This morning I found the very first review of our book, which I am delighted about. The fact such a positive review comes not from an academic but a member of the general public (strange expression, but you know what I mean) makes it all the more special. It can be found here, but I’ll copy it below:
“Timing is everything, it’s true. I finally decided to look into off-grid living and renewable energy, I even found a hand book at Value Village to do some reading, then I got an e-mail asking if I wanted to review a copy of Off the Grid, Re-Assembling Domestic Life; an ethnography based on a two year long study of the community of people living without attachment to, or nearly, off the grid in Canada. How could I say no? What is an ethnography? It’s an anthropological term used for the scientific description of a people, their culture, their differences, and their habits. The most famous Ethnographer any Cultural Anthropology student knows is Margaret Mead, she wrote Coming of Age in Samoa based on her studies of adolescent Samoan girls. Phillip Vannini’s research gives us a representation of the Canadian Off-Grid Community, warts and all. It has been a very long while since I’ve been a student of Anthropology but it’s not necessary to be Anthropologist or an Ethnographer to get the maximum amount of information from this book, what you have to do is try to resist the temptation of wandering off and looking up some of the references; I’m seriously going to find a copy of Thoreau’s Walden and hunt around for Voluntary Simplicity by D. Elgin. What you should be doing is contemplating a simplification of your needs, not necessarily your lifestyle as the book explains the amount of, sometimes downright labour intensive, effort required for the off-grid day to day.
The book is just over 200 pages but it’s jam packed with philosophy, concepts, and anecdotes divided into 13 parts, each representing a province or territory. There were apparently over 200 interviews done in two years for the book but all pared down to a meaningful, thoughtful, honest representation of the off-grid culture, both good and bad. Each chapter contains enough end notes referring to the reference list at the back of the book to keep you reading long after you’ve put the book down and, thankfully, it isn’t bogged down with calculations or electrical diagrams because this isn’t a how-to hand book. It should actually be approached as a kind of way-to book, like if you’re thinking that off-grid might be something you want to look into or if you think it might be a good fit for your lifestyle, this is the book to help you figure out the way-to that. With Phillip Vannini’s writing style it makes this an enjoyable read, he’s a not just a scientist, he’s a great story-teller. It’s a rare moment when research is so captivating that I’m unable to put the book down. My one and only complaint is that Jonathan Taggart’s photographs are too few, however, all is forgivable considering the quality of the book’s contents.
In this day and age of non-renewable energy dependence it’s good to hear about the experiences of extra-ordinary people wrestling with the transition to renewable energy sources, it’s even better to read about them in a book written by equally as intrepid souls.
For more about Phillip Vannini, Jonathan Taggart, the book, and some of the subjects, check out http://lifeoffgrid.ca/”