Better Off

Brende, Eric. Better Off: Flipping the Switch on Technology. New York: Harper Perennial, 2004. Have we become slaves to technology? Eric Brende sets out to aswer this question by going off the grid and joining a Minimite community (a stricter cousin of the Amish) for a year. Better Off is part drama, part science experiment, and part bildungsroman as Brende and his wife attempt to discover how much technology one really needs to live and be happy. And while he glosses over certain topics (like what about toilets?), his explorations into farming, home building, and baby making are not only illuminating but quite enjoyable to read. Writing in a compelling yet never didactic style, Brende shows that many of our time-saving devices are actually taking time from us--we spend more time serving the machine than it spends serving us. Conversely, having little to no technology forces you to do things differently; and surprisingly, the "drudgery" we have saved ourselves from may be the very thing that makes us human. Enjoyable, thought-provoking, and genuine, Better Off gives one pause to consider how far we've really come.