Waste and Want

By Susan Strasser, Alice Austen (photographer),

Book cover of Waste and Want: A Social History of Trash

Book description

An unprecedented look at that most commonplace act of everyday life-throwing things out-and how it has transformed American society.

Susan Strasser's pathbreaking histories of housework and the rise of the mass market have become classics in the literature of consumer culture. Here she turns to an essential but neglected part…


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Why read it?

2 authors picked Waste and Want as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

How many times have you tossed something in the trash without thinking about it? That throwaway mentality would be unrecognizable to earlier generations of Americans, who reused and repurposed and made do, because they had to. As I went through the process of emptying out my mother’s overstuffed house, I wondered when our things had gotten the better of us. Susan Strasser, a historian who’s also written about housework and consumerism, explains how and why Americans’ attitudes toward trash have shifted so radically since the country’s early days.

From Jennifer's list on to read when you’re decluttering.

So much can be said about a society based on how it defines and handles its trash. Where the line is between trash and treasure can vary, even within a community, based on a person’s need and creativity. Susan Strasser’s beautifully written history of garbage shows how our relationships with both consumption and waste have changed over time. Especially as we reconsider our current wastefulness, it is eye-opening to learn about how folks handled garbage at other points in history.

From Catherine's list on histories of nature in unexpected places.

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