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Carjacked: The Culture of the Automobile and Its Effect on Our Lives [Hardcover]

by Catherine Lutz, Anne Lutz Fernandez
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)

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Book Description

January 5, 2010 0230618138 978-0230618138 0

Carjacked   is an in-depth look at our obsession with cars. While the automobile’s contribution to global warming and the effects of volatile gas prices is widely known, the problems we face every day because of our cars are much more widespread and yet much less known -- from the surprising $14,000 that the average family pays each year for the vehicles it owns, to the increase in rates of obesity and asthma to which cars contribute, to the 40,000 deaths and 2.5 million crash injuries each and every year.

Carjacked details the complex impact of the automobile on modern society and shows us how to develop a healthier, cheaper, and greener relationship with cars.


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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Americans’ infatuation with their cars is critiqued in this readable treatment. Replete with the ironic and irrational aspects of owning and driving cars, it partakes of car psychology to deliver its message about the statistical costs of four-wheeled freedom. Emphasizing the attachment of values such as personal independence to car ownership, not to mention self-image and status, Lutz and Fernandez cheerily saunter through automobile advertising and movies to show how mass media exploit people’s desire to buy cars. The authors offer many personal anecdotes about consumers’ experiences of the showdown in the automobile showroom as a narrative illustration of how people’s emotions battle it out with their finances in purchase decisions. Turning to life on the road, Lutz and Fernandez, relying on studies and interviews with about 100 drivers, look askance at public expenditure on automobile infrastructure, fractions of lives spent in cars––and lost in them by the tens of thousands annually. An agenda for personal and political action concludes the authors’ knowledgeable survey of car culture. --Gilbert Taylor


Praise for Carjacked:

"The authors capture the fantasy and reality of our love of cars.They hold up a mirror to we, 'the people,' to let us look at our individual and collective glamour and bloat.  They ask, subtly and with a good amount of wit, if we know what we are doing to ourselves?  You must read it to learn the answers, which might surprise you." - John Hofmeister, former president of Shell Oil, founder and CEO of Citizens for Affordable Energy and author of Why We Hate the Oil Companies


"Carjacked should be required reading for anyone with a driver's license. It lays out the ways that bigger, faster and more plentiful cars on the road have altered America in dramatic way, influencing foreign policy, infrastructure investment, national health and personal wealth. If we wish to drive into a better future, rather than collide with it head on, it's time to address our addiction to the automobile - and this book is the perfect starting place." – Leigh Stringer, president of Advance Strategies and author of The Green Workplace

"Exceptionally well-researched and passionately, yet logically, argued, Carjacked will make you rethink your relationship not only with your car, but with the entire economic and physical infrastructure that has built up around it. While acknowledging our love of cars, it offers practical advice on how to ensure that the relationship is affordable, beneficial and sustainable, both for individuals and for society." – Cleo Paskal, Associate Fellow, Royal Institute of International Affairs and author of Global Warring

“Strongly recommended for all willing to consider that we need to ‘step away from the car.”--Library Journal
“Knowledgeable survey of car culture.”--Booklist
"Americans' infatuation with their cars is critiqued in this readable treatment.  Replete with the ironic and irrational aspects of owning and driving cars, it partakes of car psychology to deliver its message about the statistical costs of four-wheeled freedom.  Emphasizing the attachment of values such as personal independence to car ownership, not to mention self-image and status, Lutz and Fernandez cheerily saunter through automobile advertising and movies to show how mass media exploit people's desire to buy cars." --Booklist
"Authors Catherine Lutz and Anne Lutz Fernandez effectively and accessibly lay out the social, financial, historical, and of course, environmental impact of America's love affair with the internal combustion engine." --Planet Green
"Carjacked aims to answer certain questions that lie deep in our brains - the unnoticed, unremarked-upon equivalents of spare tires in trunks: Why do cars play such a central role in our lives"  Are they really as essential as they seem? Is there a sager, saner way to live with the car and have the mobility we need?" --Connecticut Post
"This need for a more balanced transportation environment also underscores Catherine Lutz's and Anne Lutz Fernandez's powerful and sobering Carjacked, which examines the many unanticipated consequences of car culture. No mere 'anti-car' manifesto, Carjacked is an anthropological study of what the authors refer to as the "car system," of which the automakers are merely one element...They have assembled a fascinating and disturbing portrait of something we accept as normal -- indeed essential -- but which has, in many ways, betrayed much of its original promise."  --The Winnipeg Free Press
"Thought-provoking inquiry into the role of cars in our lives, most especially the suburban lifestyle that cars created. Their main conclusion is for Americans to examine how they use their cars as opposed to how they think they use them. In other words, to strip away the romantic fancies fed by memories, folklore and advertisers, and face the reality of the best way to get from A to B. Such a reality check up, they argue, could result in a more rational approach to driving with people using cars less and walking or bicycling or taking buses or trains more." --The Providence Journal
"Rigorously researched and briskly written" --The Post and Courier

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan (January 5, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0230618138
  • ISBN-13: 978-0230618138
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.2 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #205,041 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting examination of the car culture March 15, 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I particularly enjoyed this book's layout of our American car culture - from the dreaminess of the 16 year old with their first keys, through the marketing process as buyer and seller, and ultimately, why the car culture has it's challenges, it was an entertaining read. I do admit, however, that it's very one sided - it's largely anti-car, as can be expected from the title, but not violently or disruptively so.

Particularly challenging for me were two chapters - one outlining how difficult it is for the working poor with very little money to have a car, and the challenges that come with being carless in a world built for automobiles, and the other chapter outlining the damage that cars do to lives and property in "accidents." Cars may be safer now than 30 years ago, but since we drive them more, and are more careless while doing so, driving a car remains the most risky thing most of us do any day.

In all, a very well reasoned and well put forward argument about moving from the auto-centered (and auto-required) culture into something a little more beneficial to all of society. I highly recommend this book.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Read chapter 9, "Full Metal Jacket," more than once April 9, 2010
Since before I obtained a driver's license, let alone owned a car, I dreaded the idea of driving. It might have just been my personality - or had I realized the crazy-danger of automobile travel even if nothing articulated that thought as well as the book CARJACKED: THE CULTURE OF THE AUTOMOBILE & ITS EFFECT ON OUR LIVES, does? As a boy I was a passenger when accidents happened once with my mother driving and twice with my brother behind the wheel, though none caused injury. An even narrower escape came one time my father was driving, when an out-of-control car sped across the street, missing us by maybe five feet, crashing into a storefront. And I can remember that by time I started driving, three children who attended my school died in car wrecks and the families of three other kids I knew lost their parents to automobile accidents. All of that may have been in the back of my mind when I decided cars had no appeal to me, as I did not desire luxury or sports autos and certainly hated the limits of holding a steering wheel when I could have been on a train or bus, reading.

It took a long time but I've finally become a mass transit commuter, my daily drive only as far as the train station. I read CARJACKED over several train trips and if nothing else encourage readers to pick it up just for the book's ninth chapter, titled "Full Metal Jacket: The Body Count," which confirms everything about driving that made me wish cars were not a necessity for most Americans:

-Thank God for all the lives Ralph Nader saved promoting seat belts and air bags, but nonetheless CARJACKED reports 112 Americans still die every day in auto accidents.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thorough, thoughtful study January 24, 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book is a well-researched and thoughtful examination of a an aspect of our lives that we, as a society, have embraced. The authors allow us to take a close look at the multi-faceted effects that cars have on our lives, both individually and collectively. Engaging, entertaining and intelligent.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Disturbed in the Suburbs April 2, 2010
As a suburban working mom who logs hundreds of miles every week in her car, I was dreading the guilt I thought this book would bring. Its lively, upbeat, creative style and tone and paradigm shifts energized me instead, so I'm thinking every day about how I can escape being carjacked. Why not walk to the grocery store -- getting some sun and exercise while driving down the miles logged? Why not think about probable length of drivability when buying a new car? Why not carpool a day a week? Why not, longterm, consider a move to a job/home/lifestyle that allows me even more freedom -- freedom from my car and all its liabilities? Carjacked's mix of data, anecdotal snapshots and straight talk entertained and inspired. I loved this book.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
By gus
For those of us who take getting into a car, turning the key in the ignition, and driving off as a simple fact of life, Carjacked asks the reader to pause for a moment to think seriously about the role of automobiles in our lives. The result is an intelligent and highly readable examination of all that results from a culture so reflexively connected to driving, but not necessarily to all of its varied and real costs. The book effortlessly weaves anthropological analysis with cultural criticism, and concludes not just with an argument for increased access to public transportation but also with a sensible and highly practical appeal for personal reflection on the real price of depending on cars to shape the direction of our lives. I loved this book, not just because it is so smartly argued and such a pleasurable read, but because it challenged me--to reconsider a simple, eveyday act, and from that reconsideration to come to a better understanding of my world--and my car.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good information...heartbreaking to the gearhead November 8, 2010
By Brett
Catherine Lutz and her sister Anne Lutz Fernandez issue a strong wakeup call to the average American motorist through their book, Carjacked. The two women thoroughly explain our nation's fascination with the car, and how we have grown to accept it as a member of the family. Lutz and Fernandez initially discuss the highlights of the car: taking family vacations, "singing to Springsteen at the top of our lungs," having meaningful conversations, and "like many Americans, [having] youthful sex in the backseats." Cars are the mode of transportation that take us to school every morning, take us to work, take our friends to dinner, take our dates to the school dance, and the car is also the form of transportation that will take us to our weddings. The car has a huge impact on our lives, and is far more than just a mode of transportation. While the sisters highlight the benefits of the car, the majority of the book describes our addiction and the negative effect the car has on our lives.
The sisters start their book with many of the great perks of the car. However, the bulk of the book describes the shortfalls of the car, and the effect it has on our lives. The sisters discuss the immense amount of time that we spend in traffic, the colossal oil prices, and what auto loans have done to this economy.
While the car proves to be an exciting part of everyone's life, there is a down side to this love affair. The purpose to the second part of the book is to illustrate the addiction that Americans have with the car. Over the past one hundred years, Americans have gotten used to the freedom the car provides, which is the hardest thing to give up. The idea of not being able to get in the car and drive is a constricting thought to some.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Good collection of cases, but litle abourt the principal question
Excess of particular cases in detriment of the main question, automobile culture in itself.
Automobile culture is a complex thing
Published 9 months ago by xpagalejandro
3.0 out of 5 stars Worthwhile, highly readable, apologetic
Much has been said before about the havoc that car dependency wrecks on our society, but these authors get good marks for their holistic coverage of the issues -- political,... Read more
Published 20 months ago by paul_howard
2.0 out of 5 stars Important Points Obscured by Poor Execution (Long Review but Bear With...
Carjacked contains many points that are worth discussing pertinent to the role of the automobile in American culture. Read more
Published on May 12, 2011 by ExtremeModeration
2.0 out of 5 stars Old wine in new bottles; Impractical and unreal
This book simply restates information that has been published in books, articles and journal for the past 40 years. There is nothing terribly new stated. Read more
Published on March 17, 2011 by Critter
5.0 out of 5 stars An important book
This book is a must-read for anybody who drives a car. It's a sobering look at the impact the automobile has had on the quality of our life, and offers ways for us to reclaim that... Read more
Published on March 24, 2010 by J. E. Holmes
5.0 out of 5 stars Eye-opening
After reading this book, I'm glad I live in a city where I don't need a car. It's really amazing to see the big picture and to see just how harmful automobiles are to our wellbeing... Read more
Published on March 17, 2010 by JS
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book
This book challenges our assumptions about our relationship with cars. I was surprised by how high the "real" costs of buying and owning a car are, and how much our car culture is... Read more
Published on January 28, 2010 by StS
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