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Obsolete: An Encyclopedia of Once-Common Things Passing Us By, from Mix Tapes and Modesty to Typewriters and Truly Blind Dates Hardcover – September 1, 2009


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Harry N. Abrams; 1st edition (September 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0810978490
  • ISBN-13: 978-0810978492
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #921,555 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Anna Jane Grossman is a New York–based freelance writer specializing in lifestyle and arts and entertainment features. Her work has appeared in dozens of publications, including the New York Times, Salon.com, the Washington Post, CNN.com, the Associated Press, Elle, New York Magazine, Marie Claire, and Fortune.

Customer Reviews

From a writing standpoint, Obsolete is okay but nothing special.
mrliteral
Anna Jane Grossman creates a truly enjoyable way of bringing back the memories of those nearly forgotten creations, ways of life and past observations.
Sandra Santora
This book is a great read; be prepared for a walk down memory lane... it's not about Victorian-era stuff-- this is stuff that I had in my OWN HOUSE.
Tax Accountant

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By M. Rothman on August 26, 2009
Format: Hardcover
When my daughter tried to return money I had left in her purse, I told her to keep it because a girl should always have change in case she needs to make a phone call. After I said this, I realized how "obsolete" that sounded and was. A kid of this generation would first ask to borrow someone elses cell phone [even a stranger's] rather than use a pay phone... or know how to use one. This book made me aware of these types of time warp moments. A book everyone will enjoy and find interesting.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By DACHokie VINE VOICE on October 11, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Anna Jane Grossman's effort to remind us of so many of the things we once took for granted that have suddenly (and quietly) vanished from our lives is both intriguing and fun to read. While I believe the book definitely offered a taste for my hunger for nostalgia, I found it somewhat unfulfilling in the end.

"Obsolete" is thought-provoking in that it does make one realize how once-seemingly indispensible "things" have somehow simply disappeared in our society's race toward the technological future. Presented in an alphabetized/encyclopedic format, Grossman's range of topics for all-things obsolete are diverse (ditto-paper or easy to open packaging), humorous (handkerchiefs), expected (typewriters) and occasionally odd (wrinkles). Some of the topics covered are simply addressed with a witty, sarcastic quip (anonymity), while others delve deeply into the history of the subject matter (film). In this regard, "Obsolete" scores big points as being both entertaining and informative. While it isn't exactly baffling to understand the downfall of stuffing mucous-covered cloth into pockets for re-use, it is interested how our society has gradually snuffed the art of cursive writing. Grossman definitely does the research on several topics and her efforts often provide a curiosity-satisfying history that led to the flourish of things that have since disappeared.

While the book is oftentimes educational and fun to read, I was hoping for more considering there are so many common things have disappeared in recent years. Maybe this is expecting too much from the author, but when a subtitle includes the word "encyclopedia", I expect the content to reveal more, not less.
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21 of 28 people found the following review helpful By mrliteral VINE VOICE on February 4, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Anna Jane Grossman's Obsolete was a book I was really looking forward to reading, an encyclopedia of the devices of the past that are no longer used or needed: slide rules, typewriters and such. Unfortunately, you can't always get what you want.

In format, this book is a list of various items that Grossman has designated as obsolete, often with some snarky description of the item. Okay, her humor rarely worked for me, but that is a rather subjective thing. On other, more objective levels, this book fails to live up to its potential.

For one thing, there are clearly items missing, ones that should definitely be in a book like this. Slide rules certainly fit in the "obsolete" category; at one time an essential calculation device, it has since been replaced by calculators and computers which do better jobs at a faster pace. How about tapes? Cassettes, eight-tracks and reel-to-reels are all worthy of mention but are neglected (although she doles mention mix tapes).

Grossman also describes items as obsolete that are really just styles that have fallen out of fashion. Yes, short basketball shorts are no longer used, but not because they are obsolete, but rather just because they are not the style of the moment. Grossman also lists items she may wish were obsolete but aren't there yet, such as books or cash. And then there are layaway purchases: maybe they have fallen out of use, but they're actually making a comeback in this shaky economy.

From a writing standpoint, Obsolete is okay but nothing special. Since it fails to deliver on what it promises, however, I have to rate this with two stars. This book is sadly a disappointment.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By J. R. Trtek on November 29, 2012
Format: Hardcover
This is yet another volume in the class of books that briefly discuss a host of things -- pieces of technology, cultural artifacts or customs -- that have fallen by the wayside, perhaps never to be seen or practiced again. From correction fluid to housewives to manual car windows, we get the lowdown to varying degrees. And "varying" perhaps sums up this book in many ways. In some instances, the item under consideration is given a thorough examination, from its beginnings through its heyday right up to and beyond its demise. In other cases, all we get is a definition of the article or practice with no background or history at all. And, as at least one other reviewer has noted, there are many examples where the object or custom is not so much obsolete as simply passe or out of current fashion. Grossman's writing is okay but nothing special -- there is some humor which helps matters along at times, but again it's not an incredibly witty book. I found it okay, but nothing more.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Sandra Santora on September 18, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Anna Jane Grossman creates a truly enjoyable way of bringing back the memories of those nearly forgotten creations, ways of life and past observations. Her modern and so often humorous slant provides the type of encyclopedia that encourages one to pick up her book today as well as in the future.

In these times a look at the past with reminders of how things were - with a laugh out loud - can always find a ready audience.

Sandy Santora
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More About the Author

Anna Jane Grossman is a New York-based freelance writer specializing in lifestyle and entertainment features. Her work has appeared in dozens of publications, including The New York Times, Salon.com, The Washington Post, Elle, and Fortune.
Her second book, Obsolete, is being published by Abrams Image in September 2009. For more information, visit: http://AnnaJane.net.

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