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Life 2.0 : How People Across America Are Transforming Their Lives by Finding the Where of Their Happiness Hardcover – July 27, 2004


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

As the publisher of Forbes and with an extensive background in Silicon Valley, Karlgaard might be expected to have particular insight into how Americans rattled by the bursting of the dot-com bubble are coming to grips with their tightened circumstances and creating their own minirecoveries. His book's problem is lack of focus—is it a personal account of his learning to fly a small aircraft so he can fly state-to-state to meet local success stories, or is it a more detached observation of the economic forces driving folks out of the coastal metropolises to find "larger lives in smaller places"? The two halves never really gel, and though the economic aspects of the story generally hold sway, his own stories overshadow the perspectives of those he's reporting. The compelling story of a woman who retires from the State Department to do freelance foreign political consulting out of Bismarck, N.D., for example, is interrupted by Karlgaard's telling of his high school crush. A tail-end list of "150 Cheap Places to Live" creates further fragmentation, but it is one of the book's most valuable sections. There's definitely a thought-provoking story to be told here, but it's debatable whether Karlgaard has succeeded in putting the pieces together.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From the Inside Flap

"A delightful, and surprisingly moving, tale" -- Michael Lewis, bestselling author of Moneyball

"Karlgaard flies in with a companion concept to David Brooks’s On Paradise Drive" -- Tom Wolfe

"While counterintuitive to those on the conventional fast-track, Life 2.0 offers great promise to those who are open to personal innovation" -- Clayton Christensen, Professor, Harvard Business School

"This fascinating treatise will make you think deeply, and may just give you the impetus to uproot" -- Tom Peters

"An original and exhilarating look at options many Americans don’t realize are now open to them." -- James Fallows, national correspondent, The Atlantic Monthly

"Not only will it widen the horizons of your life, it could also renew your health and wealth." -- George Gilder

Have You Found the Where of Your Happiness?

One of the intriguing things about the United States is the idea of the second chance, that when you feel stuck there is always a frontier you can cross to reinvent yourself. In Life 2.0, Rich Karlgaard used his own personal and professional midlife crises to look at the state of the American dream—the belief in continuous personal upward mobility—and where it stands in the twenty-first century.

At the ripe old age of forty-five, Karlgaard fell in love with flying and mastered the art of lifting up and bringing down a "2,500-pound aluminum box kite"—a four-seat single-engine airplane. As the publisher of Forbes he felt that he was doing too much armchair theorizing and didn’t really understand how Americans were responding to the changes that had started taking place so swiftly over the past few years.

So he put together his new flying skills and reportorial mission and flew around America to places like Green Bay, Wisconsin; Bozeman, Montana; Fargo, North Dakota; Des Moines, Iowa; and Lake Placid, New York, to gain some insight into how ordinary Americans are untangling the knotty problems of constant stress, crushing expense, and bewildering hassle that often characterize life in the nation’s urban centers.

He discovered their simple solution: they moved. What Karlgaard found on the road are fascinating and inspiring stories about people— those with a nose for entrepreneurship, a faith in technology, and the willingness to take a chance—who are finding the new American dream in places as far from New York City and Silicon Valley as you can imagine. Some of those people include:

• A burned-out insurance exec who fled his overworked East Coast life and settled in tranquil (yet dynamic) Des Moines
• A tool broker who traded his brick-and-mortar business in sunny California for a life in the Pennsylvania hills, where he relaunched his business on the Internet
• A road-warrior democracy specialist who conducts her worldly affairs from the low-key outpost of Bismarck, North Dakota
• A self-made millionaire who paid for his financial success with his first marriage and who did things differently the second time around by moving to smaller cities and focusing on family as well as work

Adroitly combining analysis of the economic and social trends challenging middle-class people with perceptive advice on how to escape the rat race of the coasts, Karlgaard explores the eye-opening possibilities of that huge tract of land often carelessly dubbed "flyover country." Filled with stories of personal reinvention and triumph, Life 2.0 is the story of those who are living larger lives in smaller places.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Crown Business (July 27, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400046076
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400046072
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,737,236 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Kevin W. Moore on August 16, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I'm a 17-year resident of Palo Alto, California, land of the $700,000 fixer-upper, and it's indeed a wonderful place to live if you can afford the price of admission: safe, excellent schools, a mild climate, pleasant & bicycle-friendly tree-lined streets, and a community life strongly flavored by proximity to Stanford University. Unlike a number of the subjects interviewed in Rich Karlgaard's Life 2.0, I have been fortunate to enjoy (?) commutes of 20 minutes or less. Downsides? A few: high mortgage, state income tax and property tax bills-EVERYTHING costs more here-congested rush hour and weekend getaway traffic, and a workaholic culture in which one schedules a dinner with friends a month or more in advance and it is rare for a long-time neighbor to be more than a passing acquaintance.

Nonetheless, in recent years my wife and I have often pondered whether we might enhance our family's quality of life by relocating to a smaller community. So far, in the last analysis, it has always come down to, "They don't have my kind of work [biotechnology research] there."

This sort of yearning is part of aging ("When you're young, you want to get away, when you're old you want to go back...") and is not unique to the nation's post-boom cultural and economic circumstances. However in Life 2.0 Karlgaard has identified a number of economic and social developments that in the next 1 or 2 decades could well synergize, transforming "yearning" to "megatrend.
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39 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Stacy E. Burrell on September 28, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book reminds me of "What Should I Do With My Life?" by Po Bronson, just shorter and with an emphasis on finding a more quality place to live. I didn't mind the side stories about the author's flying experiences and didn't think it took much from the book.

There are two things about the book which I had problems. First, the people profiled were high achievers and not typical of the average citizen that lives in high priced urban areas and is looking for an alternative. Technology has allowed for people to work in places outside of the large cities and it would have been nice to hear about "regular" people who have been able to make the transition to smaller places. The people in the book would probably be successful wherever because of the track record and capital that they had previously built. The second thing I had a problem with was the third section "150 Cheap Places to Live". There are places listed that I had not considered and merit further research. However, there are place listed, such as Boulder, CO, that are very expensive, unless you are downsizing from a house in LA, Silicon Valley, etc... Also, some of the choices are suspect. For example, Cleveland is listed under Bohemian Bargains, yet this city has the highest percentage of residents living in poverty. Omitted was Dallas, TX which has fairly low housing prices and a stable economy versus Austin, which is also reasonable, but not as diverse of an economy.

Overall, I enjoyed reading the book and it is a starting place for thinking about alternative locations to live.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By B. Johnson on May 27, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I purchased this book with high hopes, but what a disappointment! I am someone who has a big career in management consulting, but chooses to live in a small town in the Colorado mountains. The exact type of person Karlgaard claims to want to write about. Unfortunately, Karlgaard is not much of a writer.

He spends maybe half his pointless pages with tedious stories about learning to fly. Imagine someone writing about driving from city to city, including what the weather was, were they stopped for gas, and the occasional flat tire. This book is even duller than that.

The rest of his pages are filled with the obvious, the uninteresting, and the mostly unfounded views he has on life in small town America. For example, he proclaims that a college or university is key to a triving small city or town. Unfortunately, the empirical evidence shows that isn't true. Read Boomtown USA: The 7 1/2 Keys to Big Success in Small Towns by Jack Shultz, a much better book and grounded in more than just the author's opinions.

There is a trend of accomplished people escaping the coasts and moving to small towns and finding success and quality of life. But this isn't the book to help you understand that trend.

Really, I didn't find a single thing of value in this book at all.
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31 of 36 people found the following review helpful By John W Phipps on May 28, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Once you skim the flying blither, there is little other than clumsy narratives about people who have gotten their share of the pie moving out to expropriate the communities of those who have made do with less to build. Karlgaard seems to assume that relocating means one can immediately participate in social structures built painstakingly one year at a time. The author offers no suggestions about how to make a community better by being part of it, only shopping advice for those who are location "consumers". Perhaps "home" is now a commodity to be researched and purchased, but it will not be a place for the heart ot reside.
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