I’ve read a lot of minimalist books over the years. They’ve ranged from how-to decluttering guides to memoirs and simplicity guides.
So I thought it would be incredibly useful to talk about these 8 minimalist books in particular. All so we can see if we learn anything, and perhaps by the end of this article, you’ll know whether to bother reading these books or not.
Visual learner? Watch the video:
I’m going to be real with you though, I do consider myself a minimalist.
Does that mean I’m going to sing the praises of all these books? No.
Does it mean I like absolutely everything about minimalism? No.
So with a slightly objective perspective, let’s take a look at 8 minimalist books and see if they’re worth reading or not.
8 minimalist books to read
So with a slightly objective perspective, let’s take a look at 8 minimalist books and see if they’re worth reading or not.
The Power of Less: The Fine Art of Limiting Yourself to the Essential… in Business and in Life by Leo Babauta
Get the book: https://amzn.to/3feF6dR
Quite a mouthful
Leo’s book has one main take away: focus on the essential and eliminate the rest.
His book uses minimalism (without actually saying it) to help you simplify your work and personal life.
Applying the principles of elimination to productivity, habits, goal setting, time management, routines, and more.
Each chapter contains a ton of practical advice with steps to help you achieve some of the simple tactics Leo himself uses.
Leo’s writing style is similar to Tim Ferris, the author of The 4-hour workweek. It’s to the point, sharp, and easy to read.
I’d say if you’re struggling with productivity and have way too much on your plate – this one is worth a read.
Minimalism: Live a Meaningful Life by The Minimalists
Get the book: https://amzn.to/3BVLEbd
Live a Meaningful Life is a short guide that breaks down the 5 values the Minimalists have determined for a person to live a meaningful life, which are:
Health, relationships, passions, growth, and contribution.
It also interweaves this with the story of how both Ryan and Joshua became minimalists.
The book hardly mentions minimalism in terms of ‘stuff’ but instead talks about the internal work that comes after you’ve decluttered your home.
Because once you’ve finished with the external ‘stuff’ in your life, you’re free to work on the internal.
It’s short, to the point, and serves as bonus material to their already existing mass of content on their website.
Because of the length, the pair only touch briefly on each of the 5 values, illustrating the advice they believe will help the reader figure out what their life should look like.
There’s absolutely some great advice in the book and if you’re new to The Minimalists then this may be worth a read.
Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown
Get the book: https://amzn.to/3rHqYPr
Although this is technically Essentialism, because it’s in the title, I’m going to talk about it in this video because I’m quite fond of this book.
According to Greg, Essentialism is about eliminating the non-essential to make room for the things that we personally deem actually essential.
It’s less about the things you own and more about the choices you make in life.
The premise of this book is that if you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will. It’s basically a guide to stop you saying yes to everything, or wasting your time on things that aren’t well, essential.
I’d like to think this book is the suped-up version of both the previous books in this list.
You can apply the things the author says to work, life, family, relationships and goals you might have.
The author focuses on work for the majority of the book because that’s where he’s used his methods the most, so bear that in mind.
I want to talk about something here though. The author talks a lot about choice and how we have the power to choose a different direction or choose our priorities.
While this is true to a certain extent, it’s a very privileged position to be in. To have the option to choose and still feel safe, secure or even free.
That’s not to discount what the book stands for or encourages, it’s just worth bearing in mind.
This one is easy to read, has a bunch of useful information and isn’t preachy at all – worth a read.
Goodbye, Things: The New Japanese Minimalism by Fumio Sasaki
Get the book: https://amzn.to/3lcxah7
Goodbye, Things is perhaps the simplest of all the books on this list.
Sasaki tells the story of his transformation from a stressed-out, regular guy who hordes stuff, to a focused, grateful, and fulfilled regular guy who doesn’t.
He walks you through the changes he made in his life with a few photographs to give you a visual idea.
Sasaki practices a more extreme version of minimalism. He owns very little and I mean very little.
What I like about this book is that it’s easy-going, Sasaki is humble throughout, simply sharing his experiences and giving you some tips along the way.
The problem with such an extreme take on minimalism though is that it scares people.
Sasaki quite literally has just one towel and he swaps it for a quick-dry cloth that you could literally scrunch into your hand.
If you read the reviews on Goodreads, you’ll see people either loving it as a breath of fresh air or going full drama declaring themselves maximalists.
So we’ll move on shall we?
Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World by Cal Newport
Get the book: https://amzn.to/37aevdO
Digital Minimalism is all about applying minimalism, to our digital lives.
In other words, reducing the amount of exposure to social media, dare I say the internet and technology, in general, to make room for more focus, better relationships, and less stress in our lives.
Listen, I know as well as the next millennial that reducing the amount of content we consume, or the time we spend on our digital devices isn’t easy, but in his book, Cal makes the idea of digital minimalism accessible.
He walks the reader through stories of people from different walks of life reducing the amount of reliance they have on technology and gives you some very useful step-by-step solutions to do the same.
Just like all the books in this list, you don’t have to take every single piece of advice on and that’s no different in Cal’s book.
Take or leave the strategies you think will work for you, but either way, this is a read.
The Minimalist Home: A Room-By-Room Guide to a Decluttered, Refocused Life by Joshua Becker
Get the book: https://amzn.to/2VnIMTt
The Minimalist Home is probably the most ‘how-toey’ out of all the books on this list.
If anything, it’s more of a guidebook to decluttering your home and being intentional about it while you’re at it.
Joshua takes you through every room in your house and helps you to declutter each one.
He’s not forceful about it, he doesn’t set weird rules, it’s like a pep talk guiding you through while you declutter.
It’s pretty simple and had I read this right when I first started finding out about minimalism, I would have found it incredibly helpful.
So if you’re right at the start of your ‘minimalist journey’ and need a guide – this will do it.
The Longing for Less: Living with Minimalism by Kyle Chayka
Get the book: https://amzn.to/3lcxoVv
The Longing for Less is a critical commentary on the history and impact of minimalism as a whole.
I have to say, I wouldn’t have picked it up, had it not been for the title.
It’s entirely my fault for not reading the book summary but at first glance, you’d think the book is about the author’s journey with minimalism.
Oh no no my friend, it is not.
This book quite literally takes you through, in a very academic way, where minimalism started, and how it got to where it is now.
It’s less about lifestyle minimalism and more about the art movement. Although it does talk about both.
While this one was unexpected, I do see there being a place for it if you love history and deep-dives. Especially if you’re looking for something that’s a little more objective and less emotionally driven.
It would have been great reading material for my minimalist business article that’s for sure!
One key takeaway worth noting was the author’s almost psychological diagnosis of minimalists.
He says that there might be an element of control going on with minimalists.
That minimalists might seek to control their personal world because the outside world is not within their control.
If they can’t work to fix or change outside circumstances then they can certainly work on themselves.
That sounds about right to me!
Love People, Use Things by The Minimalists
Get the book: https://amzn.to/3xfwUjV
Love People, Use Things offers itself as a little gift for our COVID stricken age, as an antidote to our apparent love for the things in our lives over the people in our lives.
It walks you through the different relationships you have in your life: stuff, truth, self, values, money, creativity, and people.
And within each of those chapters it shares stories from people The Minimalists have met, people they’ve interviewed in podcasts, and average people like me and you who have done a decluttering challenge The Minimalists call a packing party.
At the end of each chapter is a more how-to-style coaching section from Ryan while the majority of the book is written by the other half of the minimalists, Joshua.
I so wanted to love this book.
I’ve read every book the Minimalists have put out and I’ve listened to a good chunk of their podcasts too, which I think is why I didn’t enjoy this book.
There’s nothing new here. It’s all regurgitated content from their previous books – sometimes word-for-word. Or tidbits from their podcast episodes.
It also reads a little culty. There I said it, and I know, many of these lifestyle or personal development movements can sound like a cult and this book sure does it.
Joshua has a style of writing that’s, how do I put it, inaccessible? While I understand his joy of writing, his choice of words can make it appear as though he’s being quite self-indulgent at the expense of the reader.
Having said this, there are plenty of key takeaways from the book that I personally like.
One of which reads ‘Minimalism starts with the stuff, but that’s just the beginning’.
Because once you’ve intentionally decluttered your stuff. You naturally make room for moving onto decluttering your inner life too.
Many of the books in this list touch on this in some way.
For many, this means having the freedom to work on relationships, personal development, fitness, and health. Both mental and physical.
With the unwanted stuff removed from their lives, many minimalists are free from caring for, thinking about, or getting frustrated with their stuff.
Leaving plenty of time to look inward instead.
Okay so what have I learned?
Once you’ve read it once, you’ve read it a thousand times.
This is more a commentary on my apparent need to keep reading minimalist books because honestly, they all say similar things.
So if you see me reading another minimalism book on Goodreads, you know I have an addiction.
Once you’ve read one book on decluttering, you’ve probably got it and once you’ve read one book on simplifying the rest of your life, you’ve probably got that too. Although there’s no harm in getting a refresher every now and then.
Plus as I mentioned earlier, a lot of these books are written from the perspective of a lot of privilege.
Sure some of the authors didn’t grow up with it, but by the time they started to implement minimalism, they were usually well off, safe and for the majority of these books, white.
So if you know of any books on minimalism that aren’t written by white men, leave them in the comments.
Having said all this, if you’re looking to give these books a go (because there are some good ones here), here are my favourites:
- If you’re looking to start decluttering the ‘stuff’ in your life. The Minimalist Home by Joshua Becker is for you.
- And if you’re looking to simplify everything else in your life, Essentialism by Greg McKeown is for you.
And I’d like to make a nod to Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport because I’m a big fan.
Okay so over to you. Have you read any of the minimalist books on this list? Which did you enjoy?
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