Book Roundup Wednesday: Books About Consumerism
Every Wednesday, we review a selection of new and upcoming books addressing a specific aspect of environmentalism. Ever since the American obsession with stuff was diagnosed as an epidemic in the 2005 book Affluenza, a slew of literature examining our consumer culture and its consequences has, ironically, flooded bookstore shelves. Here are some of our favorite books about consumerism (which you can also find at that anti-consumer book source—the library):
Consumed: How Markets Corrupt Children, Infantilize Adults, and Swallow Citizens Whole (by Benjamin R. Barber, $17, W.W. Norton & Company, Mar. 2008): This smart look at American consumer culture details the problems with a society that identifies more with its brands than its communities. Drawing upon economic and political theory, as well as examples like pop trends and Google searches, it makes a case against curing the economic recession with what started it: excessive consuming.
The Cul-de-Sac Syndrome: Turning Around the Unsustainable American Dream (by John Wasik, $25, Bloomberg Press, June 2009): While a large suburban home might be the stereotypical American dream, Wasik argues that it’s a destructive one and explains how moving away from urban centers in pursuit of “as much house as possible” produced not just a housing crisis, but an unsustainable way of life.
Prosperity For All: Consumer Activism in an Era of Globalization (by Matthew Hilton, $27, Cornell University Press, 2009): This academic history of consumer activism traces the movement using global examples. From consumer activism's peak after World War II through its steady decline beginning in 1980, Hilton meticulously follows the definition of consumerism as it changes from a matter of access to a matter of choice—one of which has become consumer rights versus human rights.
The Secret of Shelter Island: Money and What Matters (by Alexander Green, $27, Wiley, June 2009): While it’s not unusual for an investment analyst to give advice about money, Green isn’t writing about how to make more of it. Instead, the thoughtful collection of columns encourages readers to explore finer forms of wealth by rejecting money as an animating purpose and paying more attention to the truly priceless aspects of life.
--Sarah F. Kessler