Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Book Review: How to Be Alive: A Guide to the Kind of Happiness That Helps the World by Colin Beavan

Title: How to Be Alive
Author: Colin Beavan
Publisher: Dey Street Books
Pages: 448
Release Date: January 5, 2016
Genre: Environmental

The author of No Impact Man and founder of the No Impact Project returns with this trailblazing guide to living a meaningful and fulfilling life while also contributing to the wellbeing of our communities and the planet.

When Colin Beavan embarked upon a yearlong experiment to lead a zero net-impact existence in the middle of New York City, he had no idea what a profound effect it would have upon himself and others around him. For Colin, the project—chronicled in a book, a documentary, and an ongoing lecture series—formed the basis of a radical “lifestyle redesign” that reached beyond just environmental activism. And, in the course of his travels and lectures, he encountered scores of people who were similarly breaking from traditional ideas about work, home, and even family in order to take their futures, and the planet’s, in their own hands. In the process they made a startling discovery—a happier way of life that is also having a deeply positive impact on the world.

For most of us, though, even contemplating this kind of transformation is overwhelming and confusing. In How to Be Alive, Beavan shares his insights on finding the path that’s right for you. Drawing on everything from classic literature and philosophy to current science, and combining that with his own experiences alongside those of the many people he has met along the way, Colin explores a broad array of transformational lifestyle adjustments—small and large—that offer security and meaning in a world confronted by ecological crises, economic upheaval, and ongoing war and social injustice. In the process, he helps readers embark on the quest for a “good life” of their own—lives both better for them and the planet.

I had extremely mixed feelings about this book. I became Buddhist over 15 years ago, and while not perfect in my beliefs I do try hard. Whenever I see books like this I am like a young child, wanting it to be like an unopened Christmas gift, full of joy and wonder. And while I did take some things away from this book, there were also things I thought were just unnecessary. 

He focuses on things that I think many of us could use some help with, especially here in the US. We are a materialistic society, and the book examines what this means and how to help become less materialistic.

I think my favorite aspect was how if you help others it will in turn help yourself. I am a FIRM believer in this and have witnessed it first hand. What does it take for your life to make a turn and have do good things which in turn makes you feel good? This book will help you examine that further.

Are the thoughts in this book original? Not necessarily. What I do love is that even if some of it has been discussed by many others, there might be just one person who take something new away when they read this. And that is worth it alone. 

Colin Beavan’s writing, speaking, consulting and activism have encouraged tens of thousands of people to examine their lives to discover what’s really important to them. The resulting “transformative adjustments” that people make allow them to live more in line with their true values and aspirations, both for their own lives and the world. It is Colin’s mission to wake people up, on both individual and collective levels, to ways of life and doing business that are healthier and happier for individuals, for our society, and for our world.

Colin Beavan is among the world’s best known spokespeople on environmental issues, consumerism and human quality of life. He was called “one of the ten most influential men” by MSN, an “eco-illuminator” by Elle Magazine, a “best green ambassador” by Treehugger.com, and his blog was selected as one of the top 15 environmental blogs by Time Magazine. He has spoken at and consulted to the hippest of brands–from eBay to CliffBar, from Northface to Ideo–and has been invited to speak everywhere from California to the Czech Republic. Colin’s work has been the subject of stories in the New York Times, The Guardian, Le Monde and literally hundreds of other national and international news outlets. Colin has appeared on The Colbert Report, Good Morning America, Nightline and countless other TV and radio shows.

Colin’s next book, How to Be Alive: A Guide to the Kind of Happiness that Helps the World, will by published by Dey Street Books (a division of HarperCollins) in January, 2016. No Impact Man, Colin’s last book, is required reading on over 100 American college campuses at last count. It has been translated into 15 languages. His documentary film, also called No Impact Man, was featured at Sundance and has been shown in theaters and on TV around the world. Some 50,000 people have been through No Impact Week, an immersive educational experience run by his non-profit.

Colin is the executive director of the No Impact Project, the author of the book and the subject of the documentary No Impact Man, a 350.org “Messenger,” a dharma teacher in the Kwan Um School of Zen, and a board member of Transportation Alternatives. He was the Green Party’s candidate for a seat in the United States House of Representatives in the 2012 electoral race for New York’s 8th Congressional district. He holds a PhD from the University of Liverpool and is the author of two books previous to No Impact Man.

Since he rose to prominence, Colin Beavan’s writing, speaking, and activism have encouraged hundreds of thousands of people, businesses, colleges and governments to discover ways of operating that are better for themselves, for their communities and for the world. It is Colin’s mission to wake people up, on an individual and collective level, to ways of life and doing business that are healthier and happier for individuals, for our society, and for our world.


  1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this book for the tour.

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