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Shiny Objects: Why We Spend Money We Don't Have in Search of Happiness We Can't Buy Hardcover – November 8, 2011

4.2 out of 5 stars 23 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“Shiny Objects is a superb explanation of how, why, and when Americans became obsessed with consumption. This book is both entertaining and thought-provoking as it forces the reader to confront his or her own views and values. For that reason alone, it is worth its weight in gold.” (Jim Randel, author of The Skinny on Willpower: How to Develop Self-Discipline)

“Without shying away from the unpopular truth, Roberts encourages us to step back, notice, and yes, even laugh at our obsession with shiny objects. Important research findings and Practical exercises help us embrace our values and understand that we can never get enough of what we don’t really need.” (April Lane Benson, Ph.D. author of To Buy or Not to Buy: Why We Overshop and How to Stop)

“Now along comes Shiny Objects, which promises to explore and explain Americans’ possession obsession. Roberts’ book contains hard evidence for some claims you probably already suspected were true... [and] includes some genuinely sobering statistics. Roberts knows his stuff.” (Associated Press)

“Roberts... gives us evidence that we can’t buy happiness, or stress relief, despite the fact that the current version of the American Dream tells us otherwise. This [book] contains both the plain truth and real-world solutions for the financial dilemma many... are struggling with.” (New Age Retailer)

“Shiny Objects [is] an intellectual approach to an emotionally charged subject-—consumerism—with suggestions on how to escape materialism and build a life with real meaning.” (Shelf Awareness)

“Marketing professor Roberts examines the perceived relationship between materialism and happiness in the quest for status, self-image, or comfort, and the havoc it is wreaking in individual lives and the U.S. economy. A far-reaching analysis of why we spend so much and how to break the habit.” (Booklist)

“Dr. James A. Roberts, professor of marketing at Baylor, has studied consumerism in America and has revealed some of the secrets of marketers in his recent book Shiny Objects: Why We Spend Money We Don’t Have In Search of Happiness We Can’t Buy.” (Baylor Lariat)

“An intriguing cultural history–cum–self-help book with abundant hard scientific data.” (Publishers Weekly)

From the Back Cover

Americans toss out 140 million cell phones every year. We discard 2 million plastic bottles every five minutes. And our total credit-card debt as of July 2011 is $793 billion.

Plus, credit cards can make you fat.

The American Dream was founded on the belief that anyone dedicated to thrift and hard work could create opportunities and achieve a better life. Now that dream has been reduced to a hyperquantified desire for fancier clothes, sleeker cars, and larger homes. We’ve lost our way, but James Roberts argues that it’s not too late to find it again. In Shiny Objects, he offers us an opportunity to examine our day-to-day habits, and once again strive for lives of quality over quantity.

Mining his years of research into the psychology of consumer behavior, Roberts gets to the heart of the often-surprising ways we make our purchasing decisions. What he and other researchers in his field have found is that no matter what our income level, Americans believe that we need more to live a good life. But as our standard of living has climbed over the past forty years, our self-reported “happiness levels” have flatlined.

Roberts isn’t merely concerned with the GDP or big-ticket purchases—damaging spending habits play out countless times a day, in ways big and small: he demonstrates that even the amount we spend at our favorite fast-food joint increases anywhere from 60 to 100 percent when we use a credit card instead of cash. Every time we watch TV or turn on a radio we’re exposed to marketing messages (experts estimate up to 3,000 of them daily). Consumption is king, and its toll is not just a financial one: relationships are suffering, too, as materialism encroaches on the time and value we give the people around us.

By shedding much-needed light on the science of spending, Roberts empowers readers to make smart changes, improve self-control, and curtail spending. The American Dream is still ours for the taking, and Shiny Objects is ultimately a hopeful statement about the power we each hold to redefine the pursuit of happiness.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: HarperOne (November 8, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062093606
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062093608
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,044,879 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Dr. James A. Roberts is a well-known author with approximately 100 articles published in the academic literature. He is currently the Ben H. Williams Professor of Marketing at Baylor University in Waco, Texas where he has been a faculty member since 1991. "Too Much of a Good Thing" (his second book) follows closely on the heels of his highly successful first book, "Shiny Objects", which focused its attention on how our love of money and material possessions impacts our happiness.
Dr. Roberts is a nationally recognized expert on human/consumer behavior and has studied one form or another of addictive behavior for the past 15 years.

He has been quoted extensively in the media and has appeared on the CBS Early Show, ABC World News Tonight, NBC's The Today Show, Yahoo.com's "The Daily Ticker", and has been quoted or featured on The O'Reilly Factor, US News & World Report, the New York Times, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, National Public Radio, Cosmopolitan Magazine, Yahoo! Tech (one million page views), and countless other newspapers, magazines, websites, and television appearances.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I expected the book to be an engaging and informative read, and it surely is that. To my surprise, my 12 year old son -- generally not much of a reader -- was also intrigued by Shiny Objects. The book opens with an entertaining overview of the way Americans lavish money on pets. My son loves his dog AND he loves to spend money. After reading the passage, he commented that, if you love your dog, it's more important to play fetch than to buy a puppy palace. The vignette offered a great starting point for our continued family discussions about the difference between smart and silly ways to spend money. Two thumbs up!
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Format: Hardcover
This is a multi-layered book. The objects inpugned are not all specifically identified. Some are innominate; all depend on the circumstances and context. The author does not oppose objects in themselves, only "shiny" ones. By that he means objects that are either useless or too expensive. On the face of it, no one would object to people buying anything, or to how money is spent if everyone has enough to spend. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Hence, big questions are raised concerning the morality of purchase and acquisition. Given that there is a huge gap between Bill Gates and a homeless man, how should people who fall somewhere in between spend their money? If I can afford to pay $10,000 for a watch, should I do it? Shouldn't I buy a $100 watch and spend the rest of the money feeding the homeless instead?

This book is ostensibly about the evils of consumerism in so far as it makes us all buy things we don't need. Underneath it, are very serious personal questions as to how we should lead our lives, and that, depends a great deal on how we spend our money. Praying about it may not help because James Roberts devoted an entire chapter about the prosperity churches which he thinks are a large part of the problem. Easy credit, lack of discipline, surreptitious advertising are some of the causes that make us spend. Spending to gain bragging rights is an egoistic cause of spending. Do we really need a $500 meal - for one?
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Format: Hardcover
This is a great book that is fun to read, scientifically sound, and full of useful ideas and advice for living in a world that worships the "almighty dollar" to the exclusion of other essential parts of human happiness and civic success such as relationships, recreation (that is not expensive), helping others, pursuing non-materialistic purposes and meanings in life, meaningful work-play-retirement pursuits, high flow hobbies, etc.. As Dr. Roberts asserts, there is nothing wrong in pursuing and spending money in the service of our life purposes, passions, and relationships. Unfortunately, we are easily seduced into letting the pursuit of money for money's sake crowd out the life goals that really give us meaning and a reason to get out of bed in the morning. This book is an important addition to the positive psychology and well-being literature. Hats off to Dr. Roberts for a stellar job at tackling a tough topic!
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Format: Hardcover
This book is excellent in that it covers the problems associated with rampant materialism and its adverse impact on individual and societal quality of life. I strongly recommend reading this book to those interested in issues of consumerism and quality of life. Dr. Roberts does an excellent job capturing the scientific literature on this topic and distilling it in a very clear message: buying more things will not bring you happiness.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I highly recommend Shiny Objects: Why We Spend Money We Don't Have in Search of Happiness We Can't Buy to readers of all ages from teenage to senior citizens. Dr. Robert's book is very well written and documented. The chapters in the book are based on painstaking research that backs up the book's contents.

The book integrates material from the fields of marketing, psychology, and finance in a way that makes it fun to read and practical in numerous ways. I was especially intrigued by the topic of compulsive buying and the problems that it can cause. It was eye-opening to read that compulsive buyers are more likely to suffer from anxiety disorders, eating disorders, substance abuse and other impulsive disorders in addition to having negative feelings about themselves and their lives in general. I also found the discussion concerning product placement in movies and in TV and radio shows quite interesting. The shiny objects are truly hiding in plain sight. If people in a popular movie are drinking a particular soft drink, then it must be good. These are but two examples of a multitude of interesting findings presented in the book. I like how Roberts ends the book by presenting ways an individual can successfully alter his/her behavior to get out of the rut of compulsive buying, out of control spending, and living from paycheck-to-paycheck.

Whether you are looking for something to read for pleasure and/or you could benefit from the knowledge and advice provided in this book, Shiny Objects is well worth the purchase price.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Shiny Objects should be a must read for anyone caught up in the never-ending treadmill of overconsumption. While the recent economic downturn has sobered many consumers, the lessons in Dr. Roberts' timely book remind us that it will be all too easy to get back on the treadmill once the economy returns to health.

There are lessons to be learned as well in the how, why and when Americans became obsessed with materialism and overconsumption. The consumer habits (and marketing machine) that made it possible did not happen overnight. Understanding how it happened can hopefully prevent many from returning there if they have successfully stepped off the treadmill.

A must-read as well for students of business and human behavior. The facts and history behind the book cannot be denied. Shiny Objects provides a timely reminder to all as the economy shows signs of rebounding that we must avoid similar traps in the future.

Highly recommended!
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