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Extended Audio Sample The Unsettlers: In Search of the Good Life in Todays America Audiobook, by Mark Sundeen Click for printable size audiobook cover
0 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 5 0.00 (0 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Mark Sundeen Narrator: Mark Sundeen Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: January 2017 ISBN: 9781524702380
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The radical search for the simple life in today’s America.

On a frigid April night, a classically trained opera singer, five months pregnant, and her husband, a former marine biologist, disembark an Amtrak train in La Plata, Missouri, assemble two bikes, and pedal off into the night, bound for a homestead they've purchased, sight unseen. Meanwhile, a horticulturist, heir to the Great Migration that brought masses of African Americans to Detroit, and her husband, a product of the white flight from it, have turned to urban farming to revitalize the blighted city they both love. And near Missoula, Montana, a couple who have been at the forefront of organic farming for decades navigate what it means to live and raise a family ethically.   

A work of immersive journalism steeped in a distinctively American social history and sparked by a personal quest, The Unsettlers traces the search for the simple life through the stories of these new pioneers and what inspired each of them to look for -- or create -- a better existence. Captivating and clear-eyed, it dares us to imagine what a sustainable, ethical, authentic future might actually look like.


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Quotes & Awards

  • If talk of politics makes you pine for a life away from Twitter and cable news and the rest, Mark Sundeen's The Unsettlers offers a few tips for how to build a sustainable future. The New York Times Book Review
  • [Sundeen] relays the homesteaders’ stories with fierce curiosity and empathy...an enlightening read... [and] exceptional reporting on a topic that we’d all be wise to familiarize ourselves with, especially in the shadow of an indefatigably evil administration. Paris Review
  • A fascinating, timely, and deeply personal examination of what it means to be a non-conformist in the modern age. Outside
  • "An in-depth and compelling account of diverse Americans living off the grid. In each of the book’s three sections — Missouri, Detroit, and Montana — these homesteaders show us how the other other half lives. Los Angeles Times
  • A mix of social history and well-crafted journalism. USA Today’s Green Living 
  • A fascinating subject . . . both resonant as a character study and infinitely thought-provoking in its challenge to all our preconceptions about modern life—and about the small and large hypocrisies people of all philosophies and religious paths assume they need to accept. Salt Lake City Weekly
  • From a crop of orphaned garlic plants in Detroit to a tipi birth in Montana, Mark Sundeen’s The Unsettlers is rigorously reported and utterly enthralling. With candor, wit, and live-voltage curiosity, Sundeen profiles pioneers who have developed better ways to live in our overdeveloped world. The Unsettlers isn’t in the business of guilt or shame mongering, but it will certainly—if you have a pulse and a laptop, or even an electrical socket—make you question how you live in the world as well. Leslie Jamison, author of The Empathy Exams
  • “With his chronicles of modern-day American visionaries and iconoclasts who have opted out of the mainstream culture, I’ve come to think of Mark Sundeen as our poet laureate of a new era of alternative lifestyles. Bob Shacochis, author of The Woman Who Lost Her Soul
  • “You say you want a revolution? These stories of “unsettlers” striving to lead more simple lives are an inspiration as well as a dose of reality on how difficult that can be. This is an important book. Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia
  • "The Unsettlers portrait of six true-hearted heroes of husbandry pitted against the Corporate Person would put the fear of God in that monster if it had a pulse. Sundeen’s opus combines fierce reasoning, romance, impeccable research, the narrative pull of a thriller, and the subliminal magic of some wondrous old myth as he takes the measure of America’s betrayed yearning for a living, thriving earth. David James Duncan, author of The River Why and The Brothers K 


  • Captivating . . . Sundeen brings his subject vividly to life [and] makes a case for Suelo’s relevance to our time. The Seattle Times
  • Sundeen deftly portrays [Suelo] as a likeable, oddly sage guy . . . who finds happiness in radical simplicity [and] personifies a critique that will resonate with anyone who has ever felt remorse on the treadmill of getting and spending. Outside
  • Exquisitely timed . . . a slim, quick read that belies the weightiness underneath. Missoula Independent
  • "Where so many stories about consumer ethics seem to focus on how each of us should restrict our own behavior—subtract a car ride here, give up a fast food hamburger there—Sundeen’s book focuses on what we need to do more of, bit by bit, if we want to really change the systems to which we object. And the stories he tells suggests that there are ways do it anywhere—even in the middle of a city...[The Unsettlers] encapsulates something rare and important about how we can build better places, whether our goal is to make society less violent or to stop building infrastructure our children won’t be able to afford to maintain. Strong Towns
  • In this fascinating ethnography of sorts, [Sundeen] gives us a glimpse into what a sustainable future may look like. Read it Forward
  • Well researched, immediately engaging, immensely readable, and ultimately inspiring. This is the perfect read for DIY-types with dreams of saving the world, or at least their own backyards. Booklist
  • “Pretty darn good. … Particularly interesting is the way Sundeen compares and contrasts the white, suburban mythology of “what happened to Detroit” with the urban, black perspective on the city’s transformation. … Probably the best, fairest portrayal of the Motor City’s postwar metamorphosis published since Scott Martelle’s Detroit: A Biography. The Detroit Metro Times
  • “A well-crafted, intimate portrait. San Francisco Chronicle
  • “[A] deftly written study. Nature
  • “Homesteading loses its reality TV show sheen in the hands of Sundeen…From dirt roads in rural Missouri to Detroit’s foreclosed streets, Sundeen reports how people throughout the United States have chosen to live simple but never simply…these pages will leave any reader with a penchant for sustainability to question their own carbon footprint. Library Journal
  • Engaging, honest, and deeply personal…[Sundeen’s] superb reporting produces revealing portraits of modern hippies…inspiring… Provocative reading for anyone who has ever yearned for a life of radical simplicity. Kirkus Reviews
  • Sundeen…ask[s] important questions about technology, the economy, and the moral implications of being both critic and participant in our society. Publisher’s Weekly
  • “By framing the book as a search for answers, not arguments, Sundeen fills [The Unsettlers] with empathy and curiosity. Each section is distinguished by strong reporting, and Sundeen’s admiration for his subjects is clear. The Rumpus
  • Context is everything in this carefully and affectionate­ly reported account of idealists working not to leave the real world behind, but to make it better. BookPage
  • “There is a fullness and complexity to each of these tales that is impressive and illustrates a feat of cerebral strength on the part of Sundeen. Albuquerque’s Weekly Alibi
  • "The Unsettlers is not an idyllic tale of peace, love, and back-to-nature happiness. Sundeen marvels at how incredibly hard these couples work, and how few indulgences their lifestyles permit. He also doesn’t shy from reporting their self-doubts and the compromises they inevitably make.  Cascadia Weekly

    “One of the more refreshing reads to hit shelves in 2017.
  • "Inspiring.  Barnes and Noble Review
  • “A gorgeous new book that provides a contemporary twist on Wendell Berry’s 1977 classic, The Unsettling of America....Sundeen explores a movement toward radical simplicity...digging deep into peculiarly American strains of utopianism and telling the stories of three couples trying to live out their ideals in wildly different places…Sundeen finds beauty in each of the couples’ lives, he doesn’t flatten them into human Instagrams….[they] are weird, stubborn and strong, and Sundeen provides a nuanced picture of their beliefs… Importantly, Sundeen also acknowledges that the “renunciation of privilege” can become “just another means of exercising it. High Country News
  • “A mix of social history and well-crafted journalism, this book relays the deeply personal stories of today’s pioneers. Living Green

    “This fallen world has quite enough wannabe farmers, and long may they thrive. But it's frankly hard to imagine the bunch of carrots, however lovingly husbanded, that would be more nourishing than the body of work Sundeen is building.
  • ""In this deft, impeccably reported book, Sundeen offers a fresh look at the recurrent American urge for the 'simple' life ... gain[ing] personal insights that feel honest and weighty. ... Regardless of whether or not their experiments persist in their current forms, I can’t wait to see the legacy of Sundeen’s characters and of the thousands of others who are right now undertaking similar, hopeful, flawed, and thoughtful projects across the country. Los Angeles Review of Books
  • “Sundeen addresses the issues of race, urban life and raising a family, all without negating the idea that a simple life can be achieved. It is as personal as it is political. It does not push, nor does it preach… Sundeen captures a balance between idealism and realism that leaves the reader feeling inspired, introspective and, at the very least, a little bit unsettled. The Missoulian
  • “In captivating detail, [Sundeen] explores what it takes to live off the grid, survive without government intervention and live a sustainable life...Charming, self-deprecating and honest. Coachella Valley Weekly
  • "A seriously fascinating and inspiring read. It's a book for anyone who has ever wondered how to live more sustainably, more consciously, and also a bit more crazily (in a wow-how-can-they-live-without-the-internet? kind of way). Mark is a terrific writer and I was absorbed by every page of this deep, insightful examination of the lives of a handful of Americans who choose to live differently. Cheryl Strayed, from her Instagram
  • An Amazon Best Book of the Month for January 2017
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About the Author

Mark Sundeen is the author of several books, including The Man Who Quit Money, and the coauthor of North by Northwestern, which was a Wall Street Journal bestseller. He has taught fiction and nonfiction in the MFA creative-writing programs at the University of New Mexico and Southern New Hampshire University.