “spoilers”

“The Year of Less”, was written by Cait Flanders, is a story of self discovery brought on by a self-imposed challenge to simplify her life and live with less by going on a shopping ban for one year.

This is not a how-to or a log of how her year went, but more of a tale of experiences and discovery.  The actual challenge of not buying anything for a year takes a back seat to the story of how and what she learned about herself and how she lived her life during that year.

It was incredibly entertaining, well written and motivational.  The writing is relaxed, honest and almost conversational.  She shares both the highs and lows that she experienced during this challenge, just as amazed as the readers as to how the challenge forced her to look at herself in a different light and from a different angle.

Her experiences are relatable and it is easy to put yourself in her position while you read the book, even when she refers back to past challenges that she has overcome from relationships come and gone, to drug and physical abuse and sharing the experience of the impending divorce of her parents with her siblings.

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It is a great look into priorities, and a deeper look into the ways of life that have been adopted by most of society due to advertising, social media and trying to achieve the ideal unachievable lifestyle force fed to us on a daily basis.  It challenges the status quo and questions our feelings that we need “this” to get “that” and be a certain “type” of person. 

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I thoroughly recommend that anyone read this book and then take a look around their living space to contemplate what they own and why.  Did they buy certain items for themselves or for the themselves that want to portray.  How much of other people’s perceptions influenced your spending habits and feelings of need.

Borrow this book from your local library, read it and reevaluate yourself and your habits for the better.  

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The Imperfect Environmentalist

A Hygge-lism Book Review

**Caution** This review pays no mind to “spoilers”

“The Imperfect Environmentalist” written by Sara Gilbert is a coffee table book full of environmentally conscious alternatives to daily activities.

I am not one that would typically promote a book written by a celebrity, a non-author celebrity that is.  I find that celebrities typically view things from a privileged, oftentimes, unrelatable or un-achievable point of view.  That is not the case with Sara Gilbert and “The Imperfect Environmentalist” though.  This book was a quick read, entertaining collection of environmentally friendly tips and tricks that I found really interesting.

I do definitely consider it as a coffee table book in every sense of the word though.  To read this from cover to cover is repetitive and tedious.  Because each topic is meant to stand alone, each entry will often remind you of the same points.  GMO for instance is a Genetically Modified Organism and VOCs are Volatile Organic Compounds and I will never forget it since I read about those on every other page.

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Seriously though, Sara Gilbert has put together a very well written collection of thoroughly researched and relatable situations in which you can improve your environmentalism.  Divided into easy to reference sections such as food, cleaning, transportation and parenting, you will find yourself flipping through the pages again and again.  

Even adopting one or two small changes can make a big difference.  If each of us just changed one thing to improve our impact on the environment, we would live in a different world than we do today.

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I typically recommend that your first place to turn for a new book to read is your local library, but on this occasion I would recommend having a copy of this book on hand to be able to reference from time to time.  Just seeing it around the house could be enough to flip that switch in your brain reminding you to pay attention to your impact, or recenter your intentions. 

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Inconspicuous Consumption

A Hygge-lism Book Review

**Caution** This review pays no mind to “spoilers”.

“Inconspicuous Consumption – The Environmental Impact You Don’t Know You Have.” written by Tatiana Schlossberg, is an eye opening look at how our everyday habits affect the environment.

Stop!  Do not disregard this book as just another confusing climate change rant packed full of numbers, percentages and fuzzy math interspersed with ten dollar words that you’re not sure are actually words.  This is not that book.

This is an excellent book, written in a clear, easy to understand, relatable and sometimes even comedic way.  It is an enjoyable, in an apocalyptic way, eye opener that makes you think twice before continuing on your blissful way, blindly consuming your way through life.

Never before had I realized the true cost of streaming a show on Netflix, or the distance that products have traveled before landing on my doorstep.  Buying strawberries in the middle of December and buying roses for Valentine’s day all come with a climate cost attached to them. Tatiana Schlossberg does an excellent job tracking down these costs and the amount of impact associated with all of these items.  She translates them in a way that is easy to digest and even offers alternatives and ways to counteract them.

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How many of us really know the difference between Eco friendly and organic and naturally grown produce and livestock?  Sure organic looks good on a label and we have been told that we should buy organic, but should we really be? Our, we know what we want and we want it all the time and it should look exactly like it does in the healthy food magazines that we read, mentality has led to an incredible rise in food shipping and refrigeration, and therefore a larger carbon footprint.

Back-doors and loopholes in the ways that regulations have been written have caused exporting and importing goods and materials more beneficial in most cases then utilizing them at home.  Governments are playing the blame game by exporting their manufacturing climate impact to other countries and importing the finished products. Even the different types of shipping used to move products are broken down to the types of full used for each method and therefore have different levels of impact.

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Fast fashion has been talked about ad nauseam and for good reason.  It is a waste on such a large scale that it can not be ignored. It is also not the only problem, I am now aware of the amount of water it takes to make a pair of jeans, an American staple.  The exorbitant amount of water required to produce jeans, besides being ridiculous, is also typically outsourced to countries without the water resources to be able to support this production.  All in the name of saving a couple dollars to keep profits high and costs low because the consumer demands it.

A lot of what is going on is out of our control, but whose responsibility is it to ensure responsible Eco friendly products are being produced?  The consumer or the producer?

I completely and wholeheartedly recommend that everyone should pick up this book, and give it a read.  I was able to borrow an e-reader copy from the library myself.  

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The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck

A Hygge-lism Audio Book Review

**Caution** This review pays no mind to “spoilers”.

“The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A counter intuitive approach to living a good life” written by Mark Manson was released in September of 2016.  It is a direct, not so subtle approach to living your best life.

In this book, Mark talks about how life is not all rainbows and fairy tales, and walking around pretending that it is, is not going to make it so.  Don’t be misled by the title though, this book is not about not caring about anything either. It is really a balance of figuring out what to care about and what is important to you.  In other words, what to and what not to give a f*ck about.

It is a refreshing, honest look at life and people in general, almost an anti-self help, self help book.  Delving into our most controversial personality traits, with entertaining metaphors like the disappointment panda, and the self-awareness onion.

Beyond the crudeness and “slap you in the face” honesty, he delves into deeper issues such as where fault and responsibility lie, they are not the same.  He touches on anxiety, indecision, rejection and failure, not painting them in a negative light, but in turn as positive experiences that shape how we are.  He points out how some of our worst experiences growing up, turn out to have the most positive impacts on our life and that we just can’t see it at the time.  He goes into the intricacies of how our values largely determine our outlook on life and how we feel about how successful we are. Eye opening perspectives delivered in a witty, honest, fast paced way than can be nothing but appreciated. He supports his points with well placed references to philosophers, historical facts, stories and quotes.

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This was the first audio book that I have listened to solely in my car while commuting to and from work, and I would absolutely start it over from the beginning and listen to it all over again.  It forced me to digest the book in small portions and really think about each part by itself before listening to the next. I am not typically a self help book kind of guy, but the title and the recommendations could not be denied, so I gave it a listen and I don’t regret it.  In fact, I recommend it to anyone else to give it a listen, whether you are a self help kind of person or not.

I plan on trying to switch from driving my car to work, to a combination of a bicycle and train for my commute this spring.  I think that I just may make this my first headphone commute audio book for those rides.  

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The Motorcycle Diaries

A Hygge-lism Book Review

**Caution** This review pays no mind to “spoilers” and a book that was released 28 years ago should be exempt from spoilers by now anyway,  I mean really.

“The Motorcycle Diaries”, by Ernesto “Che” Guevara was originally released in 1992.  It follows Ernesto Guevara, more commonly known as “Che” and his friend Alberto Granado as they set out to tour South America together on just one small motorcycle they dubbed “La Poderosa” (The Mighty One).

They took this trip prior to graduating from medical school, and prior to Che recognizing and embarking on his revolutionary path.  He was just a young man traveling his home country, wanting to become more worldly, looking for adventure and maybe a little bit of trouble.

When I started this book, I’ll admit that besides being referenced often by the band “Rage Against the Machine”, I didn’t know much about “Che” Guevara.  So I began this book with no preexisting bias and I am happier for it. It was just a collection of stories recalling the travels of a young man.

My edition included a painful preface and introduction that nearly had me abandon the book 5 pages in, written by Che’s daughter Aleida and a Latin American poet where they take excerpts from the book and try to make it seem like these were philosophical words with deeper meaning written by an amazing artist…ugh.  When you pick this book up, either skip this part or try and remember that the actual book is totally worth the struggle and the additional photos in this version are a sight to see.

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Once you get to the actual writings from Che, you will become entertained beyond what you could ever imagine.  The expedition of two twenty-something men on an overloaded, unreliable motorcycle is full of all the mishaps and detours that you could hope for.  Most of them at the expense of Che himself, who is apparently not very good at piloting a motorcycle.  

Each arrival into a new town is a chance for them to use their multiple acquaintances and their powers of persuasion, which is significant, to obtain food, money and a place to sleep.  As you can imagine, their ill-fated motorcycle has a limited life span as well and their powers of persuasion are quickly extended to finding rides as well. 

When they are successful with finding food and drink they find themselves in some crazy situations.  Some of which had me laughing out loud as I read them. They were continual “yes men” and were so open to whatever came their way that their adventure remained unpredictable and endlessly entertaining.

As with most ill-prepared for expeditions, the highs were balanced out by the lows.  The longer the trip extended the more their daily lives consisted of searching desperately for food and a warm place to sleep, but they always struggled together.  Their friendship was proven to be something that most people would dream to achieve.

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Their pursuit of adventure was limitless and lead to attempts to steal bottles of wine, getting overly excited about the prospect of women, sleeping in random huts found along their path, sometimes sharing a single bed, stowing away in boat hulls eating melons, riding a make-shift boat down a river and hitchhiking in the back of trucks full of many different cultures of people and their questionable personal hygiene.

Their path also led across many historical sites, one of great interest to them was the ancient Inca civilization.  All the while you notice the growth of Che as he really starts to come into his own and his political future begins to take form.  While I was most interested in the crazy situations that they found themselves in, I appreciate witnessing the maturation that their adventure imposed upon them.

I highly recommend this book, simply for the entertainment factor and not the political undertones.  I do know that a movie was also made from this book but I have not personally seen it, so I cannot speak to that.

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Into The Wild

A Hygge-lism Book Review

**Caution** This review pays no mind to “spoilers” and a book that was released 24 years ago should be exempt from spoilers by now anyway,  I mean really.

“Into the Wild”, by Jon Krakauer was released in 1996.  I have read the book and I have also watched the movie of the same name, in that order, so forgive me if I get my facts mixed up between the two at some point.  There was also another film made about it called “The Call of the Wild”. I have not yet seen this one, but I will.

If you don’t know, “Into the Wild” is a semi-biographical story about Christopher McCandless, a.k.a Alexander Supertramp as he traveled across the United States and up into Alaska from 1990 to 1992.  “Tramp” being a reference to someone who is homeless, and travels from place to place typically on foot. 

After graduating college, McCandless followed an invisible pull, which is said to have been derived from his favorite authors, to travel the roads, towns and cities across the United States with nothing but a run-down car, which didn’t last very long, and a little bit of cash, which also didn’t last very long.  He was nothing if not determined, once the car and the money was gone he did not tuck his tail and run home. He traveled and worked his way all the way across the States where when he hit the west coast he took a sharp right and started circling around the north central, west and southwest United States, including a stint in a canoe that takes him into Mexico briefly.

During this time period, I found myself occasionally envious of his travels.  I would imagine myself having similar experiences, living with next to nothing and bouncing from city to city and experience to experience.

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Chris’s ultimate end goal was to travel up into Alaska and onto the “Stampede Trail” to try and live off of the land.  Just him, his pack and the wild. He begins this northern trek from South Dakota.

Reading up to this point, I was right there along with him.  The decision to head up into Canada towards Alaska is where he lost me.  Over and over he runs into obstacles that are nearly insurmountable and somehow fate intervenes and help arrives, typically in the form of helpful passers-by.  I feel he was blind to these “miracles” and allowed himself to become cocky after having survived for nearly two years, “on his own”. He was never truly on his own though, he repeatedly put himself in dire situations and had to be saved.

Nevertheless, off he went towards Alaska, ill-prepared and ill-equipped. After yet another helpful intervention by a stranger he headed off down the “Stampede Trail” with a new pair of boots, never to be seen alive again.  He lasted about 4 months alone in Alaska, we know this because of a journal that was found where he stayed along the trail. It is believed that he mistakenly ate a plant that he shouldn’t have and died as a result of it.

The location that he ended up living in was an abandoned van in the middle of the Alaskan forest, yet another curious, convenient man made happenstance, I would like to point out. 

So despite every opportunity, McCandless was blind to every subtle and not so subtle life preserver that life threw to him and he died because of it.  The lesson learned here – Learn to take a hint and try to look beyond your own ego but also, don’t be afraid to take a chance and follow the beat of your own drum.  Rather than be herded like sheep along the beaten path, feel free to buck the norm and blaze your own trail.

This book also served as a reminder to myself while I embrace a minimal, hygge lifestyle, that there is more than just applying these aspects to my external life.  If I don’t look inward I am not gaining the meaningful, purpose driven life that I am striving for. Living with less, and living for experience and quality can only be achieved if I’m willing to look inward first and foremost.

Despite my conflicted feelings about Chris McCandless and his ill-fated travels, I highly recommend both this book and the film of the same name.  I actually enjoyed the film more than the book, and that is not typically the case I assure you.

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