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Not Buying It


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About the Author

Judith Levine's work explores the ways history, culture, and politics express themselves in intimate life. She is the writer of scores of articles for national magazines and four books, including Harmful to Minors: The Perils of Protecting Children from Sex, which won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. Levine lives in Brooklyn, New York, and Hardwick, Vermont, where she writes the column "Poli Psy," on the public uses of emotion, for the weekly Seven Days.


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 2006 Reed Business Information.

On a quest for insight into the personal and social realities of human consumption, award-winning journalist and cultural critic Levine (Do You Remember Me?: A Father, A Daughter, and a Search for the Self) undertakes a radical experiment in which, for one year, she and her partner vow to purchase nothing not deemed a necessity. Levine chronicles her year of "Not Buying It" in a series of journal entries reflecting observations about her own purchasing habits, adeptly intermingled with discussions of broader issues such as the psychology of the marketplace, ideas about relative wealth and poverty, the place of public and private goods in a democratic society, and the environmental and economic implications of the human drive to acquire. She explores with refreshing doses of self-critique the emotional and social impulses that drive shopping, reflecting on how readily we define ourselves by what we do (or don't) purchase. This lively, thoughtful look at consumerism and anticonsumerism is recommended for public and academic libraries.-Elizabeth L. Winter, Georgia State Univ., Atlanta Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

"Sharp and witty.... honest and humorous.... By thinking harder about how it would feel to consume less, we might just make ourselves -- and out planet -- a lot better."-- "The Christian Science Monitor"

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