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 Book Review: The Good Life Lab

Wendy Tremayne and Mikey Sklar of Holy Scrap quit advertising jobs in New York City and moved to Truth or Consequences, New Mexico to start living life a different way.

“My partner, Mikey, and I lusted for a life free of pointless drudgery,” Wendy wrote.

They wanted to live life without the marketing, materialism, and the need to constantly work at soul-killing cube jobs. That meant moving to the desert and learning to do everything from building furniture out of pallets to testing batteries for sulfation.

Wendy’s book The Good Life Lab: Radical Experiments in Hands-On Living describes the results of Tremayne’s and Sklar’s experiments in the desert. Fittingly, it’s written (in part) as a series of DIY articles on creating your own cleaning products, brewing biofuel, and building structures out of papercrete, a building material made of concrete and paper slurry. Mixed in with the informative articles are sections describing the couple’s experience in creating this new life for themselves. They converted a VW to run on biodiesel and took their home off of the power grid. The book is full of fun stories of their adventures that most of us won’t be able to realize.

Maybe that’s part of the fun of the book, that the reader can sample what in some sense is a very healthy and full life. It’s fun to flip through precisely because most of us won’t have the interest, opportunity, cleverness, or moxie to accomplish what they have.

The book is physically very beautiful as well. I had the ebook for a couple of months, but seeing the book in person at Maker Faire really blew me away with how lovely it is. The type and graphic design are great, but what really stood out for me are the really excellent illustrations found throughout the book. The other thing I loved about the design is the funky spine with the signatures exposed in back like a remaindered book. This has the added benefit of serving as lay-flat binding so you can keep it open as a reference.

The Good Life Lab is a fascinating read, and I enjoyed Wendy’s advice on ways you I live a fuller and healthier life–even the ways I wasn’t interested in or would never do!

John Baichtal

My interests include writing, electronics, RPGs, scifi, hackers & hackerspaces, 3D printing, building sets & toys. @johnbaichtal nerdage.net


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