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A Reasonable Life: Toward a Simpler, Secure, More Humane Existence 2nd Edition

4.1 out of 5 stars 41 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0920256367
ISBN-10: 0920256368
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this scattershot jeremiad, Mate takes on virtually all of modernity, concluding with a romantic paean to country life. A one-time city dweller who now lives in Tuscany, the author criticizes houses ("huge, unused barns"), "the myth of the steady job," corporate ownership, agricultural practices, cities and individualism--all in a shrill and hyperbolic prose style. He does have some worthy recommendations: why we should convert our lawns to gardens; how children should be taught defenses against advertising. But other ideas, like junking the television set ("Open an upstairs window . . . and throw the heinous sonovabitch as far as your arms let you!"), make him sound like a cranky Luddite. "Most of you might dismiss this as the raving of some idealist," acknowledges the author; indeed, he courts that assessment.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


A Reasonable Life is wonderful! This fast-paced book is just what we need to slow us down and think. I hope everyone--especially the young--gets to see a copy. -- Pete Seeger

A masterpiece. Ferenc Mate writes brilliantly with Runyonesque humor and poetic prose. He satirizes our modern society driven by greed and mindlessness, and in its place he recommends the ultimate sanity. I loved it. Highly recommended. -- Dr. Helen Caldicott, author of If You Love This Planet

An anti-materialist Philippic that's fun to read. I feel saner for having read it. -- John R. MacArthur, publisher, Harper's Magazine

Ferenc Mate presents a host of creative ideas in his trumpet call for new lifestyles on the part of each and every one of us. Read it, disagree as much as you like, but you can't help but be struck by his blazing enthusiasm and optimism--then read it again. -- Dr. Norman Myers, winner of the World Wildlife Fund Gold Medal and author of Gaia: An Atlas of Planet Management and The Primary Source: Tropical Forests and Our Future

Mate's book establishes him as the leader of the new counter-culture movement. A Reasonable Life is more complex, comprehensive and much more funny than anything written in the sixties. -- CJFC Radio

Mate's book strikes straight to the heart with its passionate argument for safe country living, home gardens, family businesses, independence without isolation. A Reasonable Life targets right on the decay which is destroying sound American values and lifestyles. -- Anne LaBastille, author of Woodswoman and Beyond Black Bear Lake

The most powerful, damning, inspiring and hopeful call for a fulfilled life you can imagine. Now if we would only just listen for the sake of our children. -- Country Journal

This book will look insane to a normal American. Which shows how crazy we have become. Read it--you might get a life. -- Charles Bowden, author of Desierto and Juarez : The Laboratory of Our Future

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Albatross; 2 edition (April 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0920256368
  • ISBN-13: 978-0920256367
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,238,279 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Steven A. Slaughter on August 16, 2000
Format: Paperback
Yes, Mate rants in this book. A lot. Some readers will hate this. I agree with some of the criticisms of his critics (not particulary practical, hysterical, preaching to the choir, etc.). However, I am often perplexed by cranky reviews when people seem to be judging a book outside of its purpose. This is not a manual on self-reliance. (Read Scott & Helen Nearing's "The Good Life" for a fascinating, practical memoir/manual.) Mate is a gadfly. His role, as I see it, is to smack us upside the head. Even the choir can get lured into the insanity of this increasingly flakey, consumerist culture, and need a regular wakeup call.
My one criticism and genuine disagreement with the author is his abandonment of city living as a lost cause. At one time I felt like moving out to his idealic small-town countryside too. I stayed because of the vitality of relationships, my compassionate vibrant neighborhood church, my family in the nearby suburbs. I live within a short biking/walking distance of the beautiful Chicago lakefront, with its miles-long public park system. My tiny backyard (25 x 30')--loaded with veggies, flowers, fruit, etc.-- I call my very very small organic 'farm'. My wife and I only have one car, we walk, bike, bus, and train often. We walk to the corner for milk. We consider the incredible racial diversity of the local parks, schools, and neighborhood a gift to our children, something we never had in white small towns and suburbia. Despite their many charms, diversity is not a hallmark of most small towns, either in the US or, I suspect, in Mate's Tuscany.
Instead of bailing on the city, I am committed to making it a little bit better.
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Format: Paperback
I find it amusing that certain reviewers found this book to be unhelpful or negative. This is a life-affirming work -- 'tho maybe it doesn't affirm the life you are currently living!
Mate is a man who really has a knack for making sense of things. He boils the human race right down to its bare-boned inconsistencies. We are imperfect creatures -- frequently irrational, often nonsensical. Some of the things Mate has to say will make you angry. Some of it will make you laugh out loud (really!). All of it will open your eyes.
And no, Mate does not tell you how to build your own house or gut your own chicken (he recommends that every American be able to do both by the age of 12). But this book is not about little practicalities like that. Rather it is about changing the way we look at -- really look at -- all the everyday stuff we tend to take for granted. It causes us to rethink how we are living our lives. What is important to us. And who, as a nation and a world, we want to become.
All in all, this is a terrific book. I don't have one bad thing to say about it. It should be required reading for the entire Republican party.
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I became curious about this book when I realized that it was written by an eastern European (Hungarian) who had come to The USA, lived and then written this commentary before leaving for Italy where he now lives. I grew-up in Communist East Germany myself and was curious to see if he too found this fascinating nation of dishwashers, electric can-openers, processed foods, clothes dryers, credit cards, riduculously wasteful & oversized homes and the "I must work more so that I can make more money so that I can buy more THINGS" mentality odd. He did.

This book, while going into much more "environmental preservation" stuff than I cared for, is a brilliant if not kind of whiney slap in the face that should wake most Americans from their unquestioned acceptance of some truly assinine practices. It points out just how ridiculous & wasteful many American things, ideals and concepts are. He continues to point out how our culture of "things" is removing us from our surroundings and we are losing sight of what life is all about. Video games, TV, 24/7 shopping, drive-through windows and worship of possessions has replaced normal human interaction/relationships as we willingly mortgage away 1/3 of our lives to pay for a house that once paid-off will have cost 3 times the sale price.
Buy! Buy! Buy! is the new American religion and the producer of people whom I personally refer to as "The breathing dead". Those who trudge through life, slaving away at a mediocre job to pay for unnecessary baubles that society says they must have to be happy.

One review above made some comment that this book was a guide to go from "european pauper to european pauper"...or was it "peon"? I'm not sure now. Anyway...
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By Karon on February 9, 2000
Format: Paperback
My expectations of the subtitle, "Toward a simpler, secure, more humane existence," were that helpful advice would be given to achieve that end. Instead, I was disappointed to find a useless rant that lost all credibility after the first chapter. I read the entire book and agree with the concept that many of our human practices damage the earth; however, I think for anyone who reads this book, he is preaching to the choir and we'd like him to get to the practical concepts of how to change those practices. The only helpful and truly possible information was the gardening section at the end. However, since I'm already an organic gardener, it wasn't helpful to me personally. I appreciate the author's idealism, but to truly assist mankind to live more humanely, one must also give advice that is feasible and not hypocritical. On the one hand extolling the virtues of modern technology that would allow us to live in "today's country life" while also disparaging those who work in the technology industry doesn't make sense. And to belittle those already trying to make an effort through recycling and whatever activism they can manage without assisting them in moving to the larger picture is a superior attitude that does little to encourage readers to take his ideas seriously. Exactly how is it humane to treat your fellow human beings, lost though we may be, with such contempt? Give us some down-to-earth guidance, please, instead of a scolding tirade.
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