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Living Large: From SUVs to Double Ds---Why Going Bigger Isn't Going Better Hardcover – October 26, 2010

4.1 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Wexler, a staff writer for Allure magazine, spent three years on the road, investigating America's worship at "the Church of Stuff." Wexler dives into America's new normal where bigger is better and our landscape is dominated by starter castles, Barbie boobs, megachurches and megamalls, jumbo engagement rings, mammoth cars, and landfills visible from space. By turns horrified, tempted, incredulous, guilt-ridden, mystified, and captivated by these excesses, Wexler approaches her subject with a compassion born of her own complicity (she's an SUV driver and enjoys her shopping). Though the book covers increasingly familiar postrecession "the party's over" territory with the depth of an extended magazine piece, Wexler brings a friendly first-person perspective to her study of surfeit and of the psychology behind our compulsion to consume and squander, why "living large" is defended by some as our "God-given right as Americans" and in other cases, might be downright unavoidable.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

“[Wexler's] witty narrative makes her supersize warning easy to swallow and hard to ignore.” ―People Magazine, 3 ½ stars (of 4)

“Wexler reminds us that Americans have completely lost perspective, both literally and figuratively… Amusing and timely.” ―Kirkus Reviews

“By turns horrified, tempted, incredulous, guilt-ridden, mystified, and captivated by these excesses, Wexler approaches her subject with a compassion born of her own complicity (she's an SUV driver and enjoys her shopping)… Wexler brings a friendly first-person perspective to her study of surfeit and of the psychology behind our compulsion to consume and squander.” ―Publishers Weekly

“Wexler takes us on the most insightful couch-potato tour of American excess out there.… Filled with the comic irony of a Stewart or Colbert.” ―John de Graaf, coauthor of Affluenza: The All-Consuming Epidemic

“I'll just say it, since someone has to: This is a hugely entertaining book.” ―A.J. Jacobs, author of The Guinea Pig Diaries and The Year of Living Biblically

“Perfectly timed. This is a gorgeous romp of sharp cultural criticism by one of America's big new voices.” ―Jeanne Marie Laskas, award-winning author of Growing Girls

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press (October 26, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312540256
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312540258
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,881,757 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Paul Tognetti TOP 500 REVIEWER on August 30, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Frankly, I could never quite understand the mentality. When I was growing up it was every parents dream that their children would simply have a bit better life than the one that they experienced. For those of us who grew up in double-deckers in working-class neighborhoods that step up might be a small single family home in a suburban neighborhood. But for many baby boomers and those in subsequent generations this was simply not good enough. Good economic times spawn inflated expectations and all of a sudden people were demanding much bigger houses, larger vehicles and well, super-sized everything. Author Sarah Z. Wexler grew up in a household where many of the values touted by the hippies of the 1960's were espoused. But soon enough her parents changed their tune and so did she. She still can't believe she "sold out". In her new book "Living Large: From SUVs to Double Ds, Why Going Bigger Isn't Going Better" Sarah Wexler explores why Americans became so fascinated with gigantic homes, big-box retailers, and ever-larger and incredibly inefficient vehicles. It seems that the demand for "bigger and better" infiltrated all facets of our lives and today our nation is reaping the consequences of so many foolish decisions.

In "Living Large" Sarah Wexler devotes a chapter each to 11 different subjects. In the chapter entitled "The McMansion Expansion" she points out that "the average American home ballooned from 983 square feet in 1950 to 2349 square feet in 2004, a 140 percent increase in size." What makes this so disturbing is that due to our declining birth rate there is on average one fewer person residing in these houses than there were 50 years ago. Furthermore, many of these homes are poorly built and the cost to heat and cool them is astronomical.
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Format: Kindle Edition
I enjoyed this one & learned a lot.
I found it interesting that she used people she knows as examples. I wonder if her friendships with her friend that owns the McMansion & the friend that owns an obnoxiously large diamond engagement ring lasted after the book was released & they read her opinions of their choices of going bigger.

Her friend with the huge diamond ring talks about how uncomfortable it is when someone stares at her ring or makes comments about how big it is. She finds it rude. Well...come on lady! If you're wearing a diamond on your finger that is as big as a cough drop...people are going to notice & comment. Don't like it? Then don't wear your "cry for attention" piece of jewelry. I really don't care if a girl has a big diamond...but I don't want to listen to some girl with a huge diamond complain about people noticing it. Put a 3 karat diamond on your finger every day & expect people not to notice it? Ha! You wear a 3 karat diamond ring TO get noticed. No one thinks "Oh, no one will notice this" when they buy a 3 karat diamond ring...unless they already have a 5k ring they're gonna wear on a finger next to the 3k ring.

I think she could've found a better way to talk about big box stores than to follow a kid with terminal cancer around a big box store using his Make A Wish foundation wish. The poor kid is dying & is stuck in his room 24 hrs a day...almost bored to death...and this lady is following him around complaining about Americans & their need for affordable items. Does he "need" the stuff? Probably not, but come on...he is dying. Let him play video games to take his mind off of it instead of laying around in his bedroom with nothing to do other than laying around dying & thinking of dying.
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Format: Hardcover
When did Americans succumb to gigantism? You've got to admit, it's everywhere - our houses, our cars, ourselves ... This book takes a look at this gigantic world we have created, with separate chapters on McMansions, megachurches, breast implants, the Mall of America, big box stores, Hummers, and more.

The author has a great style - funny, engaging, and very easy to process. There were a few things, though, that I didn't care for. For one, she jumps around quite a bit. I also found some of these connections rather forced. The chapter on debt, which features a visit to the World's Largest Ball of Twine, was a particularly good example of that.

My biggest issue with the book, though, was how lightly all this is treated. I know she writes for a fashion magazine, Allure. In their unoffending manner, the chapters in this book could easily have stood in as articles in that magazine.

What's odd is that she admits to having something of a radical past. She also devotes her last chapter to Freegans, people who basically squat in deserted buildings and pick through garbage for their food - and all of their own volition.

For such a gigantic problem, I guess I figured there'd be a little bit more outrage. Instead, we get a lot of mixed signals. Yes, Hummers waste gas, but they are kind of fun to drive. She talks about how big and costly engagement rings are getting, but never about the idea of blood diamonds. She seems to bend over backwards trying to show herself as guilty of doing all the things she writes about (I can't say "excoriates," as she never really does so).

A fun, easy-to-read book, but rather bland and definitely not fitting its more serious subject matter.
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