Former Moab resident and author Mark Sundeen has written a new book called “The Unsettlers – In Search of the Good Life in Today’s America.” He returns to Moab for a reading and book-signing event at Grand County Public Library on Friday, Feb. 3, at 7 p.m.
Sundeen tells the stories of three different families who, in the author’s words, are “living lives of dissent against (our system’s) economy, but doing so with joy.”
Halfway through writing the book, Sundeen said he read Wendell Berry’s classic book “The Unsettling of America,” which he said poses the question: “How can we divorce ourselves from the technology that is destroying the planet?”
“The more I wrote, researched and interviewed, I realized that we are totally dependent on the industrial food system, the oil and gas industry and Wall Street bankers – food, fuel, finance,” he said.
Sundeen’s work has appeared in The New York Times, Outside magazine, National Geographic Adventure and The Believer. He is also the author of “Car Camping,” and “The Making of Toro,” and the co-author of the New York Times’ bestseller “North by Northwestern.”
In “The Unsettlers,” Sundeen explores what led each couple to seek a “more sustainable, ethical and authentic future.”
In one case, a classically trained opera singer who is five months pregnant, and her husband – a former marine biologist – get off an Amtrak train in La Plata, Missouri, assemble two bikes and pedal off to a homestead they’ve bought, sight unseen. They set about forming an intentional cooperative community where members bike or walk to where they need to go.
In the story about a Montana family who’ve been at the forefront of the organic farming movement, readers learn what it takes to transport food and grow a community.
In Detroit, a couple turns to urban farming to help a blighted city they both love.
Sundeen said he was inspired to write the book after publishing “The Man Who Quit Money,” about former Moab-area resident Daniel Suelo. At various readings for that book, he said people often came up to him who were inspired by the story, but didn’t want to go live in a cave somewhere. Additionally, he said he and his wife were interested in finding “role models” of how to live an ethical life and live more simply on the earth.
Sundeen spent about two years researching, traveling and interviewing his subjects, and another couple of years writing and revising.
After reading “The Unsettlers,” Back of Beyond Books owner Andy Nettell said he found it disturbing that the majority of people have no idea what goes into food – the cost of making it, and the transportation involved.
Nettell said the account of a Detroit couple who grow food on abandoned land, is an “amazing inner-city story.” Both “The Unsettlers” and Sundeen’s earlier work, “The Man Who Quit Money” affected him similarly, he said.
“It inspired me how I could work a smaller footprint,” Nettell said.
Back of Beyond Books is sponsoring the reading and book-signing event along with the Grand County Public Library and Community Rebuilds, a Moab nonprofit that builds energy-efficient affordable housing while teaching sustainable building methods. Community Rebuilds founder and executive director Emily Niehaus will introduce Sundeen at the event.
After Sundeen finished writing “The Unsettlers,” he did an internship with Community Rebuilds. The people that he met and wrote about made him want to learn more about natural building, Niehaus said.
Copies of the book will be available that evening from the author, as well as the library, and at Back of Beyond Books, 83 N. Main St.
Mark Sundeen book profiles sustainable living
“The more I wrote, researched and interviewed, I realized that we are totally dependent on the industrial food system, the oil and gas industry and Wall Street bankers – food, fuel, finance.”
When: Friday, Feb. 3, at 7 p.m.
Where: Grand County Public Library, 257 E. Center St.
Information: 435-259-5154; www.marksundeen.com
For more information, go to: www.marksundeen.com, or call 435-259-5154.