Friday, April 17, 2020

Shelter from the Machine: Homesteaders in the Age of Capitalism

Shelter from the Machine is a historical and philosophical overview of the spectrum (mostly split into "hippies" vs. "hicks") of people living a subsistence off-grid existence in modern day Appalachia. Released 23rd March 2020 by University of Illinois Press, it's 304 pages and available in paperback and ebook formats.

This is an interesting ethical and philosophical treatise written as a composite story composed of interviews, notes, anecdotes, and first person sources. The author, Dr. Jason Strange, is an academic and on the faculty of Berea College. Despite the potential for impenetrable academic rigidity (about which the author has some opinions) the narrative is simple, accessible, and compassionate, resulting in a genuinely captivating read.

This is *not* a how-to. There are no lists or tips on how to transition to an off-grid lifestyle. What it is is a compelling read and a fascinating glimpse into a group of people most of us rarely (if ever) encounter. Though it's a substantial book, the author's style reminded me a lot of the shorter interview style entries from the famous Foxfire books. The bibliography is comprehensive and the index usefully cross referenced. The footnotes are meticulous and plentiful.

This would make a superlative resource for a classroom setting. I usually have 4 or 5(+) books going at any given time and I personally found this one compelling enough that it took over my reading time and I finished it in one sitting.

Five stars. This is an important academic sociological study of an underrepresented group of people.

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

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