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Not Buying It: My Year Without Shopping Paperback – Bargain Price, February 27, 2007
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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.
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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The first problem I have with this book is that the author and her spouse have some strange rules regarding "not buying it." For instance, they own 2 residences! They spend summers in a small town in New England and then spent winters in their NYC apartment. They together have 3 cars, which aren't luxurious, but still...they also exempt new construction from the "not buying it" regimen, and are spending around 50k to build onto their Vermont house, as well as buying paint, furniture, fixtures, etc. ?????? The new house construction probably deletes out the entirety of their other consumer behavior for the entire year. They also let their friends take them out for coffee, give them presents, and they stocked up on stuff before they started. So it's hard to consider this lifestyle roughing it...Second problem I have with this book is that it is disjointed--one chapter it's the issue of the personal expenditures, but the next chapter it's a discussion of development in small towns, especially the cell phone tower being proposed in the town of their summer home. Gosh, I got tired of that cell phone tower discussion, chapter after chapter. Then, there would be forays into meetings with downshifters or people engaged in voluntary simplicity, and Levine's commentary starts waxing philosophical in a haphazard way... Finally, I had the strong feeling that Levine wasn't enthusiastic about this. It's not entirely clear why she did this project, but she doesn't seem like someone who is really into this. She seems constantly depressed by her inability to engage in retail therapy, despite her statements to the contrary by the end of the book. Rather than feeling inspired to consume less, I mostly just felt depressed, and like I wanted to go get some coffee and buy some stuff. I think a much better book on this is Juliet Schor's, "The Overspent American", which is a much tighter, more focused, and documented book that not only suggests some fixes (not all of which are practical, but she tries) but also leaves the reader free to try to imagine scenarios of reducing consumption that would work for them. That book is more psychological in nature as to why people spend, so I think it creates some, "A ha!" moments for people as they gain insight into the situation, and I think that book leaves people more inspired. Get that book instead.
What I expected: I would hear how one goes about living without things that I consider necessary....for a full year (!)
What I got: The political rantings of a patronizing over-embellisher--who, paradoxically, buys WAY more in this year than I could, and have, lived on. The deceptive title and enticing write-up do NOT prepare you for the lengthy lectures on the evils of capitalism and being human--it is apparently far more noble to simply be a bear; though she does not quite explain how to live this superior ursine life.... Ms. Levine's writing, in my opinion, places her solidly out of touch with common America; ordinary folks who want a good life for themselves and their families are impaled on the spear of extreme ecology. If this were entitled properly, the name would be "You Are a Bad Person For Wanting Anything Good For You Or Your Family, and Let Me Tell You This While I Eat My Fancy Bread And Live In My Vermont Vacation Home on 40 Acres"
Halfway through the book, I decided I had better write this review to stave off what I REALLY wanted to do...drive straight to Vermont to personally stuff a sock in Ms. Levine's mouth; preferably one worn on a rather long, sweltering day by Michael Moore himself.