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Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology, and the Fate of the Nation Hardcover – June 19, 2012

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Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology, and the Fate of the Nation + The Long Emergency: Surviving the End of Oil, Climate Change, and Other Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-First Century + The Geography of Nowhere: The Rise and Decline of America's Man-Made Landscape
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press; Uncorrected Proof edition (June 19, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 080212030X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802120304
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 5.9 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (91 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #576,566 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


Praise for Too Much Magic:

“James Howard Kunstler’s new much-publicized critique of humanity, Too Much Magic, predicts peak oil, the death of the automobile and the fall of the global economy as we know it.”—Huffington Post

“In his latest book, Kunstler zeroes in on the central narrative of our time: that we are a highly evolved and technologically sophisticated civilization that will use our ingenuity and engineering expertise to come up with a solution to all the problems we face . . . In Kunstler’s view, this is a childish fantasy. . . . Kunstler believes that we are living on borrowed time—our banking and political systems are corrupt, our fossil fuel reserves are dwindling, the seas are rising—but we’re still partying like it’s 1959.” —Jeff Goodell, Rolling Stone

“Kunstler . . . delivers a cold slap to the fantasists who believe technology will save us. . . . A sharp demand to disenthrall ourselves.”—Kirkus Reviews

“[Kunstler’s] views are not a popular or welcomed position in America today. . . But his views about the future appear more and more to be being validated by current events. . . . In his new book, Too Much Magic, Kunstler updates his prior writings on Peak Oil stating how Americans’ long-held, ill-conceived belief that new technologies can always conquer our problems is leading us into a period of great denial and subsequent anger. . . . His new book and his prior works are worth the read. Throughout his work, he offers the surprisingly positive idea an energy limited future might well bring about many of the the things the nation at large claims to crave.”—

“James Howard Kunstler describes himself as an ‘all-purpose writer’, and boy can he write . . . [he makes his subjects] interesting and useful to the reader, without talking down to, or boring us. . . . Too Much Magic, like The Long Emergency, is destined to become a Peak Oil classic.”—Kathy McMahon, Energy Bulletin

“I highly encourage you to read the book, and to check out Kunstler’s other works.”—Urban Times

“Kunstler’s writing is remarkably lucid, readable, incisive, accurate, and telling, making it the absolute non-fiction page turner of 2012 . . . It is a MUST READ! . . . The definitive book for anyone who is done with fairy tales and who is ready to meet the world where it really is.”—Transition Voice

“Kunstler is a big fan of paleo-futurism. In 2001, there was no space odyssey. We are almost to 2015 and it is unlikely there will be any of Doc Brown’s flying cars or hoverboards. The future of 2000 has not lived up to the hype of those imagining the future in 1950.”—Occidental Dissent

“Kunstler delivers a sobering message about what a post-oil society might look like and how we got ourselves into this situation . . . Too Much Magic is both a history lesson and a warning. The warning concerns how we as a society will have to deal with a world where cheap, plentiful oil is a thing of the past. The history lesson is all about how we came to live in such an oil-dependent society bent on expanding its suburbs to infinity . . . [A] rather sobering (and, at times, frightening) book that may keep you up nights . . . If nothing else, reading this book will get you thinking about serious societal issues, and you will likely learn something as well.”—KAZI Book Review

“With characteristic curmudgeonly enthusiasm, Kunstler brilliantly if belligerently shows us what a pickle we’re in and how inept we are at dealing with it.”—Publishers Weekly

“Anyone who has read Kunstler’s previous work will no doubt already be guessing that Too Much Magic is lively, curmudgeonly, and highly readable, as indeed it is.”—The Archdruid Report

“American journalist and novelist James Howard Kunstler has become widely known in urban planning and energy circles for his articulate and acerbic observations on contemporary American society and its sundry addictions, delusions and dysfunctions . . . a sharp critic of energy-sucking, big-box landscapes.”—Winnipeg Free Press

“Whether your comfort beverage of choice is herbal tea or single malt Scotch, you'd be well advised to lay in a large store before settling down with James Howard Kunstler's disturbing portrait of the U.S.'s impending decline, Too Much Magic. . . . Kunstler methodically skewers what he asserts is the misguided thinking of people like Ray Kurzweil (The Singularity Is Near) who reassure us we can somehow craft benign, inexpensive fixes that will permit us to continue in a lifestyle roughly resembling the one we enjoy today. . . . a disturbing picture of the decline of American society, as our current lifestyle collapses in upon itself.”—Shelf Awareness

“Kunstler is refreshingly uninterested in spinning a bad situation. He is willing not only to read the data about resources without illusion but also to assess the state of the culture without the triumphalism so common in the affluent world. . . . He’s not claiming a crystal ball and isn’t interested in specific prediction, nor does he have a tidy list of solutions. Instead, he points out that we can’t expect to tackle problems until we recognize them."—Media with Conscience

About the Author

James Howard Kunstler was born in New York City in 1948. He is the author of eleven novels, including World Made By Hand and The Witch of Hebron, and four nonfiction books, including The Long Emergency. He is a frequent lecturer at colleges and professional organizations across the country. He lives in Saratoga Springs, New York.
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

More About the Author

James Howard Kunstler is probably best known as the author of "The Long Emergency" (The Atlantic Monthly Press 2005), and "The Geography of Nowhere" (Simon and Schuster, 1993). Two other non-fiction titles in that series are "Home From Nowhere" (Simon and Schuster, 1996), and "The City in Mind" (Simon and Schuster, 2002). He's also the author of many novels, including his tale of the post-oil American future, "World Made By Hand" (The Atlantic Monthly press, 2008). The sequel will be published in the fall of 2010. His shorter work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Atlantic Monthly, Metropolis, Rolling Stone, Playboy, and many other periodicals.

James Howard Kunstler was born in New York City in 1948. He attended New York's High School of Music and art and SUNY Brockport (BA, Theater, 1971). He was a reporter for the Boston Phoenix, the Albany Knickerbocker News, and later an editor with Rolling Stone Magazine. In 1975 he dropped out of corporate journalism to write books, and settled in Saratoga Spring, New York, where he has lived ever since.

Kunstler's popular blog, Clusterf**k Nation, is published every Monday morning at and his weekly podcast, The KunstlerCast, is refreshed every Thursday.

Kunstler is also a serious professional painter. His work may be seen at

Customer Reviews

I'm not sure what it will take to get them into Kunstler's brain?
Peter Cacioppi
Mr Kunstler's latest book, Too Much Magic, is a hastily thrown together set of rants meant to extend his arguments in previous books.
Spencer Baum
All in all, a thought provoking book and worth the time to read/review.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

73 of 75 people found the following review helpful By Paula L. Craig on June 11, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Kunstler's latest book is more like a collection of essays than a coherent book. Essentially what he is doing here is bringing his earlier book "The Long Emergency" up to date, and providing responses to his critics. If you are new to Peak Oil, this is not a great book for you. Start with The Long Emergency: Surviving the End of Oil, Climate Change, and Other Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-First Century first when exploring Kunstler as an author. I would also suggest Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update before trying to read Kunstler.

However, Kunstler remains a fine writer. Some of the chapters are worth the price of the book by themselves. I especially liked the chapter where he takes on both the Democratic and Republican parties, pointing out how both have gone completely wrong in different ways. Chapter Seven on fracking, shale oil, and shale gas is the best treatment I have seen on this subject.

Overall, Kunstler's point is not that different from that made in Limits to Growth's 30-year update. The collapse will not come because America completely runs out of oil, or coal, or natural gas. Rather, when problems come swiftly and in multiples--like energy shortages, climate change, out-of-control banks, lack of capital, pollution, budget deficits, deteriorating roads, corrupt politics, agricultural problems--a society eventually runs out of ability to cope.

Other reviewers have mentioned the sense of frustration that pervades Kunstler's work. I don't mind this because it matches how I feel myself. The U.S.
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103 of 111 people found the following review helpful By Nowhere Man VINE VOICE on May 10, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
For twenty years, James Kunstler has been arguing that post-WWII suburban sprawl has not only destroyed the character of American life (1994's "The Geography of Nowhere") but has tied us to a cheap oil-based economy that will ultimately lead to civilizational collapse ("The Long Emergency" in 2005). This new book updates this thesis by arguing that the 2008 economic collapse has only hastened our decline and our faith in technological fixes will not rescue us. As with all of his nonfiction books (I haven't read his novels), Kunstler writes in an angry, impassioned style that both carries you along while confronting you with unpleasant facts and inconvenient truths - such as the diminishing returns in shale oil extraction.

Although his larger argument about our increasing unsustainable mode of suburban living is frighteningly convincing, "Too Much Magic" is far less focused than his other works. He goes after a range of disparate subjects whose relevance isn't always made clear. It's nice to know that he doesn't think much of Ray Kurzweil's "The Singularity Is Near" but he hasn't given us a sense of how influential or widespread this book's ideas are (and I suspect not as much as he thinks), so it comes off as little more than score-settling. Similarly, Kunstler provides a cogent rundown of the financial chicanery that led to the 2008 economic meltdown but doesn't really connect this to his broader argument on diminishing fossil fuels. He asserts that the meltdown was due in part to our reaching peak oil but the connection isn't made particularly clear.
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57 of 63 people found the following review helpful By Trudie Barreras TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 14, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
It is difficult to write a balanced review of a book that says almost exactly what I've been thinking for the last twenty years or so, which indeed I might have written myself if I had the background knowledge and literary skill of Kunstler. Sadly, I have never encountered his novels, but from the brief references he has made to them in this non-fiction discussion, I think I would have enjoyed them.

Kunstler is, of course, a true prophet - one who sees things as they are, states reality honestly and in unequivocal terms, and projects logically to the most probable outcomes if current trends continue. He does so in a writing style that contains just enough humor to somewhat defuse the painfulness of the truth he states so unflinchingly.

The basic premise, which is unavoidable to anyone with even a modicum of scientific understanding, is that the Second Law of Thermodynamics is real, and technology does not replace energy, indeed demands ever-increasing energy input to function. The real issue is of course related directly to the ubiquity of the internal combustion engine, exacerbated by the suburbanization of our culture. Anyone who wants a clear and cogent discussion of the circumstances surrounding the fact that globally we have encountered "peak oil", and the connection between this and the current economic crisis, definitely needs to read Kunstler's book.

I have seen what the author describes clearly in my own personal life. When I was a child growing up, my parents didn't own a car; as artists, they had a minimal lifestyle, used public transportation or walked.
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