The Man Who Quit Money [NOOK Book]


In 2000, Daniel Suelo left his life savings-all thirty dollars of it-in a phone booth. He has lived without money-and with a newfound sense of freedom and security-ever since. The Man Who Quit Money is an account 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. He no longer even carries an I.D. Yet he manages to ...
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The Man Who Quit Money

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In 2000, Daniel Suelo left his life savings-all thirty dollars of it-in a phone booth. He has lived without money-and with a newfound sense of freedom and security-ever since. The Man Who Quit Money is an account 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. He no longer even carries an I.D. Yet he manages to amply fulfill 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. In retracing the surprising path and guiding philosophy that led Suelo into this way of life, Sundeen raises provocative and riveting questions about the decisions we all make, by default or by design, about how we live-and how we might live better.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In 2000, Daniel Suelo left his last in a truck stop phone booth. Since then, he has "not earned, received, or spent a single dollar." He does not receive any government assistance and accepts only charity that is freely given. He currently resides in a cave in Utah's Moab Desert, where he primarily lives off the land. In this inspiring book, Sundeen (Car Camping) tells Suelo's remarkable life story and the circumstances surrounding his decision to "quit money." Suelo came from a family of fundamentalist Christians, but in college at the University of Colorado, he became fascinated with other world religions—particularly Hinduism and Buddhism—which he would explore more thoroughly on a trip to Thailand and India. While volunteering with the Peace Corps in Ecuador, Suelo came out as gay to his parents, whose refusal to accept this fact plunged Suelo into depression. Disillusioned with the world, Suelo scaled back on life, eschewing a steady job for couch surfing, volunteer work, and adventures, including working on a salmon boat, hiking Alaska's Resurrection Mountains, and hitchhiking across the country in 2000, when he finally abandoned money. Sundeen provides details of Suelo's day-to-day life, and the guiding philosophies that have enabled him, in his own words, "to live with zero money… Abundantly." Suelo's mission and ethos are truly admirable, and his story is equally compelling. (Mar.)
From the Publisher
"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." - Elizabeth Gilbert

"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

"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 

“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. 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… 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.” –Men’s Journal 

 “Sundeen deftly portrays [Suelo] as a likeable, oddly sage guy… who finds happiness in radical simplicity [and] personifies a critique that will resonate with anyone who has ever felt remorse on the treadmill of getting and spending." –Outside Magazine 

“Captivating… Suelo emerges as a remarkable and complex character… Sundeen brings his subject vividly to life [and] makes a case for Suelo's relevance to our time.” –The Seattle Times 

“Exquisitely timed… The Man Who Quit Money is a slim, quick read that belies the weightiness underneath. The very quality that makes us see a “man walking in America” (Suelo’s words) and be simultaneously attracted and repelled is exposed here in beautiful detail.” –The Missoula Independent

“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. Sundeen… 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.” –The Rumpus 

“A fascinating subject… 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.” –The Salt Lake City Weekly 

“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 

Kirkus Reviews
A sophisticated blend of memoir, biography, romantic travelogue, history and psychology, creating a marketable modern myth about a pseudo-saintly survivalist. Sundeen (The Making of Toro: Bullfights, Broken Hearts and One Author's Quest for the Acclaim He Deserves, 2003, etc.) tells the tale about how he crossed paths with Daniel Shellabarger, aka Suelo, amid the hip atmosphere he calls "Moab Chic." The author juxtaposes a suicide attempt by Suelo against his present lifestyle, evoking the image of the phoenix rising from the ashes: "Daniel Shellabarger died as a modern man driving his car over a cliff, and was reborn as an eternal man--without money or possessions, with only his two feet and two hands, trying to climb back to the top." Some readers may find it difficult to figure out whether the subject is a saintly figure, a madman or a clever political huckster. In addition to the suicide attempt, Sundeen examines Suelo's repeated mental breakdowns over a period of a few years--"I may have sacrificed my sanity but have gained something indescribable that is eternal"--and then explains how Suelo now essentially lives without money. A dumpster-diver who has repudiated the modern cash economy and lives in a cave, he has also been a regular housesitter over more than two decades. In exchange for food and shelter, he barters his services and does volunteer work, but he does not accept money (or pay taxes). Suelo is not shy about self-promotion on his website and Facebook page, where he also promotes this book but gives top billing to his organizing efforts against banks and taxation. Hopefully he is genuine about his mostly impressive lifestyle choices, but it's occasionally difficult to discern his motives from this text. An ambiguous collaboration, with sundry forms of cross-marketing that raise a caveat lector sign for readers willing to take the plunge and read this modern picaresque.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781101560853
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 3/6/2012
  • Sold by: Penguin Group
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 212,396
  • File size: 307 KB

Meet the Author

Mark Sundeen's work has appeared in The New York Times, Outside, National Geographic Adventure, and The Believer. He is the author of Car Camping and The Making of Toro, and co-author of the New York Times bestselling North by Northwestern. He lives in Colorado. Author website:
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Reading Group Guide


  • Some people seem to be intrigued by the choices Daniel Suelo has made. Others are angered. Why? How did you react to his story?
  • What did Suelo give up to live as he does? What has he gained? Do you think the tradeoff was worth it?
  • Henry David Thoreau believed that “work is the tasks that give life meaning, regardless of whether money is earned.” What is your definition of work? Do you think Suelo “works”?
  • Suelo quickly became disillusioned working at a homeless shelter because “he was paid to be helpful. It wasn’t coming from his heart.” Do financial incentives always compromise good intentions?
  • Most of us perform moneyless acts every day without taking note—for instance, taking care of our children, or visiting a sick friend. What “jobs” do you perform for which you don’t receive money? How do the rewards and frustrations differ from those of “real work”?
  • Contemplating a life without the safety net of medical care, Suelo says, “If we’re following our path, then worryingabout what could or should happen is a worse illness than what could or should happen.” Do you agree? Is there any wisdom the rest of us can draw from this point of view?
  • At one point in the book, Mark Sundeen observes, “Begging may be the most shameful act in America.” Why do you think this is?
  • Suelo’s religious path has taken him from Christian fundamentalism to atheism to Buddhism to a belief that all religions teach the same truths. How do your beliefs affect your ideas and behavior regarding money, possessions, and reward?
  • Suelo says that money is an illusion––an idea reinforced by the collapse of financial markets, real estate prices, and currencies. And yet the things we buy with money––food, clothing, shelter––and clearly real. What do you think? Is money real?
  • What are some steps you’ve taken to live a more simple or meaningful life? Have they succeeded? Why or why not?
  • What do you make of Suelo’s observation that “Chance is God”? Do you agree? Have you ever tried to put this idea into practice? What happened? Are there things you would never leave to chance?
  • Suelo’s decision to quit money is part of life–long spiritual quest. What was he seeking? Do you think he has attained it? What is your quest? Have you attained what you were seeking?
  • Suelo has yet to find a significant community that shares his desire to live without money. What belief do you hold so strongly that you would be willing to “walk alone” in order to live by it?
  • Before he quit money, Suelo says, “My hardships were long–term, complex anxieties: What am I going to do with my life, how am I going to pay rent or pay insurance, what’s retirement going to be like, what am I going to do for a career, what are people going to think if I do this or that.” Now, he says, “My hardships are simple and immediate: food, shelter and clothing. They’re manageable because they’re in the present.” Do you think it is possible to achieve Suelo’s peace of mind without making his extreme choices? Why or why not?
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 8 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 8 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 2, 2012

    BOOK REVIEW: It is an honor to be called "Daniel's best fr


    It is an honor to be called "Daniel's best friend" in this gripping book about him that describes how he learned to live abundantly by rejecting our cultural beliefs about money. Daniel and I were roommates at the University of Colorado 25 years ago and we have remained close ever since, living in the same tiny town in the desert. So the stories in this book are familiar and dear to me. Mark Sundeen retells Daniel Suelo's many adventures with vivid detail and incredulous mirth, letting the reader decide if he is a Prophet for our times or just a highly amusing bum. In my opinion, Sundeen makes a serious case for how Suelo contends for "the most interesting man in the world" title as he barely wins all-out fistfights with Death and personal demons on glaciers in Alaska, in a monastery in Thailand, or a remote village in Ecuador, and finally atop one of Colorado's highest peaks.

    Sundeen also captured the highlights of each major stage in Daniel's spiritual life, showing his growth from an enthusiastic fundamentalist to a serious Old Testament scholar to a mystical cultural anthropologist to a gifted student of world religion to a disillusioned social worker to a desert naturalist to a beloved hobo to a profound visionary in our troubled economic times. More than that, Sundeen paints Daniel's portrait against the canvas of recent social and financial trends in America. He interrelates trickle-down Reaganomics, the rise of neo-Conservatism, the Religious Right and multinational corporations with the Occupy movement, the Rainbow gathering, social welfare programs, the growing rich-poor gap and "freegans" around the world. Before reading this book, it never occured to me how Daniel's life has consistently reflected the zeitgeist of our age.


    I noticed a few minor inaccuracies related to my role in Daniel's life. For example, the Russian chess player Igor Ivanov who spent the whole night drinking vodka and arguing politics with Matthew was not just a master but an international grandmaster, the strongest chess mind ever to live in Utah. Also, I was living in California when my ex-girlfriend Linda awoke at three in the morning with a house full of smoke and a small fire burning through the floor where Daniel and Matthew left a candle unattended. She was livid the next day, especially because the imported rug had been a very sentimental gift from my mother. Expecting an apology from Daniel, instead she received a rebuke about being too attached to material objects. But Linda and I did not split up over this incident. The coffee-table that covered the hole in the rug was not Daniel's attempt to hide his mistake, as the text implies, but my own successful solution for "fixing" the whole situation with humor when I returned weeks later. Also, the verb "to hump" is not in my vocabulary, according to my wife, and I am embarrassed by the quotation attributed to me. But again Mark's main point in that paragraph is completely correct, showing the awkwardness between two Christian men, one gay and one heterosexual, who truly love each other after years of intentional celibacy through college.

    These minor inaccuracies don't distract from the story, they make it more compelling. Sundeen did a wonderful job portraying the other characters I know, illustrating their dignity and wisdom with appropriate humor and their foibles and frustrations with kindness.

    Damian Nash
    Moab, Utah

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 12, 2012

    Great book for anyone fed up with the controls of modern day soc

    Great book for anyone fed up with the controls of modern day society. I loved it.
    Oops in Chapter 8 though. When describing the history of Moab Sundeen references the groundbreaking for the Eiffel tower in 1897. It was actual started in 1887.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 15, 2014

    Even though I read this book for my Economics class, I am very g

    Even though I read this book for my Economics class, I am very glad that i did. This story of Suelos life is very interesting and educational. 
    At first when thinking of life without money it seems impossible and homeless. After seeing how Suelo actually gives to the community and 
    doesn't beg, you begin to understand that Suelo is no ordinary hobo, but actually a man living free from the concept of money that is 
    implanted in our lives almost immediately.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted October 13, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    The Man Who Quit Money by Mark Sundeen is a book that I heard ab

    The Man Who Quit Money by Mark Sundeen is a book that I heard about when listening on day to NPR.  Mark was being interviewed about his nonfiction book about Daniel Suelo, a man who abandoned all of his money in 2000 and has been living off the land ever since.

    Daniel Suelo embarked on a spiritual, religious, and ethical journey trying to discover who he was and who he wanted to be.  His story is incredibly interesting.  Daniel makes his home in caves and finds the majority of his food from foraging in the wild and through dumpster diving.  Before you "ew" his dumpster treats, get this: most of the food he finds is fully packaged, from grocery store dumpsters, with that day's expiration dates on them.

    Okay, I wouldn't want to eat ANY dumpster food, no matter how sealed, but it could be way worse, right?

    The Man Who Quit Money gave background into Daniel's current life and the things that make him who he is.  There was also a lot of background into the culture of the times, which added to the story.  At times, though, I wanted more Daniel and less background.

    I think Daniel's story is incredible.  He decided to unchain himself from the monetary system completely.  It's not for me, but it does remind me that I can do more to help those in need, and maybe refrain from judging some lifestyles, like Daniel's.

    After all, maybe that homeless person on the street is down on his luck. . . or maybe he is choosing to live that way.  Either way, a little kindness to him won't hurt.

    What good did have you done, or will do, today?

    Thanks for reading,

    Rebecca @ Love at First Book

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 12, 2013

    I didn't expect to like this book as much as I did. When I start

    I didn't expect to like this book as much as I did. When I started reading it, I thought, how can anyone live without money? And what kind of crazy person would do that? But the more I read, the more I could see why Daniel Suelo chose to quit money and by the end, I was cheering him on! Mark Sundeen did an excellent job profiling this most interesting and fascinating man. This biography is beautifully written. Like other reviewers before me, I suspect I will be thinking about this book and Daniel's story for many, many years to come.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 20, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted December 1, 2012

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 29, 2012

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