cover image Small Town Living: A Coast-to-Coast Guide to People, Places, and Communities

Small Town Living: A Coast-to-Coast Guide to People, Places, and Communities

Erin Austen Abbott. Running Press, $30 (264p) ISBN 978-0-7624-8429-4

In this wistful coffee-table book, photographer Abbott (Family Field Trip) profiles individuals who left the city for the country. Exploring how newcomers can contribute to their adopted hometown while preserving its character, Abbott describes how a mother of three relocated from Asheville, N.C., to Spring Green, Wisc., and opened a restaurant with an eye toward boosting the local economy (all the eatery’s banking, insurance, and food vendor contracts are with local businesses), and how an artist couple moved from Dallas to Marfa, Tex., and converted an old church into an art gallery. The profiles play up the charms of small-town life (“I’ve talked to more of our neighbors... than I have in all of my years in San Francisco,” a graphic designer remarks on moving to Athens, N.Y.), even as Abbott remains clear-eyed about the drawbacks, noting, for example, that schools and other public services are often chronically underfunded. Prescriptive sidebars on how to be a good neighbor place a welcome emphasis on community, suggesting newcomers might volunteer at a food pantry or fundraise for local schools by organizing a bingo night. Extensive photos of rustic storefronts, local art, and serene natural vistas will appeal to city dwellers who dream of the pastoral life but aren’t quite ready to take the plunge. It’s an idyllic celebration of the rural life. (Sept.)