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Reinventing Community: Stories from the Walkways of Cohousing Paperback – November 22, 2005

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Fulcrum Publishing (November 22, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1555915019
  • ISBN-13: 978-1555915018
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,135,225 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


One of the best overall introductions to cohousing...offers a rich smorgasbord of community tales. -- Communities magazine, Winter 2005

About the Author

David Wann is a master gardener and holds a Master's degree in environmental science. He is the author of Deep Design and a co-author of the acclaimed Affluenza. He has written for Colorado Country Life magazine as well as several newspapers.

Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5 stars
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See all 8 customer reviews
She tells great stories about the birth, growth and challenges of EcoVillage at Ithaca, but they are all about one single community.
Michael W. Barrow
Some are bad, most are good, most are very entertaining, but all of them are heartfelt commentary on the journey into cohousing, and what happens when you get there.
K. Hoekstra
There's nothing like reading how other cohousing communities have done things to get a good feel for how to handle problems that might arise for your community.
Carol Agate

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

30 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Michael W. Barrow on April 26, 2006
Format: Paperback
Cohousing first hit my personal radar about a year ago when I met the editor, Dave Wann, in Golden, CO. I live in suburbia (Lakewood, CO) and have always felt like there must be a better way to live than the typical fast-paced, disconnected-from-your-neighbor, every-man-for-himself-on-his-own-little-separate-plot kind of existence. I read one of Dave's previous books called Superbia that he co-wrote with Dan Chiras. In it, they describe a bunch of really innovative ideas for helping to transform some of the major limitations of suburbia into a more connected, holistic, neighborly way of living. But I thought to myself, why not go for the real thing?

When I get enamored with an idea, I tend to read a lot and gather as much information about it as I can. And so I have read almost all of the major books out there on cohousing. The seminal one is "Cohousing: A Contemporary Approach to Housing Ourselves" by Katie McCamant and Chuck Durrett, and I highly recommend it. Many of the other ones, like "The Cohousing Handbook : Building a Place for Community" by Chris & Kelly ScottHanson, and "Creating a Life Together: Practical Tools to Grow Ecovillages and Intentional Communities" by Diana Leafe Christian, are good but focus more on the nuts and bolts of how to build a cohousing community physically and otherwise from the ground up. But they don't really tell you what it's like to LIVE in a cohousing community once it is built. The best book I have read before this one that covers that subject well is "EcoVillage at Ithaca: Pioneering a Sustainable Culture" by Liz Walker. She tells great stories about the birth, growth and challenges of EcoVillage at Ithaca, but they are all about one single community.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By K. Hoekstra on June 21, 2006
Format: Paperback
After recently joining a cohousing community in development, I wanted to learn more about others' experiences creating their own cohousing communities.

This book accurately describes life in cohousing from people who actually live there. The stories of the difficulties encountered during development and the insights on living and growing with cohousing, after move-in and several years out, were inspirational and entertaining.

As someone who had never heard the word cohousing and three months later is a member of a cohousing community, I found this book to be a helpful and honest account of the exciting journey that lies ahead for us.

Note - This is not a "how-to" book. It will not tell you how to develop, design, or plan a cohousing community. There are several books out there which tackle that topic. This book is much more personal and insightful, with honest statements about the cohousing experience. Some are bad, most are good, most are very entertaining, but all of them are heartfelt commentary on the journey into cohousing, and what happens when you get there.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who is, or is thinking of becoming, a member of a cohousing community.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Raines Cohen on August 11, 2005
Format: Paperback
I got to read an advance manuscript recently. Many of the stories are based on ones that have run in Cohousing or Communities magazine over the years. I love the way it helps connect to the PEOPLE in cohousing, not just the "sticks and bricks" of environmental efficiency/green building or practical aspects of community-building. Hopefully an inspiration to action! Check out Chuck Durrett's new book, "Senior Cohousing", for more stories from recent studies, and Graham Meltzer's research book for a look at how the people in cohousing communities combine for greater environmental impact reduction over time.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Susan L. Keen on December 19, 2005
Format: Paperback
I don't live in a cohousing community, but I have good friends who do, and I think the concept and reality of cohousing is great. The book REINVENTING COMMUNITY illustrates -- with short, often-humorous and colorful stories -- the many values of this new kind of neighborhood. In cohousing, people can rely on each other for support; and houses are compact and efficient -- leaving open spaces and common facilities for everyone's use. Experiments in sustainability, citizen activism, and participatory design and governance are ongoing, and will be useful for the residents of any neighborhood, anywhere. (That's what David Wann's other neighborhood book, SUPERBIA! is about - creating "neighborhoods on purpose" right where we currently live). There have been other books about cohousing, but this one is especially fun to read, letting the reader experience vicariously what it's like to live in a community-by-design.
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More About the Author

David Wann is an author, filmmaker, and speaker on the topic of sustainable lifestyles - the creation of a joyfully moderate way of life that requires half the resources to deliver twice the satisfaction. He's written nine books; his most recent, The New Normal: An Agenda for Responsible Living, identifies 33 high-leverage actions - largely collective - that can help create an age of restoration and responsibility. Simple Prosperity: Finding Real Wealth in a Sustainable Lifestyle, is a sequel to the best-selling book he coauthored, Affluenza: The All-Consuming Epidemic, which is now in 9 languages.

He has also produced 20 videos and TV programs, including the award-winning TV documentary "Designing a Great Neighborhood," and "Building Livable Communities," for then-Vice President Gore. David is the father of two children, president of the Sustainable Futures Society, and a Fellow of the national Simplicity Forum. He co-designed the cohousing neighborhood where he lives, has taught at the college level, and worked more than a decade as a policy analyst for U.S. EPA.


The 12 New Normal Paradigm Principles

1. The challenges we face are not just technical - they are social, biological, political, and even spiritual challenges. For example, green technologies won't be sufficient if our current value system keeps pumping out too much stuff, and settling for sloppy services. Even green over-consumption is over-consumption, which results in more transactions and "throughput" than the planet's living systems can handle without collapse.

2. Technology is no longer the limiting factor of productivity - resources are. Deeper wells can't pump water that's no longer there; larger boats and nets can't harvest more fish when fish populations have been wiped out.

3. Major historical shifts occur when a majority of the population understands that is is easier to adopt a new way of life than prop up the broken one. Therefore, the "bad news" we've heard over the past three decades is not really negative, but rather useful evidence that systemic change is necessary.

4. In our search for a new way of life and the products that will help achieve it, we are exploring whole new ways of thinking and designing. We are choosing not just hybrid cars, but hybrid systems that provide food; mobility, wellness, shelter; energy and employment synergistically. The overall goal is not arbitrary, anything-goes growth - often burdened with dysfunction, illness, and waste- but growth/improvements that meet essential needs fully.

5. New systems of accounting will track productivity in terms of quality, not just quantity. For example, exemplary companies now track tons of cement or sheets of paper produced per unit of energy (not just per dollar invested). Similarly, to evaluate the overall productivity of farming, the new metrics will track the nutritional value of the food and the health of the farms it came from, not simply bushels of grain or pounds of beef.

6. Decisions will be made and priorities set using far wider criteria than price, profit, and prestige. For example, living capital - life itself - should unquestionably have a higher priority in decision-making than transitory material capital.

7. We can't change the realities of resource scarcity and population increase, so we need to change our way of life instead. For example, we are a social species that uses status to organize the group, but there are many other ways of awarding status besides material acquisition, such as trustworthiness, knowledge, kindness, and integrity. The new normal reminds us that a leaner way of life is healthier.

8. Designers can't assume that energy will be abundant, or that discretionary time will continue to be scarce. In the future, we will use more human time and energy and less fossil fuel energy. We will once again participate in activities such as walking rather than driving; operating window covers to maintain desired temperatures in homes and offices. "Totally automatic" may be a desirable goal for robots, but not humans.

9. A sustainable economy maximizes the productivity of resources in addition to people. Writes Paul Hawken, "When you maximize the productivity of people, you use fewer people, but we have more people than there are jobs. Basically we are using less and less of what we have more of, and with natural capital, using more and more of what we have less of." That kind of economy doesn't make sense. Why not move toward full employment of a part-time workforce, giving us enough income as well as more time for living? To fund public services and infrastructure, why not tax fossil fuels and pollution, not work?

10. Some products and resources - such as food, water and gasoline - need to be priced higher to ensure both full cost accounting and minimal waste. For example, gasoline should rightfully cost much more because its environmental and health effects are not currently accounted for.

11. Saving a civilization is not effortless and convenient; it takes focus, strategy, and engagement. Our generation's mission should be to create and maintain an economy based on fully satisfying finite needs rather than chasing insatiable, market-driven wants. Let's slow down and meet needs directly, delivering more value per lifetime.

12. Democracy may be our greatest social invention to date, but it can't work unless citizens are informed and have both political access and sufficient time to exercise their shared power.


Beginning when I was about four and continuing for several decades beyond that, a lumbering grizzly bear invaded my dreams whenever my life felt out of control -- at least a few times a year. The bear was a thousand pounds of snarling, razor-clawed mammal, blundering up the dark stairway toward my bedroom. I told my parents about the bear but they assured me he wasn't real. (Why then, I wondered, did he have so much power?)

Thankfully, somewhere in my late twenties, I began to get a grip. One very significant night, I leaped onto the stage of my own nightmare - a lucid dream they call it - and decided to try tickling the bear, of all things. Miraculously, it worked; the bear chuckled like a huge, shy, department store teddy bear! My unconscious mind had staged a coup, asserting my right and power to come out of the shadows and live fearlessly in the light -- never mind the horror of rejection slips or credit card interest rates that jump fivefold if you miss a payment by two and a half hours. The confused and defused bear plodded, mumbling, out of my life forever.

Tickling the bear became a life strategy (and I believe it can be a cultural strategy too, for taking back our power). It seemed like the bear's ghostly mission was to terrorize we humans who inhabit a harried, self-destructive Dream of too many choices, too many competitors, and too much to know. I wondered, even then, why didn't we just start out content and let that be more than enough? Why didn't we unplug from the fear, the shame, and the fantasy-based expectations, rather than chasing a Dream all our lives? Many remember how the Bomb hung over our lives in those days, but I suspect it really was the chasing that was making the country so nervous.

I look back at that night with a certain degree of pride. I had symbolically taken charge of my own life, exorcising a fear capable of immobilizing me in moments of insecurity. Since then, I've had the guts to speak up to corporate polluters; close-minded supervisors and would-be kings; spoiled scramblers for the money; control freaks and neighborhood bullies of my boyhood. By tickling the bear, I've played a role in defusing the nuclear bomb, flipping the switch on machines that steal our jobs and contaminate our food.Yes, the risks and threats of global climate change, genetic engineering, child abuse, deceit, corruption, and perverted power are staggering, but we are capable of finessing them. Ultimately, the bear becomes Gentle Ben when he's tickled because he finally understands that despite the dramatic, grizzled costume he finds himself in, he's really one of us.