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Not Buying It: My Year Without Shopping Paperback – February 27, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

If you've ever contemplated cutting down on your consumerism but couldn't bring yourself to do it, Levine's volume allows you to witness and learn from this drastic experiment without going through the withdrawal yourself. Since giving up shopping entirely is impossible in North America (buying food requires money), the most interesting aspect of Levine's adventure is the process of defining necessity. High-speed Internet access, Q-tips and any soap fancier than Ivory, for example, are all ruled out as luxuries. With chapters divided by month, the book witnesses Levine's journey from enthusiastic experimenter in January to a still game but weary participant by the fall, as favorite luxuries run out and clothes become shabbier. As Levine trades in movies and restaurants for the public library system and dinner parties at home, she is forced to reflect on not only the personal indulgences she's become used to but also their place in defining her social space. Since this book is about exploring consumerism rather than economizing (although she does manage to save $8,000 by the end of the year), Levine investigates several anticonsumer movements—she joins her local Voluntary Simplicity group, participates in Buy Nothing Day and consults experts on issues of consumerism and conservation. Yet the most insightful aspect is Levine's account of her own struggle to keep down her day-to-day consumption of goods and to define the fine line between need and want. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Other than phenomenal willpower and maxed-out credit cards, what does it take to simply stop purchasing for 12 months? Levine took the plunge--and found it irritating, exhilarating, thought provoking, and humiliating--among many other conflicting emotions. What's an inexpensive substitute for Q-tips? How to best gift a soon-to-be college graduate without spending any money? How to avoid the consumption seduction that lurks in every corner? Levine chronicles her feelings in this almost-weekly diary of the year of nonpurchasing. Many of her points are intentionally provocative; for instance, not buying makes her feel vulnerable and having to ask for help. Plus, her secondary sources, from the recently issued Trading Up (2003) to federal deficit projections and Socratic pronouncements, add a great deal of depth to a topic that could be perceived as frivolous. Barbara Jacobs
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Atria Books; Reprint edition (February 27, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743269365
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743269360
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (184 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #144,059 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

429 of 460 people found the following review helpful By Kcorn TOP 500 REVIEWER on March 8, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I bought this book after hearing a discussion with the author on public radio on March 8, 2006. If it is still up on the NPR site, I would strongly advise listening to a partial or full transcript of that show. It will help you make a decision to buy this book and whether it meets your needs [...]

In the interview, the author not only discusses her experiences, refusing to buy her usual daily latte, to make do with an old, used truck and to (ouch!) even give up her book buying habit. In short, if it wasn't absolutely necessary, it wasn't a purchase. She also discusses larger political views about consumerism in our culture and this, perhaps, is what is upsetting so many readers. She speaks of achieving balance, of deciding whether an ephemeral object is more important than devoting one's time and money towards larger pursuits, such as improving the school system or contributing to safer parks and neighborhoods or...whatever.

I think that maybe some readers were disappointed because they wanted a "how to" book rather than an exploration of consumerism and one woman's very individual experience. The book provides food for thought, a beginning step in a process rather than an absolute program. Those looking for absolutes should get a "how to" book.

This wasn't an easy process for Ms. Levine. Like so many of us, she had deeply entrenched habits and some seemingly minor daily purchases that were nearly automatic. Changing habits was far more difficult than she could have foreseen.

The author speaks of "unexpected longings" which she felt, longings that could be so easily focused or symbolized by objects or purchases.
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173 of 186 people found the following review helpful By Dixie Diamond on March 28, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I'm glad I _didn't_ buy this (I got it from the library). I was amazed, first of all, at how awkwardly-written and poorly-organized it is considering the author is a professional editor. It's repetitive. She does not seem to have any clear idea of where she's going with this experiment (well, she's trying to spend less, but the tone of the book is that she's white-knuckling it through the year until she can shop again). She has minimal insight and seems to have missed the point of her own book. She goes off on long, pointless tangents about politics and something about a cell-phone tower. I guess that was in her original journal but it's unrelated to the alleged purpose of the book and feels like it should have been omitted.

This book is really basic. I mean, REALLY basic. If any of this is a revelation to anyone, then their spending habits are already so out of control that . . . I don't even know where to begin. If this is what she thinks of as "doing without", she has no idea at all what it's like to genuinely do without.

This was one of the most incredibly self-centered, shallow, books I have ever read. I was amazed that the author would describe herself as "a woman of bird-like consumer appetites" since she is far more brand-conscious than I am, and I would not apply the same label to myself. If she doesn't actually buy more than I do, she certainly pays more attention to what is out there to be bought. I don't believe for a moment that her Alain Mikli glasses or Ibex jacket (neither of which brands I have ever heard of before) are not status symbols--she bought them to achieve a certain look. The only people you impress with you Ibex, or whatever, jacket, are other shallow people who think you can buy a personality.

She is not poor.
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154 of 166 people found the following review helpful By M. Spencer on February 11, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Let me begin by saying that, in the main, I am on Ms. Levine's side of the political aisle. I certainly think of myself as a liberal and a feminist.

That being said, this book was not a cogent call to arms for likeminded activists, a reasoned diatribe against consumerism, or even a mildly entertaining look at how Americans live (and buy) in the early part of this century.

Instead the book is a poorly written, self-indulgent, and condescending look at "doing without". While the author and her partner enjoy the benefits of two homes, three cars, and a plethora of options not possible to the working class, Ms. Levine is nevertheless ballsy enough to embark on a book about doing without. I think one of the moments that best summed up this entire failed experiment was when the author mentioned how often her friends are shocked to hear she is doing without films.

In the real America, when we "decide" to do without, we make decisions about whether to let our prescription drugs lapse or buy food for the family, whether to make an ER trip because we couldn't afford to go to a primary care physician, and whether to pay the heat, electric, or water bills this month. I know I don't get to decide that the New York Times and $55 haircuts are necessities. Let's talk about real decisions. I don't begrudge the author her $1,000/year diabetic cat, or even her non-processed organic foods (another option many of us simply can't afford), but I most certainly resent that Judith Levine holds up this year of her life as anything more than a cute and patronizing indulgence of her own whims.

As my husband pointed out when I was discussing the book with him, "They aren't buying anything, but they can't even cut their own hair?
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