Oh my. It is time to re-name the blog Crankypants Reader, I believe.
For whatever reasons, I am addicted to simple life and save money books--like business books, I find reading about these subjects much more satisfying than actually living these topics (which I kind of do by default, anyway). Nothing gives me bigger screaming heebies than the thought of growing my own food, "urban foraging," going back to the land, or, in the case of saving money books, searching for coupons online, doubling and stacking coupons, and then hoarding the food I buy with coupons. In some odd way I think I'm searching for a book that will help me save enough money that I won't need to work at all, but I know that most varieties of "saving money" activities actually end up being bigger chores in themselves.
So keep in mind that I'm searching for the unfindable, and therefore it is not really fair of me to rip on John Robbins's title The New Good Life: Living Better Than Ever in an Age of Less. I started off annoyed with this one when I learned that Robbins is the son of the founder of Baskin-Robbins, and therefore grew up surrounded by fantastic wealth (and ice cream--it just doesn't get much better than that). He makes a big deal about how he rejected his father's wealth when he grew up and got married--"we built a tiny one-room log cabin in which we lived for the next ten years, 1969-1979, growing much of our own food..."--but I say pooh to that. There's a big difference between rejecting your father's pile of cash (but knowing he's really never going to let you starve) and your father not having a pile of cash.
Eventually Robbins made his own fortune by writing the bestselling title Diet for a New America, but later in life he lost all his money because he had it invested with...wait for it...Bernie Madoff. (I read it too fast to get all the details; I'm not sure he knew who he was investing with, but that's not really such a good idea either.) So now he's poor and looking to live simple again, and, ta-da! He's written this book.
I wouldn't be so bitter about all of this (hey, good for him for trying to find a way to cash in; God knows if I could I would) but this book is the most utterly bland, derivative, hodgepodge example of its type. He starts off with some generic information about getting to know your money type, taking four steps to financial freedom (largely borrowed, with attribution, from Joe Dominguez's and Vicki Robin's Your Money or Your Life), and chapters on saving money by maintaining your home (and cutting energy costs), trying to live where you work, eating smarter, and thinking carefully about how many kids you have and how you will raise them.
That's all all right. But I have two main beefs with this book: health insurance, arguably any individual's biggest money sink today, is barely mentioned (except in the first chapter, where Robbins does state that his grandchildren, a set of twins, have special needs and require expensive care) and doesn't show up in the index.* He also engages in what I call modern green thinking--that is, thinking that purports to be green but doesn't really seem (to me) to be. To wit: "If you have an old fridge, consider getting a newer one, preferably one with an Energy Star label. Old fridges are electricity hogs. The most efficient newer ones use only a tenth as much energy as those produced before 1993." (p. 108.) I always get very squirrelly when someone's energy- and money-saving suggestion is to go buy something new; it's just a gut reaction.
So. All of the above are the reasons for my reaction of "whatever, jerk" to this title. Also: I'm just plain Crankypants Reader this week. Let's hope for better times next week!
*I can save all I want on my clothing and home budgets--ask Mr. CR; I've been wearing the same pair of pants all winter because I want to fit in my old pair of pants (yes, singular; even when I lose the baby weight I'll still only have the one option)--but that ain't going to put a dent in what we pay for partially-job-subsidized health insurance premiums, or what we would have to pay if we tried to cover our own insurance.