Monday, June 13, 2016

7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker - Book Review

This is a book I have wanted to read for a long time- the stars aligned, or I felt a particularly strong pull and I finally bought it, used on Amazon for a $1… which is important to me for some reason. I guess I rationalize my unnecessary book buying with the ridiculously low cost I am paying…also I like to tell myself I am keeping the Post Office in business. And thinking critically about the consumer choices I make is just a thing I do now, in part thanks to this book!

 Really though - I do not think it is a coincidence that at the same time I was feeling a pull into excess I was simultaneously pulled to read this book.

The idea behind “7” is this - over seven months the author focused on seven different areas she perceived as excessive, and reduced them down dramatically. These reductions led to a return to Christ-like simplicity and generosity, and ultimately this all leads to a better existence.

That’s right - Jesus. So let me just say this before I get into the heart of the discussion, while “7" and the ideas behind it are rooted in Christian principles and there are a litany of bible passages throughout the book - I do not think it is exclusionary by nature. If you are not religious but are interested in these ideas, read it. Sure there are going to be passages to skip, but to me understanding the benefits of avoiding excess, and the opportunities to avoid it are worth however uncomfortable skipping bible passages might make you. However, it would be pretty difficult to read this book and “avoid Jesus”, as Christian principles are Jen’s main motivation for avoiding excess.

One thing I love about Jen Hatmaker, the author, and this book in general - It isn’t preachy. Jen’s struggles are real. She isn’t speaking theoretically about avoiding excess, she is deep in the trenches of reducing consumption. And also in increasing necessary goods for those that “have not”. The struggles Jen encounters on her journey are very real, and easily relatable - don’t even get me started about the anxiety I feel imagining doing the things she does in the book! And so, her triumphs and failures along the way are incredibly personal.

For me, this book filled the holes that I felt while reading “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up”. Unlike that book suggests- I do not feel like thanking shoes, that is just not me. I SO respect the idea of only having shoes that you wear, that are necessary, and that they be kept in such a way they are visible so that you can see them - but at the end of the day I do not feel like they are what I should be thanking. I am grateful to individuals, to God - but not to inanimate physical objects.

Also, I realize I am experiencing and saying all of this from an incredibly privileged place. It is easy for me to say I am going to resist excess because I have had the opportunity to experience excess. I already have an excess of options, freedom, and education on my side. it is easy for me to say don’t hoard food- I can walk down to my local supermarket any day or don’t hoard books, when I have a clean, safe library a short drive away.

I love that resisting excess brought the author closer to being Christ-like. While reading the book, it is easy to see why this is so- and the book is littered with examples of how I as a reader could also reduce and benefit society.

I am a Christian, but I am also not especially educated in this field either- even after nine years of Catholic school, go figure. Jen quotes the bible throughout the book and ultimately for me it was incredibly educational. But also, the idea of reduction holds value to me even without its ability to bring me closer to Christ, but talk about a pretty big bonus side effect!

I really think this book is life changing. In fact, this book changed my life the same way that “Quiet", by Susan Cain, changed my life. Sometimes you need someone else, an outside authority of sorts, to validate something you have always felt was a truth. It is life changing to have someone validate you for being you. I felt that while reading “Quiet", and being told that being introverted was not just a “real thing” it was a character trait that held value. And I felt that way reading “7”, as I want desperately to avoid excess and have guilt related to excess quite frequently. This book gave me reasons to avoid excess and showed me the benefits in a way I doubt I will ever be strong enough to practice myself.

Have you read Seven? What did you think? What other non fiction or fiction books have you read that made you feel validated? Thinking about reading this book? Click the link to the left to find a copy at your local library or click below to find the book on Amazon through my affiliate link!


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