Book Review: New Slow City by William Powers

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Book Review: New Slow City by William Powers

Slow is the new black. Or rather, Urban Slow is the new black.

A lifestyle trend that is increasingly being adopted across the globe, slow living is no longer the exclusive domain of country folk, the Amish community or the humble snail.

In a world driven by the 3 Cs – competition, consumption, cash – people are increasingly finding an answer to the problems of capitalism in living slow. Even people residing in some of our fastest cities.

William Powers is one such person.

Powers is the author of Twelve by Twelve a memoir about his time living in an off-grid cabin in North Carolina. When some readers pointed out that minimalist living is easy in a remote cabin but near impossible in the city, Powers set out to find the truth. So he decided to pursue a “Slow Year” in the epicentre of all things fast and dominated by the 3 Cs: Manhattan.


Serious about downshifting to slow gear, he and his wife Melissa move out of their Queens townhouse, get rid of 80 percent of their belongings and relocate to a 350 square-foot “micro apartment” in Greenwich Village. Exploring slow in all aspects of his life including work, Powers even limits his working week to just two days. “Before slowing down, I lived in a time-scarcity mentality, scheduling my life as tightly as possible and sometimes stressing about whether I was maximising the utility of each meeting or social engagement” he writes. When I read about his two-day work week in New Slow City, I thought, I moved away from the city, live off-the-grid and even I couldn’t live this slow!

could you live slow in NYC?

Throughout the book, Powers offers his ‘slow’ musings on a range of topics including food, spirituality, money, technology, transport, urban sanctuaries and yes even family life as he prepares to become a father (“the thought of inhabiting the box ‘parent consumer’ makes me squeamish”). His story is refreshing to read and reminds me of my own as I too returned to the city (my hometown of Melbourne, the second largest city in Australia) after a two year hiatus in an off-grid shed in rural Queensland (I lasted two years, I’m now back in the country).


His journey is told at a measured pace, and while a little frustrating, I realise that this may actually be intentional. After all, we’re manipulated to always being on the edge of our seats, to want to know what happens next, to go fast, a slow living book that is purposefully slow is indeed quite clever. Still, it’s frustrating. I may have moved to our farm and live green, but I still haven’t gotten used to living slow. Even when reading a book about living slow!

In summary, I enjoyed reading New Slow City and found myself nodding in agreement with many of Powers’ intelligent observations and was particularly amused by his “smart-filtering” techniques to block out the city’s commercial content (I actively fight advertising messages myself) and the “stealth advertising” episode in which he attempts to call out the actors on a train only to have it backfire on him.

Above all, this book serves as a wonderful reminder that while going fast seems to be hardwired into us, it is actually something we’ve learned. We can in fact unlearn it. If we consciously make the effort to be mindful of our surroundings, purposeful in our actions and truly connected with one another, we can override this need for speed. Because this is essentially what living slow is all about. Moving from autopilot to being really and fully present.

You can purchase the book here.

Disclosure: Eco Warrior Princess received a digital copy of New Slow City for the purposes of this book review. This post also contains affiliate links so should you make a purchase, we may make a small commission which helps us to run this super blog and pay our team fair wages. We are committed to high standards of integrity which you can learn more about here.

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