Twelve by Twelve: A One-Room Cabin Off the Grid and Beyond the American Dream

Twelve by Twelve: A One-Room Cabin Off the Grid and Beyond the American Dream

William Powers / Dec 06, 2019

Twelve by Twelve A One Room Cabin Off the Grid and Beyond the American Dream Why would a successful American physician choose to live in a twelve foot by twelve foot cabin without running water or electricity To find out writer and activist William Powers visited Dr Jackie Be

  • Title: Twelve by Twelve: A One-Room Cabin Off the Grid and Beyond the American Dream
  • Author: William Powers
  • ISBN: 9781577318972
  • Page: 178
  • Format: Paperback
  • Why would a successful American physician choose to live in a twelve foot by twelve foot cabin without running water or electricity To find out, writer and activist William Powers visited Dr Jackie Benton in rural North Carolina No Name Creek gurgled through Benton s permaculture farm, and she stroked honeybees wings as she shared her wildcrafter philosophy of living oWhy would a successful American physician choose to live in a twelve foot by twelve foot cabin without running water or electricity To find out, writer and activist William Powers visited Dr Jackie Benton in rural North Carolina No Name Creek gurgled through Benton s permaculture farm, and she stroked honeybees wings as she shared her wildcrafter philosophy of living on a planet in crisis Powers, just back from a decade of international aid work, then accepted Benton s offer to stay at the cabin for a season while she traveled There, he befriended her eclectic neighbors organic farmers, biofuel brewers, eco developers and discovered a sustainable but imperiled way of life.In these pages, Powers not only explores this small patch of community but draws on his international experiences with other pockets of resistance This engrossing tale of Powers s struggle for a meaningful life with a smaller footprint proposes a paradigm shift to an elusive Soft World with clues to personal happiness and global healing.

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      Published :2019-09-09T05:11:06+00:00

    About "William Powers"

      • William Powers

        William Powers hails from Long Island, NY and has worked for over a decade in development aid and conservation in Latin America, Africa, Washington, D.C and Native North America From 2002 to 2004 he managed the community components of a project in the Bolivian that won a 2003 prize for environmental innovation from Harvard s John F Kennedy School of Government His essays and commentaries on global issues have appeared in the New York Times and the International Herald Tribune, and on National Public Radio He was a 2004 2005 recipient of the Open Door Foundation for non fiction and is currently based in New York City as a freelance writer, speaker, and senior fellow at the the World Policy Institute.Librarian Note There is than one author in the GoodReads database with this name See this thread for information.


    1. Twelve by Twelve has nothing, really, to do with living in a small structure. It's a navel gazing exercise by a well-intentioned man that just happens to occur, for a short stint, in a small structure.Powers tackles important issues--racism, elitism, globalism (pick your ism), yet is shockingly blind to his own racism and elitism. Well, not entirely blind. He does note once or twice the way in which he is a total tool but generally only when comparing himself to someone more disturbing. I was mo [...]

    2. Should be titled Couscous for the Enviro-Conscious, Culturally Enlightened Liberal's Soul. Meh. I wanted a book about what real twelve-by-twelve living is all about. This was not that book. I don't want to cast unfair aspersions on the writing, but it reads like something that could have been manufactured by anyone using a formula designed to appeal to a certain reading demographic. Wise shaman this, Native American Wisdomkeeper that, Buddhism, blah, blah, blah. This is one of those vague, "insp [...]

    3. Don't get confused. This book is not about how to live in a small house, or about the small house movement. It is a personal book that happens to touch many social things from our values and how we have chosen to live, to the impact we have in this world.For me, it was almost magical: almost at every chapter, I had something Powers woould say that I needed to check. The book was an invitation to re-think the way I live and the choices I made, as well as to read more books, blogs and start checki [...]

    4. The concept seemed interesting enough: live in a 12x12 structure for a prolonged period of time and tell the tale of it. The problem is that Powers only spends 40 days in the structure (not nearly long enough) and spends most of the pages rambling about his worldview and why it's so much better than yours.The narrative portions of the book are interesting, and I considered giving this book two stars because of it, but three factors prevented me from doing that.1: Powers compares those who don't [...]

    5. I found this book far more annoying than edifying. The authorial voice drips with entitlement and inexpertly concealed superiority. I should be right smack in the center of the target audience for this book, as it's an extended meditation on values and stewardship of our precious resources. However, Powers failed to engage me on a visceral level and lost me entirely when he revealed, after almost 200 pages, that he'd left his 2 year old daughter behind in Bolivia while he jetted around gazing in [...]

    6. When you read my review, you'll likely be tempted to ask, Why did you bother to finish this book? Simple answer: book club. I certainly wouldn't have otherwise.It sounds like an intriguing concept: a guy goes to live in a 12' x 12' shack in the woods, to reduce his carbon footprint and live more simply. However, Mr. Powers just wasn't the right author. While I agree with his ideas and his reasons for performing this experiment, he was not a pleasant companion for the ride. Utterly convinced of t [...]

    7. William Powers took a break from his career as a globetrotting do-gooder to crash for a while in a 12′×12′ cabin in North Carolina. The cabin’s owner, a doctor and activist who is pseudonomized for the sake of her privacy in the book as “Dr. Jackie Benton,” is a war tax resister who chose the small-cabin, off-the-grid, radically simplified lifestyle as a way of both avoiding income taxes and living a life in solidarity with people worldwide who are less resource-depleting than the typ [...]

    8. The first third of Twelve By Twelve was enthralling. Your average progressive white male goes from being a South American aid worker to living in a 12" by 12" cabin with no electricity or running water. He remarks about the disconnect many of us feel with 21st century society, giving examples of corporate excesses such as how a local hospital closed their cafeteria and farmed out the catering to a Wendy's fast food joint. The second and third parts of the book go into his interior struggle on wh [...]

    9. I loathed this author; he came off as profoundly selfish, preachy and just plain obnoxious, and not someone I would ever want to meet or have a beer with. I find that this is the case with some author's who have an environmental focus, but there are so many great nature/environmental/natural history authors out there that I think I'm spoiled, and when I come across one like this I really get irritated. To put it simply, this guy who is telling his own story from a 12 x 12 shed he is living in do [...]

    10. 2011 Book 24/100This would be a 2.5 star review if we had that option. I swung back and forth between loving the overall concept of simplicity taken to a 12x12 dwelling extreme (as lived by Dr. Jackie Benton, who this book REALLY should have been about) and hating the, as another Goodreader Eileen put it, "smug yet whiny pseudo-Buddhist ramblings of one of the most entitled writers I've ever read". The author is a white, middle class, privileged male who has been doing foreign aid work with NGOs [...]

    11. Full disclosure: I could not bring myself to pick this up again after the first few days of endless bullshit, so my review is based totally on the first third or so of the book.I was expecting this book to be in the "reasonable thought about the author's experience/how to reduce one's footprint in the face of American cultural expectations" line. Instead, I found the smug yet whiny pseudo-Buddhist ramblings of one of the most entitled writers I've ever read. Powers had what sounds like an excell [...]

    12. A surgeon declines a $300,000 per year salary, accepting only $11,000 to avoid the taxation that fills government war coffers. Her conscience further leads her to live in a shack whose total square feet are less than many American bathrooms, using natural resources that enable her to live entirely off-grid. What is her real motivation? How does she do it? Is the payoff worth it? Accepting the good doctor’s offer to stay in her twelve-by-twelve while she is on sabbatical, acclaimed author and h [...]

    13. Here's a book I'd recommend to about 95% of people who love to read. It's thought-provoking without being threatening. The prose is often beautiful and poetic. I also loved the — mostly Eastern — philosophical and spiritual undertones. It reminded me of the things I fell in love with over a decade ago, the things I studied in college, the dreams and ideals that sometimes get buried under world-weary woes and worries. It made me think of Vonnegut (maybe because Powers drops the title of Vonne [...]

    14. Personal accounts on living off the grid, starting a small farm or generally breaking away from first world consumptive go-go lifestyles are a dime a dozen these days (see Animal, Vegetable, Miracle; Farm City, The Dirty Life; Growing a Farmer; My Empire of Dirt; City Farmer; Radical Homemakers; etc. etc.). These are all great books and it’s truly heartening to see this genre blossom – I desperately want these ideas to go mainstream – but for a devoted reader one begins bumping up against [...]

    15. I'm so torn about this book's rating. There were parts that I loved. Power's experience living in a twelve by twelve "house" in rural North Carolina provided many thought-provoking insights that were often beautifully shared with the reader. Then just when I was dog-earring the book and thinking I would keep it forever, he'd go on some detailed tangent in another world and time. OK, so he lead some conservation initiatives in Africa and knows lots about world policies, but why couldn't he just s [...]

    16. Finishing this book leaves me with a glow of peace and hope. It is an honest reflection of satisfaction with life; the northern developed life of stuff juxtaposed with the southern world of have nots, examining happiness, comfort and the effects of it on our environment. One appeal is the lack of preaching and condemnation. Another is accessibility of the writing. It is clear, personal, and deeply thoughtful. It surprised me to find it was not i had thought, a treatise on green living. Rather, i [...]

    17. Despite the overwhelming shortcomings, Twelve by Twelve offers brief glimpses of pure gold. Some are ironic, like when the characters absolutely refuse to remain upon the pedestals on which they were placed. Other gems are poetic. And the richest are both ironic and inspirational, as in the midst of the book's many harsh judgements Powers shares a simple and compassionate method for attempting to not judge other people. It's a good lesson that will require daily practice. Refraining from judging [...]

    18. I found this book very unique and took a lot from it. Made me stop to think about how I am living. William Powers writing is also so capitivating that I found I didn't want to put the book down. Love books like that!

    19. Great, great read. The fact that Powers can make toilet composting and foraging turn-pagers speaks a lot to the writing. It's much more of a spiritual journey than an ecological one. I highly recommend it. Never preachy and definitely left me thinking.

    20. Powers writes this as a sort of introduction to sustainable and conscientious living since he presents the concepts like they are some revolutionary ideas. But these ideas are really at least several decades old and have already been better said by many other authors, such as: Thoreau, Whitman, Emerson, Edward Abbey, Aldo Leopold, Alan Watts, Derrick Jensen, Howard Zinn, Noam Chomsky, John Zerzan, Robert Pirsig, Carlos Castaneda, Thom Hartmann, Daniel Quinn, Michael Pollan, Eric Schlosser and Ed [...]

    21. Here are things that I marked as I was reading:p. 44 "Sociologists point out that American kids today can identify a thousand corporate logos but less than ten native plants and animals that live around their homes."p. 48 Jackie's approach to living in very simple terms: see, be, dop. 50 Use a warrior presence to be fully present in the moment.p. 56 He reflects on his work in the Global South feeling guilty that he had been punishing people for living sustainably & came to a realization that [...]

    22. Powers is an activist getting a bit burned out from his profession of helping Joe Developing Nation when he accepts an invitation to house-sit a twelve-foot by twelve-foot off-the-grid cabin in the woods. The woman who designed and built it and its permaculture gardens used the cabin to live deliberately, with an income low enough to be untaxable so that her labor wouldn't support the defense industry. Despite the horror felt by his middle-class American parents at the prospect, Powers uses the [...]

    23. My feelings toward this book fluctuated during the reading of it. I picked it up because it seemed to deal with topics I care about (environmental degradation, the evils of consumerism, sustainability, self-denial, hope, despair, confusion, simplicity, the big meanings concealed within small things), but I often found myself preoccupied with trying to decide whether I liked the author or not. He and I have a lot in common. We both read labels in the grocery store and think of urban sprawl as a m [...]

    24. This was great. I thought going in it would be about living in a tiny house. It wasn't that. Powers does choose to spend time in a tiny house, but it's ultimately a book about finding yourself and your purpose and then how to take yourself and your purpose and put it into meaningful action.What works here, though, is how much Powers acknowledges privilege everywhere. He talks about racism and classism a lot. He GETS it. His ultimate take away is one that really resonates with me personally, and [...]

    25. OK, I have to admit that , although I was intrigued by the author's experiment in living in a 12x12 cabin, off the grid, and by his neighbors, who were also living lifestyles outside of the American mainstream, I was often a bit put off by his navel-gazing. What really did me in was the fact that he left his little girl, whom he loved and missed, in Bolivia, in order to come back to the USA to do all of this hand-wringing and introspective angsting. I admire that he is attempting to live his con [...]

    26. What an absolutely human account of being human in the wild and wacky 21st century. There are lessons on every page, which a human reader - me being one in my spare time - will forget in the next paragraph. But that, too, is human. How does one leave the shopping, bulldozing, mindless dystopian world of gimme/gimme-more, and still live sanely, without her spirit dropping out and hitchhiking to Shangri La? How can one live sustainably, off the grid, wholistically and holistically, with the stench [...]

    27. This book is beautifully written, a true exploration of how to live in this world. A look into a quiet life in a 12x12 house in the middle of a permaculture forest, but in the cool air you catch smells from a nearby chicken factory. Do you want a softer world? Philosophical, spiritual, and poetic musings about this world we live in and how to live a good and true life. I was taken in by this book. I saw myself in William's wonders and wanders, and was soothed by the peace he found.I especially r [...]

    28. I didn't like this book as much as I wanted to. This book consists primarily of the author (an upper middle class foreign aid worker) navel gazing about the state of his life and mankinds treatment of the environment, while name-checking various sustainability "technologies" (broadly defined). It would have been a much better and informative book if the Dr. Jackie character played more of a role, or if he had interviewed the sustainable realestate developer/permaculture teacher, Bradley Jameson. [...]

    29. If you are interested to see how one actually lives "off the grid" with no piped water or electricity and with minimal income, do not read this book. If you want 260 pages of irritating ruminations on the perils of our society and planet (global warming, racism, war, poverty, etc.) look no further. Cannot believe how wildly misleading this book's title is.

    30. I was pretty skeptical about this book. It seemed to have the potential to be very cheesy. Overall, though, I found it very interesting and just what I need at this moment

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