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Book Review: The Power of Less by Leo Babauta

Book Review:  The Power of Less by Leo Babauta (Hyperion 2009)

Book Cover

Book Cover

True to its name, the Power of Less is short.  170 pages.  The non-fiction work follows the traditional how-to book formula to employ numbered lists of steps.  That’s where the commonalities with traditional how-to books end.  In an amongst the tried-and-true lists are the author’s musings about his website and its members, his own struggles, and how to use the internet to keep your life simple.  Did that last bit sound counter-intuitive?  It isn’t.  Mr. Babauta doesn’t pull punches about internet addiction and distraction, but as he is directing you toward websites, he is telling you how to rein in your unproductive internet use.  He uses the concept of Haiku to demonstrate this in the very early pages of the book.  (Too bad he didn’t use Twitter’s 140 character limit!  Same idea, though, and one that Mr. Babauta is taking seriously.)

This tiny tome definitely isn’t for back-to-nature types.  Although the Buddhist concept of mindfulness pervades the theme of the book, Mr. Babauta promotes the beauty of internet tools on almost every page.  For the most part, it works.  After reading the book, I can see how “teh.interwebz” can add some Zen to your life.  A few times, though, I felt a little over-pitched on the author’s own website.  He is obviously very proud of his online community, but multiple mentions of a website went against the single-tasking posits of the book: Why keep mentioning a website at the same time you are telling me to stay off the internet and concentrate on one thing at a time?  Also, he never mentions the beauty of hiring a personal organizer.  I hired a professional a few years ago to prepare a room for my soon-to-be-born son and I’ll never try to tackle a big clean out/organizing project on my own again.  Professional organizers are THAT worth it.

Those have to be my only complaints about The Power of Less.*  All in all, this is a good little book with some great logic in it, as well as links and suggestions on how to use today’s tools to make your life better.  A short book that combines technology advancements with wisdom of the ages is just the kind of focus that we muti-taskers need to help us calm the chaos that surrounds us online and off.

Take a look through it next time you are at the library or the bookstore.  If you take away one helpful hint (which you are very likely to do), it’ll be worth it.

*I linked to half.com because as many of you know, my husband worked for them in the very early startup days.  I know a lot of people but suprisingly, I actually don’t know the author Leo Babauta and hadn’t heard of him until I ran across The Power of Less. I wasn’t paid or compensated in any way for anything in this post.  I am never paid in any way for any post on PurpleCar.net.  PurpleCar is purely my work and my opinions.  I’ll always be honest with you — well, as much as I’m honest with myself, anyway.  I know I’m usually rougher in my book reviews, but I actually did like this book.  Go figure.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Rosyblue V 3 March 2009, 11:18 pm

    Nice post, Christine. I will check out the book when I hit the book store this week.

  • Mark Dykeman 4 March 2009, 9:56 am

    Good review, Christine. Though as a person who’s read Leo’s blog and his e-Books at virtually no cost, I’m really wondering if there’s a compelling reason for me to buy this book. Maybe the book is intended for the people who don’t already read his blog, etc.

    • PurpleCar 4 March 2009, 1:37 pm

      Thanks Mark!

      I think you’re right, this book is outreach, not for regular readers of his blog. I’ve checked out the site Zen Habits to gather that Leo probably offers the same wisdom in his posts. Convenient to have it all in one short book, though, and it is the kind of book you reference sometimes. For example, when you fall out of a habit, I can see how re-reading the parts on habits and getting them started again would be helpful. Almost like a prayer book, I guess.

      Borrowing from the library is my biggest habit, so I don’t own the book. I really only buy writing or fiction books at this point, and my purchasing of those has fallen drastically due to space, actually. Books are taking over my house.

      I suppose I’m saying that the book is worth a borrow from the library even if you are a regular reader of the blog.



  • ChristopherScottHernandez 4 March 2009, 10:19 am

    Nice review; I followed ZenHabits for a little bit, but this makes we want to go back and check out his site/book again. Thanks!

    • PurpleCar 4 March 2009, 1:43 pm

      Chris, Thanks for coming over! I’m happy to have found the whole concept of Zen + Internet. I’ve often thought they could go together but Leo Babauta has thought it through and has condensed it into a book. What kinds of things did you learn from his site and why did you like it, if I may ask? (That goes for Mark and any other reader too. I’m new to Leo so I’d like to hear some opinions!) -PC


  • Rick Wolff 4 March 2009, 10:53 am

    A little chuckle: the yellow pop-up I get when I hover around the link with the book’s title says, “Buy The Power of Less for Less at half.ebay.com!” (Only funny if it’s automated.)

    Also, the concept of hiring someone to get one’s s**t together… I’ll check it out, as my s**t is as it would be after shortly having hit the fan. Though it’s been like this for a while.

    • PurpleCar 4 March 2009, 1:52 pm


      It IS less at half.ebay.com, though! LOL. I believe in the Half model – it’s always worked.

      Anyway, the professional organizer thing: Do it. Seriously. You think organizing papers or whatever will just be grunt work, but the grunt work is really only 25% of the challenge. The rest is having original thoughts on how to process things; an outsider does that best. Debbie Lillard, my organizer and now a friend of mine, helped me toss business suits that I would never wear again, taught me how to arrange a linen closet, and gave me ideas for other areas of my house. If you find a good organizer like Debbie, she’ll work with you and your systems. For example, she didn’t make me take some prescription medicines out of the band-aid basket because she respected my categorization of them as “medical supplies.”

      You should try it. Another way to do it on the cheap is to have a friend help you and then you help the friend. Taking the emotional and irrational aspects out of the filtering process is truly the majority of battle.