Friday, April 10, 2009

Not Buying It - A Book Review

I seem to have accumulated a rather lengthy list of books that I want to read covering anything from our environmental impact to the Voluntary Simplicity movement. Because these books tend to be a bit on the heavy side, requiring a much greater degree of reflection than do some of the silly mystery novels I read, I take my time both reading these more serious books as well as taking breaks between them to properly meditate on how new knowledge and perspective changes how I interact with the world around me. 

That being said, "Not Buying It: My Year Without Shopping" was a book I was seriously looking forward to reading, despite the fact that it is now several years old. Not only did it sound right up my alley in terms of my own journey towards simplifying life, but it is available through my local library. Perfect!

I wanted to love this book. I tried to love this book. I'm sorry. I didn't. "Not Buying It" by Judith Levine is the story of one couple's decision to stop buying pretty much anything other than food, for one calendar year. I was prepared to be inspired, however, very quickly into the book, I realized that instead of focusing on personal growth and the new experiences available to her by withdrawing from the buying culture, she concentrated more on what she felt she was missing and how complicated and frustrating she felt life was as a result. I hate to say this, but the book felt whiny to me. 

I don't mean to disparage the great effort it took to make and sustain her commitment to not buying for a full 12 months, but I would have liked to have read less about her political persuasion (which at times seemed irrelevant) and more about how she came to realize that our  buying choices affect the world around us (something she concludes in the end). 

She did end the book on a more positive note. One quote that stuck out for me was: 
By not assuaging transient needs... we've made ourselves available to a wider range of small experiences... These feelings are not always comfortable. But they have their own unexpected rewards...
It is this quote that sums up for me one of the key discoveries of living a more mindful life - the unexpected rewards that are realized when we step out of our comfort zones. 

Unfortunately, this one quote wasn't enough to redeem the book for me, but perhaps others may find it inspiring. The good news is if you're interested in reading this book, it has been made available in its entirety for free via Google Books. Let me know what you think.

Have others of you read "Not Buying It?" What were your thoughts on the book?

14 comments:

Gamer Girl said...

I'll be honest, I'm not sure why I bothered to finish the book. I'm glad to see I'm not the only one. I really had looked forward to reading it.

The positive was, that I got it through bookmooch and two people had already written comments in the margin, which I thought was a great plus to the experience. I added my own thoughts and I'd like to think the person who mooched from me did the same. :)

Anyway, my review is here: http://gaminggirl.blogspot.com/2008/07/book-review-not-buying-it-my-year.html

The Raven said...

I read the book when it first came out--when the politics seemed more relevant, I suspect, and when the ideas seemed fresher than they might not when "everyone is doing it"--and I loved it. The book was transformative for me. (Of course, there were moments when I recognized in the author my own tendency to over-analyze each little stupid pinhead of an idea, too...)

littleecofootprints said...

I havn't read it. I was going to and was looking forward to it - but then my sister read it first and gave it such a bad review I didn't bother. Thanks for the honest review.

Heather @ SGF said...

Gamer Girl - Oh, what a neat way to read a book (re: the comments). Thanks for linking in your review!

Raven - I guess I was thinking that it wasn't so much the politics weren't relevant to today in terms of time, but that the politics weren't relevant so much to her message in the book. It seemed like she was going off on a tangent.

I'm glad you enjoyed the book though! It's great to hear someone else's perspective!

littleecofootprints - You're very welcome. The good news is you can read it for free if you do decide to take a look!

blondeoverboard said...

i felt much the same. after reading affluenza i was looking forward to this book. i had to force myself to finish it and i'm not certain why i did.

Chile said...

I bought "Not Buying It" when it came out, also with great expectations. I was, like you, disappointed. Perhaps I expected more after devouring many books on thrift and frugal living - how-to books as well as more philosophical ones. This one did not measure up.

For more on the philosophy of buying less, I'd highly recommend Doris Janzen Longacre's "More with Less" book and Charles Long's "How to Survive without a Salary".

Beany said...

I thought I had reviewed it, but I guess I didn't. I felt very similar to you after I read it. I was very annoyed to read about her political views too. I read the book to read about her experience on non-consumerism.

The book initially irritated me because they made all these expensive consumer purchases before midnight when their non-consumerism year would begin. I wondered why they were bothering.

I guess I disliked the book because I was not the target audience and couldn't relate to the author. I also don't understand people who have this compulsion to buy, buy, buy.

I sound whiny...don't I?

Beany said...

I liked Charles Long's Living without a Salary book. Not all the ideas were useful, but I liked his out of the box thinking. Now if someone would write a similar book for the U.S. audience...

Angela said...

This is so interesting to me because this book is on my list but I haven't read it yet. I think I had a feeling I would be irritated by it because when a friend of mine found out I was joining The Compact and writing a blog about it she told me about how the author of this book had bought the really expensive stuff the day before they started their year. And she also felt it was obvious that their main motivation was to get a book contract.

She seemed to relate what I was doing to what they were doing.
I am much more focused on the positive aspect of less consumption. I wasn't a huge consumer anyway, so it's not a 180 degree shift.

I'm still curious to read the book. Thanks for your take on it. And congrats on The Blogging Bookworm spot- that's great!

Michelle @ Leaving Excess said...

I read it too and was not as excited about it after I read it as I was before I read it...

Heather @ SGF said...

blondeoverboard - There's something about finishing a book, hoping it gets better in the end. I do the same thing.

Chile - Thanks for the book recommendations! Those are two I don't currently have on my list (and I'm always on the lookout for a good read)!

Beany - I know what you mean about not being able to relate to the author. Oh, and that makes two recommendations for the Charles Long book. I wonder if our library has it...

Angela- I suppose it's good to have the other perspective, but I too like to concentrate on the positive. If I had read this book before i started my journey, I'm not sure I would have started, which is sad because it has been life changing in a wonderful way!

Michelle - Maybe these books Chile recommends will be more along the lines of what we're looking for - something challenging but uplifting at the same time.

Beany said...

I read "Steal this Book" in 2001 and it was one of the first books that I think turned my mind around to an alternative view point. I don't like much of the message, but I like the fact that it is very different. The book is free btw.

Heather @ SGF said...

Beany - Thanks for the link. I'm always up for a free book :)

Heather @ SGF said...

Beany - I see what you mean about not really liking the message. I perused through it. Yikes!