If you think you can make it through Buy Nothing Day without buying stuff you don’t need — but don’t know if you’ll be able to control the urge to spend the rest of the year — add these four books to your December reading list:
“Scroogenomics: Why You Shouldn’t Buy Presents for the Holidays” by Joel Waldfogel. In Salon, Mary Elizabeth Williams writes that you shouldn’t be put off by the title:
The book is no polemic; it’s a study in retail trends, spending and debt habits, and a simple call for a better use of our money than Itty Bitty Book Lights for people we barely know…. I’m not at all against the kind of giving that’s organic…. I think people should go on giving to the people they know well. Sometimes givers find transcendent, wondrous things. It’s the obligatory I’m opposed to.
As Shell’s book subtitle rightly suggests, there is indeed a “high cost of discount culture” beyond the soul-crushing pain of customer-service purgatory and weekends ruined by big-box stores. It is the high cost of cheap we don’t think much about — a cost that increasingly eliminates any benefits of low price.
At its core, "The Price of a Bargain" is about sustainability. Our modern economic practices have created massive amounts of waste — both human and environmental — by externalizing the true costs of things. As the U.S. economy shifted from manufacturing to consumption, the quantity of things around us grew dramatically, but our wages began to fall. Bargains provided an illusion that our standard of living was keeping pace. Laird makes a strong case that illusion is over for good.
“Tinsel” explores the considerable gap between the Christmases most Americans have and the ecstatic holiday nirvana they long for…. Stuever gently unveils a place where, in celebrating their most iconic holiday, people long for a past that never existed, beguile each other with bogus sentimental yarns, scare themselves with the imaginary menaces lurking “outside” their sanctuary and try to retreat further into a safety that actually bores them stiff.”
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