Thursday, July 1, 2010

Book Reviews- Radical Homemakers and Shop Class as Soulcraft

Both of these were good enough that I really tore through them.

Radical Homemakers is based on a premise that I love: there is a choice other than serving the corporate masters. People can opt out, live well on less and create something real and lasting that nurtures the soul and declines to harm others. She talks about the extractive economy and how destructive it is for so many people and I can relate to her perspective. She also seems to think that life without health insurance might be more noble than life with- unless you live in a country with universal care. Having seen the bills for my daughter's cancer care I am extraordinarily grateful to have had good coverage. Our out of pocket expenses this year were limited to $12,000 of the $100,000+  cost. Certainly the cost might have been lower if there was no insurance and the market drove costs down or hospitals closed and doctors went out of business but would the technology and facilities that make my child's continued existence possible themselves exist if there were no insurance companies? I don't know. But we won't be dropping out of our plan anytime soon (like ever).

The idea that I can still build something really meaningful and that my kids can never know the brain deadening hum of fluorescent lights buzzing over one's windowless cubicle gives me warm fuzzies so for that alone, I think the book is worth reading. Its just not necessarily the one true path, the gospel, or a how-to manual from the universe. Borrow this book or pick it up used or get it through inter-library loan.

Shop Class as Soulcraft was fabulous. I'm giving out copies for Christmas- if I can wait that long. If you have kids, especially boys, you need to read this book. If you are involved in the education of children or the counsel of teens, formally or informally, you need this book. If you have the crazy idea that it would be good for people to actually make more of the things we need closer to home than a factory in China, you'll like this book. Part of the message is that the trades are not for dumb people, there is real satisfaction in solving real problems in a hands-on way with an objective standard for success, and that tradesmen often earn more than their student-loan saddled cubicle dwelling contemporaries. This is a book I would buy at double the price. It's high on my list of titles I think we should be reading in our Birchtree Book Club.

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