Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 596
The first section of Steal This Book offers advice on how to live cheaply or freely in America. Doing so is explained as a political statement, a way of showing resistance to the exploitation that Hoffman says is inherent in a capitalist society. This section starts out with tips about ‘‘Free Food,’’ covering such diverse methods as crashing a bon voyage party on a steamship, putting a bug on a restaurant plate to avoid paying the meal, shoplifting, and inexpensive recipes. Other parts of this section include advice on ‘‘Free Clothing and Furniture,’’ ‘‘Free Housing,’’ ‘‘Free Education,’’ ‘‘Free Money,’’ and ‘‘Free Dope.’’
Some of the methods Hoffman suggests for obtaining free goods and services are presented in the form of lists of social organizations in the business of helping impoverished people, such as community health clinics and food pantries. Other advice comes in the form of suggestions for how to use commonly available objects around the house. Most of Hoffman’s tips reflect the book’s revolutionary spirit, showing readers techniques for using established services such as busses, phones, hotels, and electricity, without having to pay for them. The details offered in the book range from advice for growing marijuana to lists of which foreign coins will work in vending machines in place of higherpriced American currency.
In the second section of the book, Hoffman addresses issues related to the area with which he is most often associated: that of violent and nonviolent social protests. This section includes methods of spreading one’s political message, such as operating printing presses and underground radio stations and cutting into the broadcast frequencies of television stations in order to broadcast one’s own programming.
A large part of this section is devoted to survival tips to be used during street demonstration. Hoffman suggests when and where to plan demonstrations to get the most media attention, as well as such minute details as sensible ways to dress and what kind of shoes to wear. Much of his advice assumes that protests will turn into violent confrontations; therefore, his advice is geared toward clothes that cannot be grabbed by police officers and strong shoes with which to kick. Gas masks and helmets are also recommended.
This section of the book also deals with weapons radicals can use to defend themselves against the police and, in general, to destroy businesses. Hoffman gives tips about street fighting and knife fighting and reviews which kinds of guns are useful for which situations. He also explains several methods for making crude bombs. There is also information about dealing with the results of demonstrations, including first aid tips and advice for finding free legal counsel. This section ends with some advice about living underground under an assumed name in order to avoid the law.
Liberate! In the last section of the book, Hoffman gives specific advice for living inexpensively in four U.S. cities: New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. In each, he tells readers where to go for free housing, food, medical care, and legal aid. He also recommends diversions such as theaters, movie houses, and places that hold poetry readings. Restaurants that have free food available or that offer large portions at small prices are also recommended. Each city has some area of advice specific to it alone. The New York section, for instance, tells about sneaking onto the subway for free; in Chicago, Hoffman praises the availability of cheap food; Los Angeles has a section rating the beaches; and his writing about San Francisco emphasizes the city’s parks.