Sunday, 10 May 2015


Title: A Year Unplugged A Family's Life Without Technology
Author: Sharael Kolberg
Genre: Non Fiction
Release Date: 5th March 2014

BLURB from Goodreads
In A Year Unplugged, Sharael Kolberg chronicles her family’s brave attempt to wean themselves from technology in an effort to reclaim quality family time. The Kolbergs decided to turn off their television, unplug their iPods, iPhones, laptops and digital cameras, and disconnect from e-mail, cell phones and the Internet. Not an easy task.

Sharael’s true-life tale explores how dependent we are on technology and the impact it has on interpersonal relationships and society. Through thought-provoking, humorous and heart-wrenching narrative, Sharael hopes to compel readers to open dialogue about the conscious use of technology.


I do enjoy a good non fiction read, and I haven't read such a book for a while now so when I came across this one, it became a must read for me. MY thoughts approaching reading this book is who would voluntarily signup to do something like this? The idea of giving up technology is a scary one really. I tend to become over anxious whenever my laptop is away for repair! A year is a long time, how will they manage to stay in touch, or for example book a holiday etc etc. I am definitely interested to see how they cope.

I downloaded this ebook for free from Netgalley in exchange for my honest review. The cover has quite a simplistic look with the word year being a cable and plug forming it. I guessed from the type of plug featured that this is not in the UK as we have three pin plugs, unlike the one featured on the cover. I think the style of the book backs up the style of life the author and her family are aiming for , a more basic one without the distractions and ties of technology. Would the cover attract my attention enough to pick it up from a book store shelf? Truthfully yes, I do like a quirky read and the cover fits the book well and would make me want to learn more about it.
We begin the book by meeting the family. There's Sharael, a former web producer, her husband Jeff a marketing executive in the medical device industry, and their daughter Katelynn who is almost six years old. So I should probably explain how this relatively normal every day family decided to undertake such a strange challenge. Katelynn had been really quite ill so had been somewhat pampered and allowed to watch more TV than normal. Jeff and Sharael discuss how now Katelynn is well again, the TV watching needs to be cut down again. Then he goes even further and says lets go without the TV for a whole week. When Sharael agrees and goes even further by suggesting cutting out technology, he readily agrees as he doesn't think that there will be much difference in their lives. It's only later that night when she is laid awake that Sharael considers what sort of challenge she has set in motion, "No Internet", how will she get the weather forecast? how will she cope without the parenting tips she gleans from Facebook? the list goes on and on.
I love the scenario Sharael retells of needing parental tips when her daughter Katelynn say the inevitable response of "Noooooooo" when she is being offered food. In fact sharael likens Katelynn's response as being the equivalent of asking Katelynn to eat the poison apple from Snow White! So the big switch off begins during "National Turn Off TV" week 20th-26th of April in 2009. This special week was a shock to me as I have to admit to have never hearing of it prior to this book. It was mutually decided between Jeff & Sharael that they would cut out their technology slowly over 14 days. The first item of technology to be removed is the TV, then day two is cell phones. Though they do each have a basic cell phone for extreme emergencies. Day nine is a difficult one too, giving up social media, so no facebook, no twitter etc. I think it can safely be said that they really didn't know fully what they were taking on with this No Technology Challenge. Both Sharael and Jeff have decided to document their challenge in the hope that it will inspire other people to seriously look at what technology they use and how they use it as well as how much they use it too. The couple decide that they need to purchase some other toys and distractions to keep Katelynn busy instead of her usual watching TV or using her handheld imac. They take a trip to Toys R US and spend roughly $300, and get some strange looks as all the toys, and board games are going through the till. Sharael has the urge to explain her purchases but the cashier really isn't interested and just slides the items through the till and asks for the payment.
They soon discover how difficult it is going to be enforcing the no TV rule with Katelynn. Luckily they haven't just unplugged the TV, they have removed it from their home, so it's out of temptations way.  
The book takes the form a diary which covers the struggles of going without technology, but also puts across the positives and tells the reader how this family fill the spaces that technology leaves them. Sharael explains the isolation she felt when others were receiving school newsletters. The guilt of her child being different and at one point being upset when another child picks on her daughter because they no longer have a TV.
Sharael also shares the new experiences she has and the way her bond with her daughter grows through the reading they do and the gardening projects they undertake.
We also learn about Jeff and how he struggles with no home internet access to use for his work life. The nights he has to go out to search for internet access to finish work on his laptop.
The "less technology" approach even causes misunderstandings and tension within the family. A cousin who thinks they are being selfish and doesn't initially understand what they are trying to achieve. There are also some rather tense moments when Jeff wanted to "cheat" the rules they had made, like watching old classics on TV at Christmas.
Jeff and Sharael are made to feel ashamed at times when they have admit that they have no internet access, and are seen as weird for trying to use less technology. I do ponder what would have happened if their daughter had been older and more technology savvy when they removed technology. I expect it would have been a much more difficult task then. However that was not the case and I think their daughter Katelynn did really well and has probably learnt a lot of lessons and ways of coping with awkward situations that may perhaps have changed her whole way of thinking.
So did I enjoy the book? It really was an interesting read, it helps you realise how much your life, family connections, work and leisure time relies on technology. Something as simple as removing the TV and replacing the TV watching with reading. This book really shows the positive and negatives of undertaking such a task as using less technology.
Would I recommend the book? Yes, I enjoyed reading about this families life and at times battle with less technology. If you are the sort of person who thinks they don't use much technology, this book really opens your eyes to how much you do rely on the mobile phone, the TV, and the Internet. If you are the other side of the coin and know how much you use and rely on the internet, this book will give you ways to reduce your usage and ways to implement change for the better. As well as give you ideas as to what you can do with your freed up time.
Would I want to read other books like this one? I do enjoy reading non-fiction books such as these and this one did remind me a little of a book I read previously about a man travelling the world without using money. So yes I'd like to read more books similar to this one. It's also the ultimate read for someone who loves "people watching" you get to see life through another persons eyes.
Would I read other books by this author? I would certainly show an interest in anything written by this author in the future. I liked her straight to the point honest approach. 

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