ERB, Vol 1 , #11

The Englewood Review of Books

Vol. 1, No. 11    14 March 2008

Diving for pearls in the endless stream of books (Eccles. 12:12B)

Chris Smith, editor




“Sustaining the Commonwealth”


A Review of  

Bill McKibben’s Deep Economy.

By Joe Bowling.


In Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future, Bill McKibben is concerned with deep questions of human survival and satisfaction. Is More really Better, and if so, when and how? Does more stuff make us happy? Is continued economic growth and expansion possible in a world with finite resources? Is there really a “wealth of opportunities in our communities or are we irrevocably tied to a global economy”? 


Deep Economy is a treasure chest of studies, stories and anecdotes about people across the world acting decisively to rebuild – or perhaps to uncover – deep local economies that promote health, satisfaction, connectedness, and gratitude. The stories challenge us to ask different questions of our economic practices. “Does this practice build or undermine my local community?” is perhaps a better question than “Is this a good buy?” We’re challenged to think of ourselves as members of a community (Wendell Berry – to whom this book is dedicated – loves the term “commonwealth”) and not as individuals or consumers.


McKibben’s humor, wit, and entertaining style always make his books a pleasure to read, and he has a real gift for addressing troubling and complex subjects directly, but in a lighthearted, and sometimes self-deprecating, way. Though these issues are always political (small p), McKibben does not believe that a move to the right or the left will necessarily promote deep, local economies.


If you’ve read McKibben before, it’s no surprise that he maintains that eating locally and sustainably seems like a great place to start. After all, he writes, “for almost all people throughout human history (and for most people still today), ‘the economy’ is just a fancy way of saying ‘What’s for dinner?’ and ‘Am I having any?’”. McKibben spends one very entertaining chapter documenting his experiment of trying to eat only locally grown food through the cold winter months. It’s a joy to read about the web of relationships he builds (and we can build) when local and sustainable food become a priority. Ten times more conversations happen at the local farmer’s market than at the local supermarket. Ten times less energy is utilized to get food to a farmer’s market. Encouragingly, the number of farmers markets and CSA’s seem to be growing exponentially.   


This chapter also documents the incredibly broken and wasteful American food economy where vast “food deserts” exist in the rich soil of the Midwest, where oil has replaced farmers, and where iceberg lettuce is shipped across the country utilizing 36 times as many calories of fossil energy as the lettuce actually contains. But the bleak assessment of our current situation never overwhelms the countless encouraging stories that this book tells so well.  


As it happened, I was working this review while on a week long visit with my family to see dear friends at New Meadow Run, an intentional Christian community in Pennsylvania ( Their way of life provided an inspiring context in which to read and consider McKibben’s book. For the entire week, I never drove my car. Most of what we ate was grown in their garden. I worked hard in the company of friends. Conversations were abundant, small appliances and screens were scarce. Singing, dancing and children at play seem to be in season all year round. Basic needs are met and then some (I had my share of chocolate and beer), but simplicity and what can be shared are highly valued. Though intentional community of this kind may not be for most, here is another story of the wisdom and joy that comes with cooperation, and local economic practices. I can’t help but think Bill McKibben would be proud!


Deep Economy takes aim at issues that threaten our global survival, but suggests answers that must be developed locally, cooperatively, to a human scale, that asks different questions. As McKibben entertainingly makes the case, perhaps there is great wealth in our communities. Perhaps as we pursue practices that build local communities, we’ll find that this is what we really wanted all along. Commitment to people and to place makes us happy; this “commonwealth” satisfies in a way that for most of us MORE cannot.   


Joe Bowling is a Great Indy Neighborhood’s (GINI) community builder on the near-east side.


Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future.

           Bill McKibben.  Paperback.  Henry Holt.  2008. 

              Buy now from:  [ Doulos Christou Books $14 ]      [ ]



[ A note on buying books: We offer you the opportunity to buy the books listed here, either directly from our little independent bookstore (Doulos Christou Books), or through  The prices listed for our bookstore do not include shipping or Indiana sales tax.  Local folks can arrange to pick up their books from either our Lockerbie or Englewood stores.  If you want to buy a book and are having trouble with the links in this email, drop us an email – – and we’ll see that you get the book(s) you want. ]




Used Book Finds


The bread-n-butter of our bookstore business is the sale of used books, and we do a fair amount of scouting around for used books each week.  In this section we will feature some of the interesting books that we have found in the past week.  Generally, we will only have a single copy of these books, so if you want one (or more) of them, you’ll need to respond quickly.



100 Garden Tips and Timesavers.

A Brooklyn Botanic Garden All-Region Guide.

              Trade Paperback.   2005.

            Very Good Condition.  Clean Pages. Minimal wear.

            Buy now from:  [ Doulos Christou Books $5 ]



Jane Addams: A Centennial Reader.

Hardcover.  Macmillan.  1960.  Good. X-library copy.

              Clean pages / Minimal to moderate wear.

            Buy now from:  [ Doulos Christou Books $7 ]



Family Farming: A New Economic Vision.

              Marty Strange.

Trade Paperback.  1988. Very Good/Good.

              Almost completely clean pages / Minimal wear.

            Buy now from:  [ Doulos Christou Books $6 ]



Reviewed Elsewhere


“Life After Oil”

Ragan Sutterfield* reviews James Howard Kunstler’s

new novel World Made By Hand.  

“… In Kunstler’s new novel, World Made by Hand, he provides a fictional story of what might happen after oil’s collapse. In Union Grove, NY, the book’s setting, epic disasters have already happened. Oil is gone, as is long distance transportation and the goods it once brought, everything from wheat to pharmaceuticals. Islamic terrorists have destroyed Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. with nuclear weapons. Pandemic flu and encephalitis have ravaged the population, leaving no family untouched. There may be a government, but its reach is limited and its existence matters little to the residents of Union Grove.  Kunstler paints a picture of a world not unlike Rome after its fall or Europe in the time of the bubonic plague. 

World Made by Hand is a powerful novel, a warning from a future we must escape.  It shows the strength of a community coming together out of need, but it also shows us a lawless world of suffering. Kunstler is both a prophet and a curmudgeon, and as such he lacks the subtlety to be a fine novelist, often too ready to tell rather than show us the effects of the Long Emergency. But his vision is sharp, and whether it is told well or badly, he illuminates the world to come if we don’t change our ways now.”


*- Ragan Sutterfield will be the keynote speaker for Englewood’s Fall Conference (see below).

   Read the full review:

James Howard Kunstler.  World Made By Hand. 

        Hardcover.  Atlantic Monthly Press.  Feb. 2008.

        Buy now from:  [ Doulos Christou Books $19 ]      [ ]



Mike Clawson reviews

Rising from the Ashes, by Becky Garrison.


“Becky Garrison’s recent book, Rising From the Ashes, is significant in that it is the first book about the emerging church written by a female author. It is also unique in that it is entirely composed of interviews with over thirty worship leaders and others from the United States, Canada, and Australia. The demographics of the book are interesting too. Nearly half of the contributors are female, a quarter are based in New York City (and over a third are from the Northeast), nearly two thirds are Anglicans, and all but a handful are from liturgical mainline churches. …”

Read the full review: 

Becky Garrison. Rising from the Ashes: Rethinking Church.
       Paperback.  Seabury Books.  2007.
Buy now from:    [ Doulos Christou Books $15 ]       [ ]


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Reading for the Common Good
From ERB Editor Christopher Smith

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