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The New Better Off: Reinventing the American Dream Hardcover – September 13, 2016
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Elizabeth Lesser, author Marrow and Broken Open, and cofounder of Omega Institute
"The New Better Off is essential to understanding how to have a better life and a new and better you. Too many of us are sick and tired of the 9-5 grind, of having to fall in line, of seeing success as a purely individual pursuit; Martin shows that there is another way.”
Richard Florida, author, Rise of the Creative Class
"In times of great disruption we are forced to question everything. Courtney Martin has taken this to heart and challenges us to reassess, rethink and reinvent the very notion of what a good life’ might be. The New Better Off is an invaluable source of insight and inspiration for those wishing to embark on one of post-consumer society’s most important projects."
Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO and author of Change By Design
"When a moment and a voice align perfectly, you get a book like The New Better Off. Courtney Martin reimagines success and purpose in ways counterintuitive and wise. This is our future speaking the language of our ancestors. Listen closely.”
Eric Liu, founder and CEO, Citizen University
"We all know that money can't buy peace, kindness or honestyin the Age of Trump, what could be more clear? Courtney Martin is a practical and lyrical explorer in showing us how money as the only measure of "better off" has failed us, and what is needed to create a new American Dream for us and the next generation. Never has there been a more timely and livable book."
"This book encapsulates a huge idea: That our dreams of individual success are in urgent need of an upgrade. Courtney Martin makes the case with extraordinary eloquence anchored in beautiful personal stories. If you're depressed about the current state of America, she offers a powerful antidote."
Chris Anderson, CEO of TED
Courtney Martin, who’s less than half my age, has been a mentor to me for nearly a decade. In 2008, when her second book came out, I called her one of our most insightful culture critics and finest young writers.” With The New Better Off, I’m doubling down on that praise. Telling compelling real-life stories backed by carefully researched factsall of it couched in her beautifully readable proseMartin reframes what it means to live a good life in ways that offer her generation and mine much-needed inspiration and practical guidance.
Parker J. Palmer, author of Let Your Life Speak, A Hidden Wholeness,
and Healing the Heart of Democracy
Unabashed, provocative, and deeply soulful, Courtney Martin is the prophet you didn’t know you were seeking. In The New Better Off, she offers a blueprint for living that’s radically different from the one you grew up with. Whether or not you agree with all its details, its spirit will inspire you to examine your lifeand if you don’t like what you find there, give you the courage to rebuild.”
Susan Cain, co-founder of Quiet Revolution and New York Times bestselling author of QUIET: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking
"Courtney and I are on parallel tracks! The New Better Off beautifully articulates a powerful vision of reinvention. My message to low-status American communities has always been: You don't have to move out of your neighborhood to live in a better one. Measuring success by how far we get from our communities leaves a subtle form of destruction in its wake. With this book, Martin presents the profound, impactful alternatives with spirit and verve. A focus on success, filtered through the metrics of The New Better Off, makes it a little easier for the next generation to see their success in you.”
-- Majora Carter, Urban Revitalization Strategy Consultant
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Top Customer Reviews
In addition to understanding young people and their creative challenges better, another reason older people should read this book is that the author is an "old soul" herself and asks all the oldest and best questions about the meaning of life and how to find it. The answers she finds are provisional and communitarian (co-working and co-housing) instead of rigid and individualistic. I find myself guilty of many of the problems she diagnoses in our culture: too little sustained attention and too invasive technology, too much dependence on money and things which leads to the feeling of "never enough." The American Dream was always more accessible to some than to others, and too few people stopped to ask if it was a good dream to begin with. The new dream in this book moves beyond old symbols such as the white picket fence without advocating for uniform new ones. Instead the dream could be called community, a collection of people gathered around purpose, constructing shared goals and helping each other reach them. The term "radical hospitality" is one that this book gave me and has challenged me to be even more welcoming of the stranger than I have tried to be in the past. I'm thinking about rituals in new ways. Here's one of Courtney Martin's lovely sentences: "We . . . are looking to create moments that are both grand enough to make us feel sewn into the fabric of human history and specific enough to make us feel our unique strand within that fabric is witnessed and celebrated."
I can even adapt much of this book to my own generation. The chapter describing rites of passage, for example, spoke to me because the transition from full-time paid employment to what we call retirement is so seldom marked by ritual, except perhaps a party or the equivalent of a gold watch.
Above all, what I feel called to after reading this book is to wake up, look around me for opportunities to work, love, laugh, celebrate, and just BE with people in my local community and people who want to do the same in theirs. Young people who heed this call to a Dream beyond material success will need older people as their champions, confidantes, and challengers. Read the book and discuss it with a millennial in your life. Who knows, we could help save the earth, reduce violence, and develop a new kind of patriotism in the process. Never in American history has such an alternative been more needed!
This book rests, for me, alongside Anne Lamott's "Bird by Bird" and Paulo Coelho's "The Alchemist". Courtney Martin confirms that, when it comes to the reigning definitions of success and wealth we've adopted (primarily in the U.S., but also beyond), the whisper of doubt many of us now experience is more than worth heeding. Courtney is also a fantastic writer. She doesn't hint at or brush up against our more profound challenges. She crashes into them, bringing to bear the full force of an expert researcher and wordsmith. She fiercely hugs the reader with each sentence. Each hug is a reminder that they are richly deserving of dignity, community and a path to their dreams. I could go on, but I'd rather you not take a second longer before starting in on this wonderful book.
I would strongly suggest this to absolutely everyone. But especially those who are passionate about or interested the power of community, as Martin these sections were incredibly impactful on me. I have a number of quotes pulled that will certainly be guiding my 2017.