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The Way Home: Tales from a Life Without Technology

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It was 11pm when I checked my email for the last time and turned off my phone for what I hoped would be forever. No running water, no car, no electricity or any of the things it powers: the internet, phone, washing machine, radio or light bulb. Just a wooden cabin, on a smallholding, by the edge of a stand of spruce. In this honest and lyrical account of a remarkable lif It was 11pm when I checked my email for the last time and turned off my phone for what I hoped would be forever. No running water, no car, no electricity or any of the things it powers: the internet, phone, washing machine, radio or light bulb. Just a wooden cabin, on a smallholding, by the edge of a stand of spruce. In this honest and lyrical account of a remarkable life without modern technology, Mark Boyle, author of The Moneyless Man, explores the hard won joys of building a home with his bare hands, learning to make fire, collecting water from the stream, foraging and fishing. What he finds is an elemental life, one governed by the rhythms of the sun and seasons, where life and death dance in a primal landscape of blood, wood, muck, water, and fire – much the same life we have lived for most of our time on earth. Revisiting it brings a deep insight into what it means to be human at a time when the boundaries between man and machine are blurring.


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It was 11pm when I checked my email for the last time and turned off my phone for what I hoped would be forever. No running water, no car, no electricity or any of the things it powers: the internet, phone, washing machine, radio or light bulb. Just a wooden cabin, on a smallholding, by the edge of a stand of spruce. In this honest and lyrical account of a remarkable lif It was 11pm when I checked my email for the last time and turned off my phone for what I hoped would be forever. No running water, no car, no electricity or any of the things it powers: the internet, phone, washing machine, radio or light bulb. Just a wooden cabin, on a smallholding, by the edge of a stand of spruce. In this honest and lyrical account of a remarkable life without modern technology, Mark Boyle, author of The Moneyless Man, explores the hard won joys of building a home with his bare hands, learning to make fire, collecting water from the stream, foraging and fishing. What he finds is an elemental life, one governed by the rhythms of the sun and seasons, where life and death dance in a primal landscape of blood, wood, muck, water, and fire – much the same life we have lived for most of our time on earth. Revisiting it brings a deep insight into what it means to be human at a time when the boundaries between man and machine are blurring.

30 review for The Way Home: Tales from a Life Without Technology

  1. 5 out of 5

    Antonomasia

    This is a book about trying to live, as far as is possible and practicable, without modern technology - including no internet. Yet every time I've tried to write about it, the review is partly about … things people say on the internet. But the internet is the main venue for environmental and political commentary now, so maybe that's not as ridiculous as it seems. Mark Boyle's Guardian columns about living off-grid in Ireland have always attracted a lot of ire from below-the-line commenters - typ This is a book about trying to live, as far as is possible and practicable, without modern technology - including no internet. Yet every time I've tried to write about it, the review is partly about … things people say on the internet. But the internet is the main venue for environmental and political commentary now, so maybe that's not as ridiculous as it seems. Mark Boyle's Guardian columns about living off-grid in Ireland have always attracted a lot of ire from below-the-line commenters - typically in the form of whataboutery, and the implication that if it's impossible to do something fully, and/or for everyone to do it, no-one should. (The phrase "as far as is possible and practicable" in my first sentence comes from the official definition of veganism - a lifestyle and philosophy that attracts similarly structured counterarguments; albeit veganism would scale environmentally to an extent that off-grid smallholdings wouldn’t, but the average western lifestyles of commenters don't either, and are almost certainly worse. It would be nice to think that the increased prominence of veganism has, at least among Guardian readers, increased the awareness that these are poor forms of argumentation.) However, the reception for The Way Home has, so far, been quietly positive, on Twitter and in the small number of newspaper reviews it's attracted. I loved reading The Way Home, but at the same time, I could see problems with it as a new environmental book in 2019, aside from those already repeated ad nauseam by Guardian CIFfers. Being close in age to Boyle, I get the impression he was, in writing this book, working towards principles that were held as admirable not very long ago and which our generation (late Gen X to Xennials) absorbed in our teens and twenties. But there have been shifts in the last two or three years, which Boyle will inevitably be unaware of, because part of his project is eschewing social media - and some of those have been accelerated since March, just after the book was published. There's a radical honesty in the way Boyle presents what he's doing: he doesn't pretend to have a fully coherent, publicity-friendly philosophy that works as a manifesto for everyone; he's doing what feels right to him according to his own personal definitions and experience. I liked this very much and found it enormously refreshing, as it's like talking to a real person, who hasn't tried to perfect everything to present to the world, someone not academic in mindset, whom you wouldn't usually meet as the narrator of a creative non-fiction book. (I had thought that, in the book he might use clear definitions of types of technology, perhaps based around the 1970s appropriate tech movement, but instead he rejects the define-your-terms scholarliness for the same man-in-the-street, or man-in-the-field haphazard usage from his columns.) It feels like hearing someone from the offline, non-media world. (As it should, after he spent so much time offline to write the thing!) From one perspective, the book could have done with more editing to polish the style and reduce repetition; on the other hand, its unvarnished, home-made feel is part of the appeal. Boyle includes lovely quotes from other, sometimes relatively obscure, nature writers - but at least one, Edward Abbey, in work not mentioned in The Way Home, had questionable opinions. This decontextualising and disregard of the bad bits, the art not the artist approach was the ideal until a few years ago in many circles, and it seemed admirable to give credit to people from "the other side" for the bits on which you did agree with them, without always having to point out what was bad. But this is exactly what one is *not* supposed to do now, especially on the left. Awareness of the implications of cultural detail is the order of the day, and it can be exhausting to try and get used to if you're not already wired that way. Two recent articles, in New Statesman and the Verso Books blog have specifically mentioned Abbey as having racist and anti-immigrant opinions amenable to a far right ecofascism - a tendency which may not have electoral traction at the moment, but which is observable in corners of the internet, and came to journalistic attention after the Christchurch terrorist shooting in March. The Way Home does, though, introduce readers to the old Irish writers of Blasket Island, an isolated West Coast community where old customs and a DIY spirit persisted into the 20th century whilst mainland Ireland gradually became more incorporated into industrial society, and where - this sounds rather like Iceland - an unusually high number of the small population were gifted storytellers. I especially hope to read something by Peig Sayers, and I never would have heard of her were it not for this book. Boyle mentions that his smallholding is not in the area of Ireland where he was born, and fellow back-to-the-land hippies come from all over the world to stay there; he was part of the left eco-protest scene for a long time and I think it's clear he isn't a nativist himself. But there is, moving from far left media into the mainstream centre-left, an increasing suspicion of talk of rootedness and connection with land or country held by people with heritage all from that same country. It was a shift that was happening anyway, and could be seen in discussion of research showing that a vegan can have a lower carbon footprint than an omni locavore - but the media conversation after the Christchurch massacre has accelerated it. That might put Boyle (or maybe any white person who wants to write for a mass audience about emotional and spiritual aspects of their self-sufficiency project) in a potentially tricky position. But, more constructively, this should really be seen as a push towards a variety of voices (e.g. getting more BAME people writing and presenting gardening media) and is something for publishers and broadcasters to address, not that it's wrong for individuals to enjoy history and growing veg. Boyle is a little vague on some matters such as health - whether that's because he's taken note of earlier criticism of this aspect of his writing and/or is soft-pedalling (in contrast with, for example, chapter 13 in his earlier book The Moneyless Man) or just being a hippie. Frankly, I can't say I'm in the least bothered because I and other adult readers of a book like this know where to find detailed information, and it's clear from the first that The Way Home is a memoir written with awareness of subjectivity and doesn't pretend to be a definitive guide to off-grid life. He seems like someone who's probably good with individual interactions, but isn't suited to formulating large-scale policies (an exhausting enterprise, anyway). In an interesting year for environmental news (you can read that "interesting" as the "may you live in interesting times" sort) I was very grateful to have something to read that's near my own wavelength. For people who've been aware of ecological decline for a long time, and especially if you've incorporated it into your worldview since you were a kid or teenager, the current public mood of bewilderment and bargaining (and hackneyed analogies to the Kübler-Ross grief cycle) can get wearing. If one is feeling cynical it looks like plans to rearrange deckchairs on the Titanic; if more benevolent, it's a giant extrapolation of "saving one animal won't change the world, but it will change the world for that animal." What people are saying is, of course, considerably better than if they had remained blinkered. But it's good to read a book-length work by someone who also realised these things a long time ago and is well into the acceptance stage. Besides, I would love to do a similar project if I were able. (If my health had allowed I would have gone on some kind of historical reconstruction project years ago: similar tech but less time and more costumes.) And I've given up various aspects of modern tech for a while at different times, so I've got an idea what it's like: (several of these are only really possible if spending most of your time at home, and probably living alone) - A total of about 4 and a half years, on and off, living in flats or houses that had no [working] TV aerial, some of this before the existence of BBC iPlayer. -Roughly two and a half years of taking in hardly any news. (The awkward bit was when acquaintances such as neighbours would say something like "Isn't it terrible about that plane crash?", and I would have to come out with, "I've not read too much about that yet, what's the latest?" to get them to talk instead. - A similar amount of time not putting on any music, and only hearing music in films, or if other people put it on when I was away from home - and getting comfortable with silence as default. Pascal was exaggerating when he said "All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone”, though it is a useful canard for articles about social media. - A couple of phases of a year to 18 months of not reading fiction - Staying in rural areas without a car - Not having a smartphone until 2017 - My favourite, but the most difficult to maintain: sleeping according to hours of darkness and using negligible artificial background light. It made for the best sleep I can remember having in my life. Seems I'm maybe not an owl, just very light-sensitive and best with a gradual diminishing of light over hours preceding sleep. A torch or a small screen in the dark is fine; it's whole-room background light that makes the difference. - In the last six years I've probably worn makeup on average about twice a year, and have made about two changes to skincare in a decade. (As with the TV, news and music it's a subject about which I was once a huge geek, but unlike with those, I'm rarely bothered about having lost the knack for keeping up with it.) -When I was a kid eschewing a few "normal" things at home was also part of life: we were among the last families at school to get a microwave and a video (apart from the one household who didn't have a TV), we never had a working shower, never got takeaways, ever, and didn't go on holiday to the popular places other kids went. We were even quite tardy getting a toaster and I still think of toasters as a bit newfangled and fancy; they use considerably less energy than grills, yet it feels decadent that, outside the catering industry, there's a machine for one such specific job. And my gran never had a TV; at hers, there was mostly silence apart from the Radio 4 six o'clock news, stovetop kettle-whistle and church bells, and her kitchen would have been a retro-lifestyler's dream, or a small, slightly worn version thereof. So, hearing that Boyle is now using a bit more modern technology and going into cities to do talks and book signings, I can imagine the frustration with standard sleep hours, the obtrusiveness of bizarrely emotive pop music in public places; the strange lacunae one has with news after a long time away from it. (I'm glad my years off from news were doldrum ones; now is a bad time not to be informed. I caught up on politics long ago, but occasionally I still become aware of other gaps from those years: a few weeks ago I saw a report about a crime from 2014 that read like it was a huge story at the time, but I'd never heard of it before; and until I read this a few days ago, I'd assumed "U ok hun?" was just a meme-based way to be bitchy.) Perhaps this is a strangely lukewarm review for one of my favourite books of the year. Honestly, I can't quite see it winning any new converts from people who don't already dream of off-grid, low-tech, ecocentric living but it may win him a wider audience among those who do, especially as it's soon to be published in the US. It's an "if you like this sort of thing"… book.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    Boyle lives without electricity in a wooden cabin on a smallholding in County Galway, Ireland. He speaks of technology as an addiction and letting go of it as a detoxification process. For him it was a gradual shift that took place at the same time as he was moving away from modern conveniences. The Way Home is split into seasonal sections in which the author’s past and present intermingle. The writing consciously echoes Henry David Thoreau’s. Without even considering the privilege that got Boyl Boyle lives without electricity in a wooden cabin on a smallholding in County Galway, Ireland. He speaks of technology as an addiction and letting go of it as a detoxification process. For him it was a gradual shift that took place at the same time as he was moving away from modern conveniences. The Way Home is split into seasonal sections in which the author’s past and present intermingle. The writing consciously echoes Henry David Thoreau’s. Without even considering the privilege that got Boyle to the point where he could undertake this experiment, though, there are a couple of problems with this particular back-to-nature model. One is that it is a very male enterprise. Another is that Boyle doesn’t really have the literary chops to add much to the canon. Few of us could do what he has done, whether because of medical challenges, a lack of hands-on skills or family commitments. Still, the book is worth engaging with. It forces you to question your reliance on technology and ask whether making life easier is really a valuable goal. See my full review at Shiny New Books.

  3. 5 out of 5

    M. Sarki

    https://rogueliterarysociety.com/f/th... ...You know that industrial capitalism is nearing the completion of its ultimate vision when people have to pay their neighbors to go for a walk with them... From the very start a relaxed and engaging accounting of Mark Boyle’s adventure in living for one year without technology. Mixed in with digressions of interesting personal anecdotes are Boyle’s philosophies that are based on scientific fact and not at all self-righteous or pretentious. ...I make myself https://rogueliterarysociety.com/f/th... ...You know that industrial capitalism is nearing the completion of its ultimate vision when people have to pay their neighbors to go for a walk with them... From the very start a relaxed and engaging accounting of Mark Boyle’s adventure in living for one year without technology. Mixed in with digressions of interesting personal anecdotes are Boyle’s philosophies that are based on scientific fact and not at all self-righteous or pretentious. ...I make myself a cup of chocolate mint picked fresh from the herb garden, lie up against an old willow tree, and watch the world go by. I’ve a lot of things on my mind to do but, for medical reasons, I decide that it’s best to just lie here for a while. The two wood pigeons in the Scots pine in front of me are doing much the same… A year ago my spouse and I decided to sell our home in Melbourne, Florida as well as our cabin in northern Michigan in order to live and travel in a self-contained travel trailer. The free-time and de-pressurized lifestyle has aided us in relaxing more and regularly enjoying our favorite recreational activities. Both of us have been beaten up with injuries sustained in our previous lifestyle of juggling too much work with just a little play. We are better able to cope with our personal recoveries with the reduction of our prior self-imposed responsibilities. The biggest difference between us and Mark Boyle however is our continued reliance on internet technology. We stay attuned to a little streaming sports and news, our email, cell phone and text messages, and this particular writing machine. ...As we use the ‘humanure’ system here, which incorporates human piss and shit into the mix, there’s a part of everyone who lives here, and a few of the visitors, in the heaps in front of me. Most people, having never done it, find the thought of turning this kind of compost disgusting, but that’s just one way of looking at it. In it I see stories and memories and history, and a great link between a place and its people. All I am really doing is making soil, and that seems to me a good way to start the day as any. And in doing so I’m continually reminded that the boundaries between us and the land which nourishes us are nowhere near as clear as we might like to imagine… My wife and I have a Nature’s Head composting toilet in our Oliver travel trailer. And because we live in the trailer full-time the toilet requires at the very least bi-monthly maintenance. When that day comes I remove the two screws holding the toilet down to the floor and carry the entire contraption outside. I generally just dump the contents in varying parts of our forest floor to allow the coco coir to continue decomposing the accumulated mass. After wiping down the toilet I refill it with coco-coir, adding two one-gallon bags of expanded fresh coco coir to the toilet, mixing in some pine pellets and a bit of natural bug-deterrent. The exercise is not something I detest nor is it gross and disgusting. It makes me feel closer to the earth and more responsible for its stewardship. Flushing gallons of fresh water down the drain every day is something we no longer participate in. ...If you don’t make time for health, you have to make time for illness… The above quotation is so true. And simple. The older we get the more it resonates. Our past comes up to catch us and we see the error of our ways. Mark Boyle has produced a fine and interesting textbook as well as a memoir of life worth living. I am sure there will be more. ...(Krishnamurti once remarked that ‘it is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society’)...

  4. 5 out of 5

    Elinor

    From the title, you may have guessed that the author wrote this entire book in longhand using pencil and paper! Mark Boyle left the business world, built a cabin on a remote island off the coast of Ireland, and disconnected from technology. I half expected to be preached at, but instead this is an honest account of his ongoing struggle with how far he can realize his goal. For example, he had an internal debate about putting a patch on his rubber tire on his bicycle, knowing that rubber comes fr From the title, you may have guessed that the author wrote this entire book in longhand using pencil and paper! Mark Boyle left the business world, built a cabin on a remote island off the coast of Ireland, and disconnected from technology. I half expected to be preached at, but instead this is an honest account of his ongoing struggle with how far he can realize his goal. For example, he had an internal debate about putting a patch on his rubber tire on his bicycle, knowing that rubber comes from a great distance, and wondered whether he would be more true to himself if he abandoned his bicycle and walked instead. (He did patch the tire). I also assumed he must be something of a hermit, but Boyle doesn't reject people, only civilization. He enjoys socializing with the neighbours, walks to his village pub once a week, and has lots of company at his humble cabin. Mostly, though, his days are spent growing and foraging his own food, fetching his own water, and cutting his own firewood. In a matter-of-fact way, and using quotes from other writers, he explains his lifestyle choices very eloquently. I did come away with a heightened awareness of how technology is negatively affecting the planet. I look forward to reading more about his journey.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Melanie (Mel's Bookland Adventures)

    I wrote an entire post about it here: https://booksfoodandadventure.net/201... I wrote an entire post about it here: https://booksfoodandadventure.net/201...

  6. 5 out of 5

    Liz

    Well, I don’t aim to insult/offend people within the first sentence of my review but I think I would not be overexaggerating if I said that about 80% of the modern, first world population – at the very least counting 70-80% of Europe- would NOT at all be able to follow in Mark Boyle’s footsteps. I am not fully cut out for that either, no matter how much I would like to be. Kudos, Mark- you’re my new hero! The Way Home is more than an experiment agreed on a night out to live without technology. M Well, I don’t aim to insult/offend people within the first sentence of my review but I think I would not be overexaggerating if I said that about 80% of the modern, first world population – at the very least counting 70-80% of Europe- would NOT at all be able to follow in Mark Boyle’s footsteps. I am not fully cut out for that either, no matter how much I would like to be. Kudos, Mark- you’re my new hero! The Way Home is more than an experiment agreed on a night out to live without technology. Mark’s bloody serious about it. It’s going back to the roots, the hard and back-breaking and dirty way but damn if it ain’t rewarding for the soul! I am talking about no phone, no computer- want to reach Mark? Write him a letter, on paper with pen, and pop it in the post. No fuel/electricity powered tools, no cars, no tractors – get a wheelbarrow to deliver stuff from A to B and cycle or walk where you need to go. It’s not just the small, immediate stuff… Mark has to think ahead. Waaaay ahead to survive the winter coming, or prepare for the spring ahead to survive the winter coming. Store food… make sure there’s plenty of firewood. Store food… how simple it sounds. But it’s not! You need to tend the ground, make compost, maintain the crops, harvest the crops and then do various things with various produce to make it last. But the most fascinating aspect of this book for me was the time-keeping… I have always wondered about what it would be like if we simply no longer had clocks on the walls and on our mobile phones and smart watches and all that shebang telling us to constantly be somewhere, to constantly rush to the next destination, when to wake up, go to sleep, eat, everything! Mark said no to the concept or time keeping as we all know it and I am just fucking jealous that he gets to experience it! I am! It must be absolutely marvellous! Just let the body adjust to not feeling like there’s a someplace to be because the clock says so; fall back into the natural rhythm and do things because your very survival and wellbeing depends on it. Go to sleep when it gets dark or when the body is drained after a day’s work and wake up when you wake up and keep going about life. Sounds self centric? Hell yes. The way it should be- we should live and BE HERE for ourselves, not for a greedy corporate agenda. No matter how high and mighty we humans think ourselves, we’re still simply a part of nature just like wolves, pigs, trees and fish. We’re just lucky to be at the top of the food chain so to speak. Ah, this was a book I thoroughly enjoyed. If it’s about making the light shine on living the natural way, I am all ears. Mark also has this wonderful, lovely way of telling about his daily life. Maybe it also helped that he lives in rural Ireland where people are friendly and stick together. It’s a very personal account as Mark takes us through the seasons and days and wins and losses. I’m not there, I’m not living it but I could feel the joy of it all. Hardships included.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Caleb

    Although I’m sympathetic to Boyle’s discontent, his deep-seated misanthropy is just too much to take. I think he would much prefer to be a stag or a salmon than a man. The book offers some interesting insights but it’s anti human ideological purity offers no “way home.” He rails against pencils and fantasizes about making his own ink from mushrooms. Anyone would be much better off reading Aldo Leopold or Wendell Berry - authors he cites often. Boyle simply lacks the wisdom and grace of the latte Although I’m sympathetic to Boyle’s discontent, his deep-seated misanthropy is just too much to take. I think he would much prefer to be a stag or a salmon than a man. The book offers some interesting insights but it’s anti human ideological purity offers no “way home.” He rails against pencils and fantasizes about making his own ink from mushrooms. Anyone would be much better off reading Aldo Leopold or Wendell Berry - authors he cites often. Boyle simply lacks the wisdom and grace of the latter, whose vision of man is far more enriching.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    It was late one evening when Mark Boyle checked his email one last time and turned off his phone. He fully intended to never switch it back on again. In his new home, a cabin alongside a wood there was no electricity or running water, no internet or sewage connections nor was he even going to have solar power! He was going fully off-grid. Boyle was going to have to grow and catch his own food, collect his own firewood, build and repair anything that he needed around the home and collecting water It was late one evening when Mark Boyle checked his email one last time and turned off his phone. He fully intended to never switch it back on again. In his new home, a cabin alongside a wood there was no electricity or running water, no internet or sewage connections nor was he even going to have solar power! He was going fully off-grid. Boyle was going to have to grow and catch his own food, collect his own firewood, build and repair anything that he needed around the home and collecting water from the stream. Washing is done by hand, he catches his own food and lives frugally off the land. It was a simple life, but tough as everything that you do means that you get to live another day. He had almost no money or and his only income was from his writing. Even that was problematic as all correspondence was going to be by letter so arranging anything could take several days and more often weeks. He had consciously made the decision to completely avoid all forms of technology and was a totally committed eco-warrior. As tough as his new life was, it was good for his mental health as he had none of the stresses of modern day life. He rose with the sun, and life around the small holding was dictated by the weather and the seasons. Some days there were never enough hours in the day to do all the things that he needed to do. On other days he had the luxury of time to pursue projects like a homemade hot tub. His partner, Kirsty is there as almost an afterthought in the text. Boyle gives an insight into what it is like to step off-grid and make your own way in the world. It does make you think about our dependence on many things that we now take for granted, for example, electricity, internet, refrigeration and light. It also goes to show that we still need human interaction even though we may not need technology all of the time and that gaining skills in other areas may be beneficial. When writing this book he did have to hand write the manuscript which as he only had the single copy meant that he either had to copy it out again of hope that it wasn’t lost or damaged. However, he did have to type it up for submission and it reminded him why he hated computers. I didn’t think that this was a good as Deep Country. In this eloquent book, Neil Ansell undertakes a similar exercise for five years in Wales. It is still worth a read if you have ever considered walking away from the modern world. Another in the same vein is How To Live Off-Grid – Journeys Outside The System by Nick Rosen.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Bob

    Summary: A narrative of a year without modern technology, and what it is like to live more directly and in rhythm with the immediate world of the author's smallholding and community. "It was 11pm when I checked my email for the last time and turned off my phone for what I hoped would be forever strong. No running water, no car, no electricity or any of the things it powers: the internet, phone, washing machine, radio or light bulb. Just a wooden cabin, on a smallholding, by the edge of a stand of Summary: A narrative of a year without modern technology, and what it is like to live more directly and in rhythm with the immediate world of the author's smallholding and community. "It was 11pm when I checked my email for the last time and turned off my phone for what I hoped would be forever strong. No running water, no car, no electricity or any of the things it powers: the internet, phone, washing machine, radio or light bulb. Just a wooden cabin, on a smallholding, by the edge of a stand of spruce." In 1925, only half the homes in the United States had electricity, which first was delivered to the public by Thomas Edison in 1882 in New York City. It is now hard for us to imagine a world whose technology is not powered by this source, or by carbon-based fuels. Most fundamentally, we relied mostly on the sun for light, with fires, oil lamps, and candles running a poor second. Mostly, when it got dark, people went to bed. Heat came from wood. Water came from springs or wells, was hand-pumped or carried. We wrote with pen or pencil and ink and communicated either face to face or by letter carried by the postal service. Most homes did not have indoor plumbing and provision had to be made for the disposal of waste. Much of one's food was grown or raised either on one's own property or locally or secured by hunting and fishing and preserved without refrigerators. Significant labor was involved in washing one's clothes or one's self. One's community was those in walking distance or within a reasonable ride on horseback. It was to this kind of existence that Mark Boyle decided to return and this book, the narrative of his first year living that kind of existence with his partner, Kirsty. Boyle doesn't abandon all technology, but rather technology powered by anything other than his own energy, or the heat of a wood fire. What one is struck with on immediate reading is that this is hard, sometimes back-breaking and slow work that often takes up most of the author's days. It often involves re-learning skills that were once common knowledge, but that have been all but loss, whether that be starting a fire by hand or fishing for pike in a local lake or preserving venison. It gets into the nitty-gritty of our existence, such as turning one's own waste safely into compost. Why does he do this? He recites a number of ecological and socio-cultural reasons, but the most critical reasons are ones of existential meaning: "...I wanted to put my finger on the pulse of life again. I wanted to feel the elements in their enormity, to strip away the nonsense and lick the bare bones of existence clean. I wanted to know intimacy, friendship and community, and not just the things that pass for them. I wanted to search for truth to see if it existed and, if it didn't, to at least find something closer to my own. I wanted to feel cold and hunger and fear. I wanted to live, and not merely exhibit the signs of life..." One has the sense in reading this work that the author does find many of these things, most essentially how his life is intimately connected with the world around him, whether it is the stand of spruce nearby, or the pike he holds in his hand after catching it, that gives up its life to sustain his. He eyes his growing woodpile and food put up for the winter and realizes that these things represent his ability to live into another growing season. He explores the complexities of simplicity, and the complexities we avoid in our technologically simplified lives. Boyle previously lived for a year without cash, and the cashless life figures significantly here as well. It is not a barter economy but rather communal exchanges: berries for wine, labor for food. Often it is not reciprocal, but rather a community where people help each other, and often "pay it forward." One senses in the course of the year that his virtual community withers away, as few take the time to put pen to paper, but that he builds bonds with neighbors like Packie, musicians at the local pub, his mail carrier, and others in nearby communities. Even while the experiment goes on, the encroachments of technology continue: local post offices and pubs close, and land is cleared for agro-businesses. Interspersed in his own narrative of the practicalities of his life and his reflections upon it is a narrative of Great Blasket Island, once a self-sufficient island but now deserted with the advent of modern technology. The island stands as a mute symbol of a former way of life. I did not find this modern-day Thoreau so much making a statement as holding up a mirror to a world where the boundaries of human and electrically-driven technology are becoming increasingly porous, and asking, is this really a life well-lived? While I suspect that most who read his book won't embrace the same life he did (in the end, even Kirsty does not), his narrative invites us to ask what kind of life we are embracing, and is it truly life-giving? How are our minds and bodies and communities being shaped by our advancing technology? How in touch are we with our elemental connection with the earth from which we come and to which we will return? It seems that for each of us, asking these questions are important for finding "the way home." ________________________________ Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this advanced review copy from the publisher via LibraryThing. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Lydia

    Really enjoyed the premise and the insight into a life without technology, however, Mark Boyle manages to write this in the most arrogant, boastful and self righteous way that it just ruined the whole reading experience for me. Would have been absolutely perfect if I wasn’t written by such a narcissist.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Noorilhuda

    The author’s mission statement in his own words: “Interpreted another way, there is a timeless simplicity about my life. I have found that when you peel off the plastic that industrial society vacuum-packs around you, what remains - your real needs - could not be simpler. Fresh air. Clean water. Real food. Companionship. Warmth…..There’s no extravagance, no clutter, no unnecessary complications. Nothing to buy, nothing to be. No frills, no bills. Only the raw ingredients of life, to be dealt wit The author’s mission statement in his own words: “Interpreted another way, there is a timeless simplicity about my life. I have found that when you peel off the plastic that industrial society vacuum-packs around you, what remains - your real needs - could not be simpler. Fresh air. Clean water. Real food. Companionship. Warmth…..There’s no extravagance, no clutter, no unnecessary complications. Nothing to buy, nothing to be. No frills, no bills. Only the raw ingredients of life, to be dealt with immediately and directly, with no middlemen to complicate and confuse the matter.” Let's get one thing straight: his life is NOT simple. It’s full of hard work, all day long, all seasons, one whole year where he left everything behind (all comforts of modern society so to speak), on which the book is based. He first started living at the property in 2013, after restoring the accessory-filled farmhouse in the three acre small-holding he bought during Recession of 2008. He moved out of that farmhouse, built an accessory-less cabin instead, and lived in it and on the property without ANY amenity, and did all sorts of self-sufficient work, to get by. This is his story, for that one year’s excursions. Even if you make it through the haze of self-referential promotional detail of the author’s written work and many anecdotes / quotes he shares of other authors, instead of getting straight to the point, I balked at the author’s journey when on page 29, in the middle of winter season, he describes his bathing ritual (light a fire in coal, put a pot to boil, bring the tub from outside into the cabin, put a washbasin in it and "depending on which body part I’m washing I’m either kneeling in the bathtub or hunkered over the washbowl, splashing around or using a flannel. It takes over an hour." No mention is made of any washing lotion / soap but the author gave up on detergents of all sorts 10 years ago when he was 27, which he declares as the reason he hasn’t been sick in a decade. He uses wood ash and horsetail plant to clean up dishes and ‘soapwort liquid’ for clothes. He doesn’t mention what he uses for his hands and butt but I’m guessing it’s soapwort because he says it is good for skin and hair too). I understand what the author is trying to experience through an off-the-grid, totally au-natural, medieval existence (he says he is saving bowhead whale, Arctic fox and beluga by not having water pumped electronically into his cabin or having radiators to get hot water and showers), but it was a bit too much for me. I mean, what is the meaning of life if you cannot even have or enjoy basic plumbing or a hot bath or proper butt hygiene? The author’s idea of Eden seems like an addiction to extreme survival sports. He finds it all pleasant. They urinate ‘outside’ the cabin. I can only imagine the smell around the cabin! They poop in a bucket and then throw it out in a ‘humanure system’ - let that sink in first: what it means is that the compost pile used to grow veggies and fertilize the fruit trees contains human urine and shit (as the author explains “of everyone who lives here and a few visitors….in it I see stories and memories and history and a great link between a place and its people”-i.e. creating a bond between land and people). He has 6 compost heaps and he turns them over on another when they shrink in size. I found all this to be ‘ewwww,’ but it did clear up the great big mystery that had engulfed me for 139 pages - i.e. where does he produce manure from (since he doesn’t raise cows or buffalo, only chicken, and hunts / kills roam-free deer) or does he buy it, and where does he get money for that since he has none? Apart from what transpires at page 29 (and 139) - what I consider to be major hiccups to an otherwise inspiring true story of an admirable, confused man’s dream of how to spend his days - a respectable feat indeed - the book is study of a man practicing his convictions through discipline, hard work and perseverance. I am fully aware that the author will never see this or any other review unless it’s handwritten and sent via post-mail to him, however I do wish he had included his annual calendar of tasks done in specific months to ensure continuity and provision of goods, food and basic care to property. That would have been useful. There are also no pictures (or Kristy’s illustrations!) in the ARC I have. Real bummer. Maybe the publisher could have sent someone to his place to take images. (Edit: There is a video on youtube - shock! horror!- also shared on the author's page here on goodreads - What? He has a page? On internet? - that shows a bit of his place.) The author is heavily influenced by Henry David Thoreau, whom he mentions constantly. The author believes that ecological impact of industrial-scale technology and agriculture is that it depends on oil rigs, quarries, mines, the factory system, state armies, deforestation, urbanisation, suburbanisation and damage to rivers and fish and environment, but he goes a step further. He also feels strongly about the dependency that society has for technology, amenities and stuff and his actions are all about getting rid of the psychological and practical dependency over things and comforts. This means that though the author still enjoys cartoned peanut butter, ninety-nine percent of his time on the remote place is spent doing hard labor simply to exist. Of course all neighbors help each other out, that’s what poverty-stricken people do - stick together. It’s unpaid labor. This means there would be no migration or exchange of ideas from foreigners because everything is generational and exclusive. The world left that concept behind a long time ago when rising population coincided with lack of resources. He in effect is surrounded by people he does not necessarily like, but needs for various freebies. His conversations with neighbors and those in pub are superficial at best - with them either agreeing with him or he merely putting up with their life stories - with no real connection or divergent wisdom, when all of the people he likes and is close to, are living far, far away (and he can only access them and vice versa through letters). But I get what the author is doing. He wanted to go back to a time when people had more control over their lives and accepted what they didn’t have and enjoyed the daily pleasures of a simple co-existence, with a deeper connectedness and humility and kindness for each other - but I have to say, he has chosen a very lonely way to accomplish it. All his neighbors are really old people (fifty to eighty year olds). No one has children living in. How do you read by the fire without electricity? They used CANDLES (2-3 a day but stopped altogether six months in). And of course, he made the candles: in June, he cuts rush from the potato field, turning it into a candle wick (for winter when light is dark or dim for 16 hours daily!) Also, I don’t know what the use is of cutting down trees (beech and birch) just to warm up your place (no word on how he controls wood from disease, termite) and reading paper-books, instead of ebooks because the tree loss is huge in both cases and makes his work against nature as opposed to pro-nature. Or whether he plants new trees each spring (he planted new trees in 2013 before moving in the farmhouse). The author hates big business and Silicon Valley billionaires (Exhibit A: “Now I suspect that supporting a corporate football team is a sort of toxic substitute for our basic need to belong to a tribe who are all bound by the same common purpose. But when one player you roared on one season signs for a rival club the next, for 90 million Euros, the joke starts to wear thin.”) The book shows the author to be in incredible shape to be able to do hard labor to achieve a non-dependent lifestyle. He works in the field to grow veggies, carries wooden carts, cuts wood, skins deer, walks 14 kilometers, endures harsh weather, and does all sorts of odd jobs around the land all by himself. This is a lot of work just to survive. I don’t know how his partner was killing time but it grows clear soon that she is not happy there. He mentions eating meat (deer) after being a lifelong vegetarian. My guess is he’d have to, to get energy for all the unforgiving work he has to do in a day. He doesn’t mention whether he and his girlfriend / partner are using natural methods to control getting pregnant or she’s on the pill or whether he got the snip right after unplugging his phone and computer and before he ventured on this remote place, or she got the tubes done. It probably doesn’t matter because she isn’t living with him by the end of the book - she writes a ‘Dear John’ letter (that’s 5 years, 2 girlfriends and 1 small-holding; he doesn’t want kids). The author is either not a fan of music or prefers birdsongs (by thrush, goldfinch, bullfinch and magpie). He didn’t learn the tin whistle like his girlfriend Kristy told him to and he has to take her to a pub for her to tap dance to ‘electronic’ music. There’s a real sense of isolation and frog-in-the-well mentality. I would have gone nuts like Nicholson in ‘Shining’ (and I suspect the author is on his way there too - or he’s extremely brave). Honorable mention: "a friend…..met a small village-worth of women on the banks of remotest part of Pakistan, washing clothes together, laughing, talking, being playful." (I have to put a disclaimer here: clothes are washed like this IN EVERY PART OF PAKISTAN, not just remote areas, whether a community is together at it or just a help maid or single individual!) Second Honorable mention: The Great Blasket Island. And the line: “I’m in the hot tub with Edward Abbey. All 336 pages of him.” There’s a lot of alcohol drinking by the author in this book (yes, it’s culture and tradition, but all the hard labor got me wondering whether it was not also an escape or coping mechanism?) He grows raspberries and blackberries for this purpose and got 22 kg of blackcurrants for free from a friend who grows them but doesn’t have buyers because people don’t make jams and preserves anymore. The author figures it will take him a day and a half’s work to make 75 liters of wine and 20 jars of jam from the gifted blackcurrants. Even the conversations he has with others in pubs, or which he shares in this book during his mundane travels, are about miserable people trying to justify what society has lost in its pursuit of progress, probably because the author doesn’t care if the whole world goes up in flames, as long as his cabin doesn’t. And this is a man who has worked as an activist, businessman and digital journalist but thought it best to go back to the olden days when people rode station wagons and did not hurt native species, except for an occasional deer. The author ‘runs’ a free hostel and event space at his small-holding called The Happy Pig, whose kind-of address that he provides gives a general idea of the place only: “Knockmoyle, Kylebrack, Loughrea, County Galway, Ireland.” He doesn’t give out directions. He wants you to just show up at the door. Once there, you are literally on your own, self-reliant for food and entertainment. And you can guess where and what the loo is - unless the hostel is in the farmhouse with running electricity and working plumbing - but that would not sit well with the author: he wants you to take a risk, experience not knowing, learning and enjoying an uncoded nature, wild, and unbroken. At the end, having typed the manuscript himself so that it does get published (though swearing that he will one day write with his own pen, ink and paper that he will create himself aka quill, ink-cap-mushrooms, birch polypores and dryad’s saddle fungus), the author reminisces whether he’ll continue to live like this and mentions that he isn’t done exploring human beings, their depths and layers and how he feels we are all cloaked in from the moment we are born and he would like to see people without the masks and "ambition, plastic and comfort." My only question is how will he ever do that if he continues to isolate himself from the rest of the world? Imagine, a bearded man in a moorish Irish land whom you may meet if you go there and he may meet you if he has the time! Besides, he’s still in love with Kristy. All the best to the author, though he'll never know it since no mailing address is provided for him, and thanks to the publisher for the ARC.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Rob Greenfield

    Like millions of other people around the world I first came upon Mark Boyle through a viral Facebook post. The story was headlined by an iconic photo of him sitting bare chested outside next to his homemade rocket stove and his clothes hanging out to dry. After the stories popped up in my newsfeed enough times I finally decided to dive in and in learn about who this guy was. I was quite inspired right away and he made me rethink much of my life. But once I read his books, he actually changed my li Like millions of other people around the world I first came upon Mark Boyle through a viral Facebook post. The story was headlined by an iconic photo of him sitting bare chested outside next to his homemade rocket stove and his clothes hanging out to dry. After the stories popped up in my newsfeed enough times I finally decided to dive in and in learn about who this guy was. I was quite inspired right away and he made me rethink much of my life. But once I read his books, he actually changed my life. He's been one of the most influential people to date, and I am who I am today partly because of him. I could ramble on forever about how pivotal it was for me to read Mark’s books and explain all the benefit that I received from them but the best thing to do is to read them yourself. I highly encourage people to read each of his books, including his latest, The Way Home: Tales from a Life Without Technology. I'd suggest coming at them with a very open mind. He thinks and is able to put it on paper like few people I've met so an open mind is a must for most people. These books could change your life for the better.

  13. 4 out of 5

    tonia peckover

    I'm pretty sure that if Mark Boyle had lived in the Middle Ages he would have found his way to a monastery, possibly a hermitage. He has an ascetic's soul. This account of his withdrawal from a life dependent on technology is inspiring and revealing. What's most admirable about it is his honest engagement with the dilemmas his choices lead to and his commitment to his path. I loved following his story through the seasons, getting an idea of a different kind of life. It's clear from his account t I'm pretty sure that if Mark Boyle had lived in the Middle Ages he would have found his way to a monastery, possibly a hermitage. He has an ascetic's soul. This account of his withdrawal from a life dependent on technology is inspiring and revealing. What's most admirable about it is his honest engagement with the dilemmas his choices lead to and his commitment to his path. I loved following his story through the seasons, getting an idea of a different kind of life. It's clear from his account that until/unless our culture changes to support it, this choice is really only for the fit and relatively young, probably for people with few or no children. But I gleaned so much from his observations and his honest wrestlings and I am applying what I can to my own life in ways that suit me. As soon as I finished the book I put it on my nightstand to read again slowly so I don't lose the trail of thoughts Boyle's lifestyle has started for me.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Marianne

    The Way Home is a fascinating account of how Mark Boyle rejects technology to reconnect with nature- and with the lives of the Irish island of Knockmoyle’s original inhabitants. He is, without doubt, a man of conviction. Throughout ‘The Way Home’, his determination to put his beliefs into practice, whatever the hardship and personal cost, commands my respect. His experience highlights the disconnection between modern life and the natural world; he shows us how technology can de-skill us and make The Way Home is a fascinating account of how Mark Boyle rejects technology to reconnect with nature- and with the lives of the Irish island of Knockmoyle’s original inhabitants. He is, without doubt, a man of conviction. Throughout ‘The Way Home’, his determination to put his beliefs into practice, whatever the hardship and personal cost, commands my respect. His experience highlights the disconnection between modern life and the natural world; he shows us how technology can de-skill us and make us lose an awareness of our surroundings and the impact we are having on them. Having read ‘The Way Home’, I will be taking some small steps of my own to a life less dictated by technology; beginning by switching off my phone and heading out for a walk. Without doubt, Mark Boyle’s account makes a very strong case for all of us to become more conscious of nature and our impact on it, both for our own health and wellbeing, and even more urgently, for that of our planet.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Annarella

    A fascinating and interesting book. I liked the style of writing and I think this book is full of food for thought. Highly recommended! Many thanks to Oneworld Publications and Netgalley for this ARC

  16. 5 out of 5

    Lee Osborne

    I've been meaning to read this book for some time, as I've long been interested in the concepts of "slow living", living more simply, using less and liberating myself from the worst excesses of capitalism. Ultimately, modern life squeezes us into a mould of consumption, forcing us to work hard for companies that we feel very little in common with. Mark Boyle has previously spent three years living without money, but this experiment - living on a remote smallholding with virtually no services or I've been meaning to read this book for some time, as I've long been interested in the concepts of "slow living", living more simply, using less and liberating myself from the worst excesses of capitalism. Ultimately, modern life squeezes us into a mould of consumption, forcing us to work hard for companies that we feel very little in common with. Mark Boyle has previously spent three years living without money, but this experiment - living on a remote smallholding with virtually no services or technology - interested me more. I've long felt I've had an unhealthy relationship with technology, and I was keen to learn from Boyle's experiences of attempting to live without it in the twenty-first century. The author describes his life in a wooden cabin in rural Ireland, with no running water, no electricity, and no modern technology at all. No phone, no internet, not even anything battery-powered. As a result, the book was written using paper and a pencil. He describes the course of his life over a year, starting in winter, and dealing with the seasons as they change. This book won't be for everyone, but I certainly found it fascinating. What he did was quite extreme and sounded like bloody hard work, but he successfully (for the most part) managed to keep himself fed, clothed and healthy with absolutely minimal involvement in the industrial capitalist economy. He communicated exclusively by mail, travelled to most places on foot or by bike, and didn't use any power tools as he grew his own food, or hunted or fished for it. He describes the changes he sees around him as rural Ireland is increasingly affected by the pressures of economic growth and technological change, and his efforts to return to a more integrated and simple life. I think it was fairly obvious early on that this is a course of action open only to a few people, who are willing to uproot themselves and make a lot of sacrifices, and who don't have too many ties or responsibilities to anyone else. I have a mortgage and kids to raise, so it's pretty obvious that I couldn't do what the author did - and I'm not sure I'd want to, either. I think he was a bit extreme in what he did, and in places comes across as a bit preachy and judgemental. Clearly that's the reaction a lot of people have to his work. I found it interesting that he wrote an entire book using paper and a pencil, but I thought he had a rather unnecessary crisis of conscience over his need to use a computer to type it up for publication. I'm currently writing this on an Alphasmart, a very simple tool for getting text into electronic form, so there's ways and means of doing lots of things more simply, if you have a bit of imagination. That said, I think many of his ideas and efforts were admirable and worthy of attention, and it's certainly made me think about how many things I need to buy new, how much energy I use, and how much time I spend online, and whether all of things I do bring quality and enrichment not just to me, but to the world around me. At a time when I've just quit an extremely tedious and unsatisfying job in an office, it's come at exactly the right moment to help me think about what I do next, and how to achieve it, and I therefore found the book extremely valuable. The form of writing is quite slow and rambling, and it won't be for everyone, but if you have any doubts at all about the direction modern life is heading in, you'll find something valuable in this, and I can heartily recommend it.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Wendy

    The Way Home: Tales from a Life Without Technology is extraordinary. Mark Boyle has held many different positions in life to make money. He's been a grocery clerk, a business manager, a lecturer and a writer, just to name a few. He's lived in the UK, had an extended trip/stay in New York. He's used technology to maintain his life: cell phones, computers, the Internet, social media - he's used them all. At a point in his life he decided to live without money. He did that successfully. Then he dec The Way Home: Tales from a Life Without Technology is extraordinary. Mark Boyle has held many different positions in life to make money. He's been a grocery clerk, a business manager, a lecturer and a writer, just to name a few. He's lived in the UK, had an extended trip/stay in New York. He's used technology to maintain his life: cell phones, computers, the Internet, social media - he's used them all. At a point in his life he decided to live without money. He did that successfully. Then he decided to live without technology: no phones, no computers, no Internet, no social media, no car, no mass transportation, no electricity, no furnace, no grocery. Boyle doesn't use a clock or a calendar. He uses the post office for correspondence. The Way Home is his story of living life on a "smallholding" in Ireland (the country where he was born) without all that most would consider the comforts of home. For Boyle, the comforts of home are more along the lines of feeling the soil on your hands as you plant new crops (knowing your success at the planting will decide a plentiful meal later on), chopping wood for the fire, helping a neighbor move a stone (knowing he/she will return the favor as needed - no keeping score), getting up when you wake up (which is usually way before sunup), taking a hot bath in a "hot tub" you designed from others' leftovers, making candles and having a glass of wine you made with your own hands. Boyle struggles throughout the book making sure the reader understands this wasn't an easy decision, but one he determined he had to do for his peace of mind and to make the best possible use of this time on earth he's been given. He is a voracious reader and quotes Edward Abbey, Aldo Leopold, Annie Dillard, Wendell Berry, Alain de Botton and James Rebanks all of whom have written books/articles about living different types of life. There are books written by people that attempt to persuade (aka "bash over the head) readers to adopt a way of life the author says is the only way to live. In doing so, the result is a preachy, judgmental verbal spanking that gives me the chills first and then turns to anger. It was very different with this book. As I read The Way Home I found myself smiling, laughing, crying and, yes, cringing (mostly when I thought of collecting my body expulsions for the compost pile). I love it when a book does that for me. I know I couldn't live as Boyle does - I enjoy the lights on, the dishwasher, the stove, the refrigerator, the clock, the calendar and while I loathe driving, I couldn't walk all the places I want to see. I would miss watching a movie, and listening to music whenever I wanted (though Boyle manages to listen to quite a bit of live music). What I appreciated was how Boyle reinforced making good use of, and being happy in the life I've been rewarded with for as long as possible. The Way Home is much more than the subtitle implies.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Eric Shapiro

    Strong 4/5. A fascinating account of the author's journey to live off the land and forego essentially all human technology, relying on his own two hands and mind (and help from friends and neighbours) to build a shelter and not only survive but live a meaningful life away from the distractions of modern society. It sounds cliche when I write it out like that, but Mark Boyle is well aware of this too. He often notes the various feedback he has received on his "experiment" (both this one and his p Strong 4/5. A fascinating account of the author's journey to live off the land and forego essentially all human technology, relying on his own two hands and mind (and help from friends and neighbours) to build a shelter and not only survive but live a meaningful life away from the distractions of modern society. It sounds cliche when I write it out like that, but Mark Boyle is well aware of this too. He often notes the various feedback he has received on his "experiment" (both this one and his previous one where he lived without money for an entire year), much of it lambasting him for his naivete and foolishness. He struggles with the fact that the country, and the entire natural world, that he loves so much is being destroyed often senselessly, and this is his attempt to create some kind of meaning in his life and his relationship to nature. His observations of technology and its effect on society are biased, yes, but reasonable and well thought out. The single thing that I admire the most about this book is his dedication to his beliefs - this is not a year-long experiment; for him, he seems committed to living the rest of his days on his land, farming, taking care of animals, helping neighbours, and running his free "hostel" where anyone can stay if they can find the place. Similarly, this entire book was handwritten and the audiobook version recorded by his brother, because audio recordings = technology = no go. There aren't really any mindblowing revelations or groundbreaking philosophical musings here, but that's not what Boyle sets out to do. This is simply an account of his experiences, and an honest one. I do wish he went into more details as far as the technical work involved insofar as food preservation, gardening, building his cabin, etc. was concerned, but that may have bogged down the book unnecessarily, so I see why he may have avoided that. Anyway, I really enjoyed this and would recommend to anyone interested in wilderness/environmental topics, although be warned that his views are rather extreme. It was also fun to see him mention and cite various authors I've read/want to read, solidifying its place among contemporary environmental non-fiction.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Gabriella

    It seems ironic to type out my admiration for "The Way Home" on my smartphone - one of many ironies I've noticed over the last few days as I've been reading it. I think it's important to be critically aware of how we use technologies such as phones and computers, and how often we absentmindedly reach for them during the day. I have a tendency to read books like this, go into shock about my technology (over)use, strictly limit my use for a few weeks, then return to my old ways. Maybe I need to pr It seems ironic to type out my admiration for "The Way Home" on my smartphone - one of many ironies I've noticed over the last few days as I've been reading it. I think it's important to be critically aware of how we use technologies such as phones and computers, and how often we absentmindedly reach for them during the day. I have a tendency to read books like this, go into shock about my technology (over)use, strictly limit my use for a few weeks, then return to my old ways. Maybe I need to pre-empt this cycle with a "to re-read" pile - at the top of which will be this warm, thought-provoking book. I really enjoyed Mark Boyle's down-to-earth tone, and never found his thoughts and musings to be sanctimonious. As such, I would highly recommend this book - not only because it's a fascinating account of the author's successes and failures as he seeks to "make living [his] life", but as a way of shocking yourself out of some habits you might not have noticed yourself acquiring... Habits which our profoundly unhealthy society is all to happy to encourage.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Andy

    real and honest account of author's decision to live on remote Irish farm without any of the typical modern conveniences - from phones to electricity to indoor plumbing relieved that he was very open from the start and showed lack of any pretension that this would be relevant to most people's choices touches on environmental destruction, increased mechanisation of farming, migration from rural areas. jumps at times to account of his visit to Blasket Islands and the lifestyle that existed there a ce real and honest account of author's decision to live on remote Irish farm without any of the typical modern conveniences - from phones to electricity to indoor plumbing relieved that he was very open from the start and showed lack of any pretension that this would be relevant to most people's choices touches on environmental destruction, increased mechanisation of farming, migration from rural areas. jumps at times to account of his visit to Blasket Islands and the lifestyle that existed there a century ago also very honest on struggles with relationships, perhaps due to lifestyle choices

  21. 4 out of 5

    Stefanie

    While I sometimes found myself wanting the book to be different, and while I have some quibbles with Boyle on a number of his choices, I still enjoyed reading about the challenges of living a low tech life in a high tech world. The reactions of people to Boyle's choices are one of the best things about this book. While the book ostensibly covers one year, it is clear the Boyle has a lot more experience and foundation to start with than an average person who decides to go off grid. He makes it so While I sometimes found myself wanting the book to be different, and while I have some quibbles with Boyle on a number of his choices, I still enjoyed reading about the challenges of living a low tech life in a high tech world. The reactions of people to Boyle's choices are one of the best things about this book. While the book ostensibly covers one year, it is clear the Boyle has a lot more experience and foundation to start with than an average person who decides to go off grid. He makes it sound darn right easy most of the time even when he talks about spending half the day hauling manure in wheelbarrows from a neighboring farm to his veg garden. I suspect the book is written from an accumulation of experience rather than from the first year of living of grid and low tech. Still, a good read with lots of things to think about and consider in terms of what our high tech world does and does not do for us.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Nadine

    This was the surprise find of the month. Not sure what I expected but it was altogether more pensive and reflective rather than an anti-technology rant. It’s given me much pause for thought since I finished and enough impact to merit buying a copy. I’ve also recommended it to a number of people.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Keri

    One of my favorite ideas from the books was; "if you don't make time for health, you will make time for illness."

  24. 4 out of 5

    Katie

    Boring. That’s all I can say.

  25. 5 out of 5

    George1st

    I'm reviewing this book that I have recently read on a Kindle device while sitting here on a PC situated in a well lighted and heated comfortable environment with tabs open that enable me to access the World Wide Web. I'm therefore thinking that this is probably the direct antithesis to what constitutes Mark Boyle's present life and ethos as portrayed in his latest wonderfully thought provoking and also entertaining book "The Way Home." Mark's first book published in 2010 "The Moneyless Man: A Y I'm reviewing this book that I have recently read on a Kindle device while sitting here on a PC situated in a well lighted and heated comfortable environment with tabs open that enable me to access the World Wide Web. I'm therefore thinking that this is probably the direct antithesis to what constitutes Mark Boyle's present life and ethos as portrayed in his latest wonderfully thought provoking and also entertaining book "The Way Home." Mark's first book published in 2010 "The Moneyless Man: A Year of Freeconomic Living" documents how he was able to live without money and now he explores the challenges, philosophy and reality of spending a year without technology. Part practical guide, part polemic, part coming to terms with his past life this is a book that is a bit different from other escape back to nature accounts that I have read recently for Mark is constantly trying to come to terms with how humans should interact with nature in an increasingly technology dominated world. Living in a cabin on a small holding situated on the rugged and isolated west coast of Ireland, we get the sense of a community that is slowly dying. The post offices and pubs are closing and the young have long departed to the cities. For the mainly elderly remaining it seems that a way of life will cease once they are departed. Mark paints a wonderful picture of the local characters with all their eccentricities as they go about their daily life. We read how he learns to farm, fish and develop his smallholding environment. This is a very personal book and the part regarding his eventual parting with his girlfriend Kirsty with whom he shared many of his struggles and triumphs during the year is beautifully moving and heartfelt. Divided into the four seasons we get a real feel of the distinctiveness and challenges that each one presents. After reading this book you may well look at the environment that surrounds you in a different light and perhaps think more deeply about how we are destroying it. Certainly in my opinion well worth a read.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Natalie Wheeler

    This book was incredibly thought provoking. 5/5 plus more. All the stars.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Dave

    I feel like I'm being kind of generous giving this 4 stars. It's not written very well, and it was surprisingly vague on some of the things I was most curious about while spending too much time on things I didn't think were all that important, or that he's already written about in his other books, but I really like what Mark Boyle is about and I'm glad to see that he's still at it. In some ways this is actually an improvement over his earlier books. After years of experimentation he's come to re I feel like I'm being kind of generous giving this 4 stars. It's not written very well, and it was surprisingly vague on some of the things I was most curious about while spending too much time on things I didn't think were all that important, or that he's already written about in his other books, but I really like what Mark Boyle is about and I'm glad to see that he's still at it. In some ways this is actually an improvement over his earlier books. After years of experimentation he's come to realize how naïve some of his earlier ideas were. In other ways he's gotten sloppier as he's tried writing more by hand without the aid of computer editing. It sort of bounces around randomly from subject to subject, reading like a diary instead of an organized book. This is the type of subject matter that should be judged more on its themes than on how pretty it's worded though. Having done some of my own sloppy writing on this subject (http://aproposalforprimitivism.blogsp...), I know I hate being criticized by people who seem more interested in word porn than in logic. Still, this could have been a lot better. I really wanted to like it more than I did, to be honest.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Helen

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. Every time I picked it up it was like stepping out of the fast lane and being reminded that there is another way to live. I started noticing the birds singing more, slowed down my activity and even made a new friend because I slowed down enough to speak to a stranger, share a slow walk and conversation with them (they were elderly and used a walker). It was a life affirming experience, directly as a result of reading this book.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Julia

    One winter morning in a cabin he has built himself, Mark Boyle turns away from modern technology, eschewing smart phones, electricity and even running water. This is his "year in the life" living off the land in rural Ireland, at a time when folks in the country are abandoning their ancestral lands to migrate en masse to urban areas. The Way Home is thought-provoking and a frequently prompt for self-examination. It has left me feeling more generally pessimistic about the current state of things, One winter morning in a cabin he has built himself, Mark Boyle turns away from modern technology, eschewing smart phones, electricity and even running water. This is his "year in the life" living off the land in rural Ireland, at a time when folks in the country are abandoning their ancestral lands to migrate en masse to urban areas. The Way Home is thought-provoking and a frequently prompt for self-examination. It has left me feeling more generally pessimistic about the current state of things, and what we're leaving behind. I'm not sure the solution is for us all to drop everything and return to sustenance living, but is there another possibility? A happy medium which isn't nearly as damaging and capitalism-driven? It wasn't perhaps the goal of the book, but I also found that I craved more detail about his methods -- HOW did he learn the "old-fashioned" methods for building or doing things? He seemed to know instinctively and effortlessly how to do it all. I received this ARC via LibraryThing's Early Reviewers program.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Malinda Jane

    It was a quick and easy read, but ultimately felt repetitive and a lot of the musing fell hollow. The author mentions how one shouldn’t romanticize his way of life, but that is entirely what this book is. Beyond that, it felt disingenuous to me - for someone who was setting out to eschew money, he continued to publish his writing and make public appearances, give talks and otherwise monetize and maintain a writing career. I’m sure in his own mind he considers his life’s work to be taking care of It was a quick and easy read, but ultimately felt repetitive and a lot of the musing fell hollow. The author mentions how one shouldn’t romanticize his way of life, but that is entirely what this book is. Beyond that, it felt disingenuous to me - for someone who was setting out to eschew money, he continued to publish his writing and make public appearances, give talks and otherwise monetize and maintain a writing career. I’m sure in his own mind he considers his life’s work to be taking care of his homestead, but the fact is that he has a modern career which funds his chosen way of life. Not only does this chosen way of life seem entirely unsustainable (even his partner who built this life with him was unsatisfied and left) but to suggest that this life is somehow more “pure”, more “real” is absolute romanticism. He tries to spin this endeavor as a way to lessen his footprint and better the world, but rather than stay in the world doing the best that he can (like the rest of us with partners, children, family and friends that we wish to remain connected to have to) he chose to cut himself off and seclude himself from the outside world at large. He chose this life for largely selfish reasons and for him to spin it otherwise is a joke, like it’s attainable for people who work multiple jobs to support their family and make ends meet can (or SHOULD) reasonably pack it up and buy a plot of land and live off the grid is ridiculous. This type of life isn’t revolutionary. It doesn’t cause large scale change. It changed his life and his life alone. Sharing his story may cause people to pause and reflect on the way they live their life, but beyond that, what does he contribute to beyond his own feeling of self righteousness? He could have stayed put in his job in the organic farming sector and worked towards creating more systemic changes and had a greater effect on the world, bur he chose to check out and live life differently. It’s nothing more profound than that. I clearly have a lot of thoughts about this book, and for this i’m not mad I read it, but it certainly would score 5/5 eye rolls if that were a rating system here.

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