Small is Possible
Well, I've read Small is Possible and I'm still not sure what to think about it. It's part autobiography, and part the story of an unusual place in North Carolina. Chatham County lies in the extended orbit of the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area. Given its proximity to several major universities and the famed research triangle, it's probably not too surprising that there are some pretty unusual and capable folks living in the area.
Pittsboro is the center of much of the activity described in the book. I've never been there, but one of my colleagues lived there for a few years and describes the town as "funky", whatever that means.
In any case, there's a food coop, organic farms, a biodiesel plant, unusual communities, and any number of artsy and "alternative" businesses. The book provides brief sketches of some these enterprises, describing the principals and the development (and sometimes the failure) of each business. Estill often seems to be in the middle of whatever's going on, and he refers to most everyone by their first names.
Overall, it's an intriguing account of what apparently works for Chatham County. Would it work for the rest of the country? I don't know. It's hard to imagine a world of artisans and small-scale business capable of providing some of the services the author reports enjoying, say quick overseas travel via airplane.
Then again, it's unreasonable to expect what works for one place to work for every place. More to the point, our current economic structure is unsustainable, and we need to think (and learn) about alternatives. This book certainly adds to that discussion.