Book Review: Twelve By Twelve by William Powers

September 2, 2010

If how many dog-eared pages a book has after you have finished it is any indication of how good it is, Twelve by Twelve: A One-Room Cabin Off the Grid and Beyond the American Dream is amazing. I have never (and I do mean never) folded down that many corners of pages I wanted to revisit later in a single book. And in all honesty, I don’t even want to really say too much about the book because I believe you have to experience it for yourself – I don’t want to inject my interpretation of it too much and possibly spoil it for you. When I started the book, I expected nothing more than a story about a guy who lives in a 12×12 off grid cabin, which is a story I have read 100 times. But this book is not that, not at all – it is so much more and so very different than what I was expecting. It’s about growth, indecision, struggle, and joy while being full of honesty and authenticity. It is, hands down, the best non-fiction book I have read this year, without a doubt. Basically, the book is about the author going to stay in an off grid cabin on 30 acres in NC which is owned by a physician who willingly lowered her salary to $11,000 – so she wouldn’t have to pay income tax and thus not fund any wars. The author, who has been a busy international activist for many years, is struggling with being a “man without a country” (I feel like this quite often) and finds the time in this cabin to evaluate his life, his lifestyle, his needs and his wants – oftentimes without expected results.

This book is so much bigger than I expected it to be, and again without giving away too much, I wanted to share a few short pieces from some of my dog-eared pages…

Solitude’s richest gift is allowing one’s own thoughts to flow, and not through mental aqueducts built by others.

Today it’s not the British Empire colonizing us, but a pervasive corporate globalism.

Walking the aisles of the organic Adams Market, I looked around and saw what I might become: a holier-than-thou progressive, carving an identity niche out of being so darn responsible.

I have helped create rainforest-protecting municipal reserves, indigenous areas, and community forests that have successfully resisted logging, mining, and industrial farming. But these efforts have been trounced by the global trend. Have I been merely rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic?

When I fly over the rainforest into these places, I feel the irony. Planes spew dangerous global warming gasses into the stratosphere that hasten the desertification that fuels rainforest decline.

Ironically, the more I treated my life energy as sacred and lived frugally, the more I was able to indulge myself; I could gush generously where it counted.

I could go on and on with more of my favorite passages, but you really need to read the entire book for yourself. I cannot recommend this book enough; books don’t usually affect me this much, and this one has definitely changed my viewpoint on, and my perception of, life. I plan on rereading it many times over, and will continue to fold down pages and highlight important passages for a long time to come. Thank you, Mr. Powers.

If you are looking for a book to inspire you and change you, then borrow, beg for, or buy this book – you won’t be sorry.

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Filed in: Book Review

About the Author:

After a varied past of being a test driver for automotive television programs, a Hollywood studio lackey, and an online media sales director, David is now the publisher and editor of The Good Human. In his spare time he rides motorcycles, drinks good beer, and builds stuff in the garage. You can follow him on Twitter at @thegoodhuman or G+ at Google
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Comments (5)

  1. TaosJohn says:

    Thanks for this review. I’m anxious to read the book, as the author’s inner journey sounds very much like my own over the decades…

  2. TaosJohn says:

    Missed this: “ronically, the more I treated my life energy as sacred and lived frugally, the more I was able to indulge myself; I could gush generously where it counted.”

    OH yeah. :-)

  3. Meaghan says:

    Thanks so much for the review! Just placed it on hold at the library. Always looking to find an interesting, new book to read.

  4. Bill Gerlach says:

    I never knew that $11,000 was the threshold for avoiding income taxes. Interesting. Not that the majority of society is willing to go there, but it would interesting to explore the up (personal) and down (government program funding) of a major shift in that income direction.

    Definitely sounds like a fantastic book and like Meaghan, have just ordered it up through our local library.

    Thanks for the heads-up, David. Appreciate it.

  5. Tamal Krishna Chandra says:

    Thank you so much for making the review. It helps me understand something unique. Keep it up…Tamal.