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Sunday, April 1, 2012

Review: The Man Who Quit Money

I just finished Mark Sundeen's "The Man Who Quit Money" yesterday. It came to me through Jen's book group. Sundeen is a Missoulian, I understand, and also a part-time resident of Moab, Utah, where the subject of the book, Daniel Suelo, lives in caves outside of town.

I give this book a high rating because it shook me up. It brought to mind a quote of Kafka: 'I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound and stab us. If the book we are reading doesn't wake us up with a blow on the head, what are we reading it for?'

The writing is top notch, but it's the subject makes the book: Suelo is a fellow who decides to give up money at about 40 years old after reaching a point of despair in his life. It seems to me that he does it for the right reasons: his own sanity, his own ideals, freedom, and to pursue 'the good life'. And he appears to have been successful on all levels.

I was shook up by the book, not because I want to give up money -- for me it would be a disaster -- but because Suelo's example made me look at myself. I could certainly be less focused on (and worry less about) money, be less concerned about my place in the social order, and more focused on enjoying life, my family, cultivating friendships, and being content with what I have, which is a lot.

I have to admit that Suelo's (and also Sundeen's) connection to Moab added to my interest. In particular, I was struck with the Sundeen's description of Moab in the early-to-mid 1990's, when Jen and I first started visiting -- a time and place that looms large in our history as a couple. We went there many times between 1993 and 96, even a couple of 4-day weekends in October, cutting class at Montana Tech and taking off at the last minute, driving through the night. When I look back on my life and ask, 'When was it that I felt most free?', it's those trips.

Anyway, I recommend the read, but if you read it be prepared to be challenged.