The Man Who Quit Money

A Los Angeles Times Bestseller
A San Francisco Chronicle Bestseller
An Amazon Top 100 Bestseller

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“This is a beautiful, thoughtful and wonderful book. I suspect I may find myself thinking about it every day for the rest of my life.”
-Eilzabeth Gilbert

“Maybe it’s just this odd, precarious moment we live in, but Daniel Suelo’s story seems to offer some broader clues for all of us. Mark Sundeen’s account will raise subversive and interesting questions in any open mind”
-Bill McKibben

“Mark Sundeen’s astonishing and unsettling book goes directly to the largest questions about how we live and what we have lost in a culture obsessed with money. Sundeen tells the story of a gentle and generous man who sought the good life by deciding to live without it. What’s most unsettling and astonishing is that he appears to have succeeded.”
- William Greider, author of Secrets of the Temple : How the Federal Reserve Runs the Country

A Walden for the 21st Century

In the autumn of 2000, Daniel Suelo deposited his life savings—all thirty dollars of it – in a phone booth. He has lived without money ever since. And he has never felt so free, or so much at peace. “My wealth never leaves me,” he says. “Worrying about what could or should happen is a worse illness than what could or should happen.”

In The Man Who Quit Money, author Mark Sundeen tells the amazing story of how one man learned to live, sanely and happily, without earning, receiving, or spending a single cent. Suelo doesn’t pay taxes, or accept food stamps or welfare. He lives in caves in the Utah canyonlands, forages wild foods and gourmet discards, and accepts what is freely given him. He no longer even carries an I.D. Yet he manages to fulfill amply not only the basic human needs – for shelter, food, and warmth – but, to an enviable degree, the universal desires for companionship, purpose, and spiritual engagement.

Sundeen retraces the surprising path and guiding philosophy that led Suelo, step by step, from an idealistic childhood through youthful disillusionment to his radical reinvention of “the good life.” The Man Who Quit Money makes us question the decisions we all make — by default or by design — about how we live. And it inspires us to imagine how we might live better.

REVIEWS

Mark Sundeen’s book tells a story of Mr. Suelo living a life of wonder and appreciation. That’s something we could all do to learn. -WALL STREET JOURNAL

In this inspiring book, Sundeen tells Suelo’s remarkable life story and the circumstances surrounding his decision to “quit money.” Suelo’s mission and ethos are truly admirable, and his story is equally compelling. -PUBLISHERS WEEKLY

A modern picaresque. . .a sophisticated blend of memoir, biography, romantic travelogue, history and psychology, creating a marketable modern myth about a pseudo-saintly survivalist. -KIRKUS

Thoughtful and engrossing biography that also explores society’s fixation with financial and material rewards…Although few readers will even consider emulating Suelo’s scavenger lifestyle, his example will at least provoke some serious soul-searching about our collective addiction to cash. –BOOKLIST

Mind-blowing. An extraordinary and thought-provoking book. What Suelo provides is the counterweight to consumerism, greed and the corporatization of society. He’s the one saying that the emperor has no clothes. And even if we don’t want to be like him, the story of his life will leave readers with unsettling questions about what life means and the importance of money. In the end, I didn’t want Sundeen to stop.- PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER

Sundeen deftly portrays him as a likable, oddly sage guy who finds happiness in radical simplicity. Suelo personifies a critique that will resonate with anyone who has ever felt remorse on the treadmill of getting and spending. –OUTSIDE MAGAZINE

As Sundeen digs into Suelo’s life story—from childhood fundamentalism through coming out as gay and dealing with clinical depression—he finds that it comes from a thoroughly unexpected mix of hippie philosophical wanderings, revisionist Christianity, right-wing tirades against the Federal Reserve and left-wing outrage against the primacy of profit.Yet it’s far from a piece of advocacy journalism for a specific lifestyle choice. Instead, it remains singularly interested in this singular man, and what it looks like when someone commits unequivocally to the dictates of their conscience. The result is both resonant as a character study and infinitely thought-provoking in its challenge to all our preconceptions about modern life—and about the small and large hypocrisies people of all philosophies and religious paths assume they need to accept. SALT LAKE CITY WEEKLY

Suelo isn’t a conflicted zealot, or even a principled aesthete. He’s a contented man who chooses to wander the Earth and do good — by running homeless shelters and always working for free — in every way he can. He’s also someone you’d want to have a beer with and hear about his life, as full of fortune and enlightenment as it is disappointment and darkness. Mark Sundeen’s account of Suelo’s life unfolds, like his life, with purposeful aimlessness. The structure of the book is far from rigid, and Sundeen’s outside analysis — about the politics of the 1990s, the influence of libertarians like Ron Paul, and the history of evangelical Christianity — provides only the essential background. But at its core, The Man Who Quit Money is the story of a man who decided to live outside of society, and is happier for it. -MENS JOURNAL

Sundeen keeps a cool head as he weaves facts, timelines and anecdotes into a fascinating story, researching everything from Suelo’s grade-school years to the history of banking. What he discovered about the defining moment in Suelo’s life will give readers a lot to think about. Ultimately, Suelo decided, our attachment to money is about our fear of death: “Money perpetuated the fantasy of immortal earthly life, the illusion that we could determine the future.” -HIGH COUNTRY NEWS

Sundeen adds plenty of context to Suelo’s saga, which features enough episodes of despair, accidental poisonings, and one miraculously non-fatal plummet off a cliff to qualify as a true quest. There are detours into the 1999 World Trade Organization protests, G. Edward Griffin’s anti-Federal Reserve manifesto “The Creature From Jekyll Island,” and the decades-long protest march of the woman who called herself Peace Pilgrim. A monkish humanist and naturalist who has come to terms—on his own terms—with his religious upbringing, Suelo has made himself a test case for letting go. He isn’t a preacher, but a leader by example. Sundeen tells the eccentric story of the Man Who Quit Money with a gentle, sometimes wry touch, and it pays dividends. THE ONION A.V. CLUB

In America, renunciation breaks the rules, but, as everyone evicted from Zuccotti Park or bludgeoned at Berkeley or just steamed in-between knows, the rules require breaking. For this, we need a new super-man (of any gender), even if we have to look in the dumpster to find him. Fortunately, Mark Sundeen has done the real dirty work for us. In this book he tracks down Suelo, and, swallowing his acknowledged distaste, sets out to understand the process and logic behind a money-free lifestyle while tracing the spiritual, psychological, physical, and philosophical quest that led this particular man to throw over our society’s arguably counterfeit-yet-prevailing faith in money, or, more precisely, in debt. In the process, Sundeen dabbles as a devotee, sipping Suelo’s rustic infusions of juniper and wild grasses, performing Qiqong poses on the ledge of Suelo’s squat, joining him on dumpster-diving expeditions, and performing manual labor for the pure gratification, not of pay, but of work itself. What he finds is not so distasteful after all. (Even expired fried chicken tastes better for being foraged for, apparently.) Rather, it’s admirable on many levels.-THE RUMPUS

Hitting a national nerve . . . a nonfiction novel in the spirit of Herman Hesse and Carlos Castaneda, about a hero’s quest for enlightenment. A more contemporary comparison is Jon Krakauer’s “Into the Wild,” with Suelo sharing Christopher McCandless’ reverence for nature and disgust with materialism. -PORTLAND OREGONIAN

In Mark Sundeen’s captivating biography, Suelo emerges as a remarkable and complex character: a spiritual seeker, one-time religious studies major, Peace Corps alumnus and former social worker. Through interviews with Suelo, his friends, family and associates, and close readings of his letters and web postings, Sundeen brings his subject vividly to life. By exploring Suelo’s philosophic underpinnings and contrasting them with recent economic upheavals, he makes a case for Suelo’s relevance to our time. -SEATTLE TIMES

This is the most interesting aspect of the book — the reaction it provokes. Suelo doesn’t advocate for other people to live like he does; it’s simply the way he chooses to live. But because we are supposed to want more, seeing someone who chooses to do without that which we take for granted feels like a challenge to some. And any book that provokes people into reconsidering how they live — that gets them to think — has already accomplished more than many books do. -SEATTLE EXAMINER

The delightful new book by Mark Sundeen about the life and times of Daniel Suelo, a wandering mystic who tried all the normal ways of American Society and found that none of them fit his mind and spirit. Sundeen is a smart writer who comes to this story well equipped with knowledge of the various prophets and teachers and traditions that tell us to live simply, even though very few of us do so by choice. This is a story with a shared Buddhist/Christian philosophy, and Suelo’s life is nearly as radical as the recorded lives of Siddhārtha Gautama or Jesus of Nazareth. It is only by divorcing his work from the way most of us are paid for work that he finds his Way. -WONKETTE

An author and a subject have rarely been as well matched. Sundeen has delivered a penetrating, wide-ranging and deeply thoughtful book. Whether one believes Suelo to be a madman or a saint (or both), a reader comes away from Sundeen’s book learning something – including a short history of our monetary system, the fine art of dumpster-diving, life in the canyonlands and a survey of religious thinkers ranging from St. Francis of Assisi to Teilhard de Chardin. THE EASY READER (Los Angeles County)

The Man Who Quit Money is Mark Sundeen’s fourth book and it is an exquisitely timed one. The turbulence of our economic class system, the tenuous future of our natural environment and the entire history of man’s inhumanity to man, whether for gain, gold or god, provide the perfect shotgun rider to this parable of modern struggle. The lifestyle chosen by the book’s nomadic protagonist, Daniel Suelo, riddles us this: Can we throw over the desire to financially prosper that has been cultivated in us from birth? -MISSOULA INDEPENDENT

Mark Sundeen gets to the heart of the tale of the cave dweller who gave up money — for philosophical reasons. What he discovered profiling Suelo was a firm ideology buttressing a stress-free life of grace, ease and overriding sense of living in the present.[This] Moab-based tome considers how to undo the madness of money. -SALT LAKE TRIBUNE

A thought-provoking and respectful account of one man’s search for meaning in a world preoccupied with money and the things it buys. The book provides a unique way of looking at the Christian idea of “being in the world, but not of the world.” At the very least, it may give the thoughtful reader cause to reflect on how and why materialism, rather than spiritual relationships dominate our society. -DESERET NEWS

Sundeen’s non-fiction biography is well constructed and compellingly written. The prose is the standout driver of the story. There’s a poetic power to his sentences, written in a quiet voice that often slides into sly comedy. The balance that Sundeen strikes is critical in making the book work. He takes his subject seriously enough to explore all the ideas that Suelo’s lifestyle implies, but never gets overwrought. -THE AGONY COLUMN

Beyond living outside the system of money, Suelo’s desire to live more authentically on all fronts is at the heart of this story. Sundeen has written a fascinating portrait of the man and how he operates without money, but he has also crafted a very gripping back-story that outlines the religious upbringing, spiritual awakening, sexual discovery and philosophical education of Suelo’s youth, work experiences and travel adventures. We see Suelo in his Canyonlands digs, foraging for wild onions, performing his own Passover ritual with a sacrificial lizard, diving dumpsters for a sack of fried chicken, and, like Chris McCandless, making a few poor decisions on the edibility of wild food. But, as we read of the years and tears leading up to that final $30 being left in a phone booth, we get a sense of Suelo’s intense faith, with nothing of the material world to fall back on. He quotes Saint Francis, “If we embrace holy poverty very closely, the world will come to us and will feed us abundantly.” Sundeen’s powerful storytelling reveals the complicated philosophy, the contradictions and shortcomings of someone in the face of grand dreams, and the daily triumphs of someone with the guts to do what many of us wish we could. -DURANGO TELEGRAPH

The moral of Daniel Suelo’s story is not about emulation, but inspiration. Inspiration to live with less, to give more and in the end, to be happier. And who couldn’t use some of that? -MOUNTAIN GAZETTE

Could I do it? That’s the question you’ll ask yourself over and over as you’re reading “The Man Who Quit Money.” It’s a tantalizing thought, this chuck-it-all life, and author Mark Sundeen lets his readers ponder it as he tells the life story of his friend, Daniel Suelo.This isn’t just your run-of-the-mill biography. Sundeen lends his readers a good sense of who Suelo really is, while still preserving the enigmatic aspects. -THE BOOKWORM, PAHRUMP VALLEY TIMES

Sundeen wrote an engrossing account of one man’s personal evolution and journey of self-realization. Suelo’s life mirrors closely the Hero’s Journey as written by Joseph Campbell. Suelo believes, like Henry David Thoreau, that living in nature makes one strong. He also accepts St. Francis’ belief that leaving events to chance brings you closer to God, and that is how he lives his life.Sundeen’s book documents a story that is heartwarming, and also wrenching, as Suelo truly travels the road less taken. The Man Who Quit Money is a thought-provoking and engrossing read. -DURANGO HERALD

Sundeen’s character study of this “American Sadhu” leads you on a trip of a trip, from a man’s evangelical roots to his physical tour of world religions, from depression and suicidal acts to the joy of owning one’s personal footprint. Within is a commentary on gaining independence from broken systems that manage currency, food, equality, sexuality, and salvation. -TELLURIDE INSIDE AND OUT

A fascinating story of opting out of a system that the vast majority Earth’s denizens participate in. -TELLURIDE DAILY PLANET

Part Walden, part Into the Wild, part Fast Food Nation and part Deep Ecology, Sundeen’s book is a non-preachy call to action in an era when we’re feeling the impact of conspicuous consumption. Not only that, it’s just a fun read, too. -MARIA’S BOOKSHOP, DURANGO, CO

The sort of biography that not only digs beneath the surface of the individual life described, but that holds up a very clear mirror to the times that that person is living in. TATTERED COVER, DENVER

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