Book Review: Creating a Life Together
Author: Diana Leafe Christian
Publisher: New Society Publishers
Wow. This has to be THE “mother of all books” on intentional communities. It certainly lives up to the title and subtitle on its cover. I think practical tools is a likely understatement as the book goes into much detail on many of the serious nuts and bolts of forming intentional community. I was and am beyond impressed with the information I found in Creating a Life Together; Diana Leafe Christian has done an exemplary job of bringing together a large amount of information and summarizing it into an intellectually digestive form. I am surprised at the breadth and depth of detail she has been able to bring into one volume and still maintain a level of readability that is unexpected for a book that seems like it should read more like an encyclopedia or some multi-step manual. My point; it reads very well. In fact, I read most of the book during a 3-hour flight…finding it almost as exciting as a mystery or action-adventure title on the NY Times Bestseller list. Really!
As I have already said, the book is everything it claims to be and more. The book draws on the collective experience of the author, Diana Leafe Christian, who has served as the editor of Communities magazine since 1993 and has many years of experience observing and living as a member of intentional communities. Additionally, the book also shares insight and example from a number of community models—their best and worst practices—so the reader is provided with “real world” experience to examine.
Creating a Life Together is divided into three primary sections. Part one deals with start-up issues; this section of the book is worth its cost alone. Part two is what I might refer to as the “engine room” of the intentional community and includes discussion about agreements, policy, legal advice and entity, property concerns, zoning issues, neighbors, and financing. It covers most of the mechanics involved with forming an intentional community. While this aspect of community might seem burdensome and/or boring, it absolutely cannot be overlooked and I believe Diana has done a great job of presenting this information fairly and highlighting its importance as well. Part three shares about the nature and development of the community itself…the people factor as it were, describing how people thrive, are nourished, and deal with conflict within the close confines of this type of neighborhood. There are many great examples of how it is done right and how it is done wrong in this section along with a number of very good resources. The book is rounded out with a great compilation of resource material found in the appendices featuring examples of community vision documents, sample community agreements, and information that I found extremely helpful for setting up a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. There is also a great list of books, websites, and other organizations at the end of the book that can serve for next steps or deeper study into specific areas relative to the intentional community model.
I am so very glad to have found this book. Certain aspects of it caused pangs of depression as I considered some of the aspects of community forming that aren’t so exciting for me, but I am glad to have the reality check and awareness of these aspects brought to my attention, so I have both eyes open as I proceed with learning about (and hopefully becoming part of) an intentional community. If you are considering this type of lifestyle, this book is a “must have” for you. Don’t miss it!