The most recommended books on consumerism

Who picked these books? Meet our 52 experts.

52 authors created a book list connected to consumerism, and here are their favorite consumerism books.
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Book cover of The Years

Zeese Papanikolas Author Of An American Cakewalk: Ten Syncopators of the Modern World

From Zeese's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Grew up in Salt Lake City Left Salt Lake City Reader Writer

Zeese's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Zeese Papanikolas Why did Zeese love this book?

The Years is a novel in the form of an autobiography but a novel stripped of the usual cohesion and sense that its protagonist’s life is all moving in a direction that will eventually cohere into some final meaning and that everything in its pages, its various settings, its observations, its smallest details, will all make a single story with its beginning, middle and end.  

But is anyone’s life like that? An epigraph from Ortega Y Gasset gives the clue to how this book unfolds and the atmosphere that moves through it: “All we have is our history, and it does not belong to us.” The narrator, who distances herself from her autobiography by writing about herself in the third person, is born just after World War Two in a provincial town haunted by the war. 

She looks at photographs of herself at various stages of her life, she…

By Annie Ernaux, Alison L. Strayer (translator),

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Years as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Considered by many to be the iconic French memoirist's defining work, The Years is a narrative of the period 1941 to 2006 told through the lens of memory, impressions past and present, cultural habits, language, photos, books, songs, radio, television, advertising and news headlines. Annie Ernaux invents a form that is subjective and impersonal, private and communal, and a new genre - the collective autobiography - in order to capture the passing of time. At the confluence of autofiction and sociology, The Years is 'a Remembrance of Things Past for our age of media domination and consumerism' (New York Times),…


Book cover of The Romantic Ethic and the Spirit of Modern Consumerism

Erwin Dekker Author Of The Viennese Students of Civilization: The Meaning and Context of Austrian Economics Reconsidered

From my list on cultural knowledge to understand the economy.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a historian and economist who is fascinated by the intersection of the economy and culture. This started for me with the idea that economic ideas were shaped by the cultural context in which they emerged, which resulted in my book on the Viennese Students. Over time it has expanded to an interest for the markets for the arts from music to the visual arts, as well as the way in which culture and morality influence economic dynamism. Economics and the humanities are frequently believed to be at odds with each other, but I hope to inspire a meaningful conversation between them.

Erwin's book list on cultural knowledge to understand the economy

Erwin Dekker Why did Erwin love this book?

Perhaps Max Weber’s book on the Protestant Ethic should be on my list. But I prefer this book by sociologist Campbell which is at least as bold in its argument. It takes a fresh look at consumption and suggests that modern consumption draws on human imagination, a desire for novelty, and experimentation. Like Weber, Campbell traces the historical roots of modern economic action, and he does so by suggesting that Romanticism was not a hostile reaction to capitalism, but the imaginative counterpart to the productive revolution of the eighteenth century. As such Romanticism facilitated the Industrial Revolution and made the modern economy possible. Campbell does not explore this, but I think of the Romantic Ethic as the cultural background for the subjective theory of value in economics.

By Colin Campbell,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Romantic Ethic and the Spirit of Modern Consumerism as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Originally published in 1987, Colin Campbell's classic treatise on the sociology of consumption has become one of the most widely cited texts in sociology, anthropology, cultural studies, and the history of ideas. In the thirty years since its publication, The Romantic Ethic and the Spirit of Modern Consumerism has lost none of its impact. If anything, the growing commodification of society, the increased attention to consumer studies and marketing, and the ever-proliferating range of purchasable goods and services have made Campbell's rereading of Weber more urgent still. As Campbell uncovers how and why a consumer-oriented society emerged from a Europe…


Book cover of Scarred by Struggle, Transformed by Hope

Christina St. Clair Author Of Naomi and Ruth: Loyalty Among Women

From my list on women whose spiritual understanding is enlightening.

Why am I passionate about this?

One Christmas Eve many years ago when I was a little girl, I was too excited to sleep. I prayed to the baby Jesus whom I’d heard about in carols. I felt wrapped in love and woke up well-rested on Christmas morning. I’ve always believed life is a spiritual journey: I respect and learn from many religious and secular traditions. After I joined a church, I became a spiritual director. When I was sixty, I earned an MA in pastoral ministry and women’s studies. I have pastored two churches and also became a preacher—something I could not imagine I’d ever be able to do. It’s never too late!

Christina's book list on women whose spiritual understanding is enlightening

Christina St. Clair Why did Christina love this book?

A friend once asked to whom I’d most want to be apprenticed. I thought about it for a while and answered, “Joan Chittister.” She invariably speaks deeply from a spirituality not limited to her Catholic orthodoxy, but inclusive of many other religious traditions. I never stop learning from her wisdom which often arises from her own experience.

In Chittister’s chapter about endurance, I am reminded of my own struggles as a writer and as a minister and how these struggles have deepened my spiritual understanding. Her words always give me hope and help me to persevere.

By Joan D. Chittister,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Scarred by Struggle, Transformed by Hope as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Everyone goes through times of pain and sorrow, depression and darkness, stress and suffering. It is in the necessary struggles of life, however, that we stretch our souls and gain new insights enabling us to go on.

Building on the biblical story of Jacob wrestling with God and on the story of her own battle with life-changing disappointment, Sister Joan Chittister deftly explores the landscape of suffering and hope, considering along the way such wide-ranging topics as consumerism, technology, grief, the role of women in the Catholic Church, and the events of September 11, 2001. We struggle, she says, against…


Book cover of Populuxe

John Wall Author Of Streamliner: Raymond Loewy and Image-making in the Age of American Industrial Design

From my list on explore American consumer culture.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m an author and former journalist with a fascination with design and consumer culture. I’ve been writing about design and pop culture since completing an assignment on Jack Telnack’s Ford Taurus and Thunderbird designs for a national news magazine. My interest deepened when I moved to daily journalism and wrote about Raymond Loewy’s design for the S-1 Pennsylvania Railroad locomotive. When the newspaper industry began cratering in a blizzard of mergers, buyouts, and bad management, I spent 25 years working in media relations at Penn State and Juniata College. I looked for an involving side project as a respite from writing professorial profiles and found safe haven with the life and legacy of Raymond Loewy. 

John's book list on explore American consumer culture

John Wall Why did John love this book?

Populuxe was the first book I read that connected art, consumerism, and industrial design in clear, pointed, and witty language. Hine, an author as well as a critic for the Philadelphia Inquirer, covers what he calls “America’s spending spree” decade (1954-1964), by showing the connections revealed by shoppers’ choice of cars, homes, furniture, and appliances. Populuxe resonated for me because Hine wielded the tools of the critic and the historian and explained the art and design influences to be found in dishwashers, tailfins, and Naughyde. My curiosity about why people buy certain products was piqued by Hine’s analysis and showed readers that not all essays on art and design need to drip with impenetrable prose or obtuse insights.

By Thomas Hine,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Populuxe as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The decade from 1954 to 1964 was one of America's great shopping sprees. Never before were there so many people able to acquire so many things, and never before was there such a choice. Thomas Hine calls it Populuxe--populism and popularity and luxury, plus a totally unnecessary "e" to give it a little class; the word itself is as synthetic as the world it denotes. With the help of more than 250 amazing and amusing pictures in black and white and color (and what colors!), Thomas Hine explores, recaptures and explains this glorious, vanished world of hopes and dreams and…


Book cover of Truth and Lies in Architecture

Julie D. Taylor Author Of Spa: The Sensuous Experience

From my list on the art and profession of architecture.

Why am I passionate about this?

Books are my passion; architecture relates to my profession. The combination, for me, is pure joy. I get such pleasure building my personal library of architecture, design, art, and photography books. After having been a magazine editor and writer, I founded Taylor & Company in 1994, to promote the value of architecture and design. My respect for architects is deep—they create something that must function in all ways and are still able to express themselves creatively. The books I’ve selected are all written by architects, giving me an extra layer of admiration for their talents to express themselves in other media. 

Julie's book list on the art and profession of architecture

Julie D. Taylor Why did Julie love this book?

For an architect to take an incisive, unflinching look at his own profession is refreshing and enlightening. Francis-Jones positions architecture’s strengths and failings in reflection to society, politics, equity, aspiration, ecology, power, and defiance. As a promoter of architects and what they do, I’m happy to see a title that places architecture in a broader scope, and in the same breath as other creative expressions, such as film, music, and literature. He raises questions and observations about the nature of architects and architecture that make one think: Is there any truth in architecture? Why are we driven to build so tall? Why do architects feel so sad, overwhelmed, and helpless? Conversely, within its rubric of architecture, Truth and Lies is a book about us—about how people engage and disengage from society and the consequences that ensue. 

By Richard Francis-Jones,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Truth and Lies in Architecture as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"'Truth and Lies in Architecture' delves deep into the soul of architects and their work." - Naser Nader Ibrahim, Amazing Architecture
This is a collection of provocative essays that journey into the vexed circumstance of contemporary architectural practice. The nature of the great cultural, social, political, environmental, and consumerist challenges facing the contemporary architect are explored, interpreted, and questioned, while drawing connections from architecture theory, philosophy, science, literature, and film sources in an attempt to negotiate the territory between the truth and lies in architecture.

These essays written by a leading Australian architect represent a level of comprehensive critical awareness…


Book cover of Irresistible Empire: America's Advance Through Twentieth-Century Europe

Tristram Riley-Smith Author Of The Cracked Bell: America and the Afflictions of Liberty

From my list on the United States Of America.

Why am I passionate about this?

Tristram Riley-Smith was posted to the British Embassy in Washington DC in the aftermath of 9/11. Alongside his day job he applied his skills as a Cultural Anthropologist to understand the greatest nation of the 20th Century as it crossed the threshold of the 21st. His interest is in all forms of invention, from those narratives and performances that give meaning to people’s lives to the material objects that furnish their world. In his book The Cracked Bell, Riley-Smith weaves his observations together in a literary portrait of America, revealing the alchemy of opposites that makes up this extraordinary nation.

Tristram's book list on the United States Of America

Tristram Riley-Smith Why did Tristram love this book?

This is an outstanding work, full of surprise and insight informed by excellent research. As the author explores the wave of American ideas that broke across the European Continent in the early decades of the 20th Century, we gain a deep insight into the power and creativity of American thinking in those years. The Chain Store revolutionised commerce, becoming "a machine for selling"; mass consumerism was underpinned by new kinds of currency and credit: postal money orders, travelers' cheques, credit cards, and installment plans; advertizing corporations promoted branded goods, spreading Coca Cola, Kellog’s Corn Flakes and Campbell’s Soups around the world. Ultimately, De Grazia shows, the American “standard of living” became a yardstick for measuring the status of any population in the world.

By Victoria de Grazia,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Irresistible Empire as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The most significant conquest of the twentieth century may well have been the triumph of American consumer society over Europe's bourgeois civilization. It is this little-understood but world-shaking campaign that unfolds in Irresistible Empire, Victoria de Grazia's brilliant account of how the American standard of living defeated the European way of life and achieved the global cultural hegemony that is both its great strength and its key weakness today.

De Grazia describes how, as America's market empire advanced with confidence through Europe, spreading consumer-oriented capitalism, all alternative strategies fell before it-first the bourgeois lifestyle, then the Third Reich's command consumption,…


Book cover of Shadow Dancing in the USA

Barry Spector Author Of Madness at the Gates of the City: The Myth of American Innocence

From my list on American addiction to innocence.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a student of mythology and archetypal psychology, I invite you to interrogate your assumptions about self and society, to consider the narratives that we all take for granted. We live between great polar opposites. One is how our leaders embody old, toxic stories. The other asks who we might become if we imagine new ones. But only by dropping our sense of innocence and acknowledging the depths of our darkness can we open ourselves to the possibilities of real transformation. I invite you inside our mythic walls, to examine what it means to be an American. I hope to facilitate a collective initiation and invite you to think mythologically.

Barry's book list on American addiction to innocence

Barry Spector Why did Barry love this book?

This journalist, screenwriter, and novelist is well-versed in psychology, mythology, history, and musicology. His essay in this book, Hear That Long Snake Moan, is the single best piece of non-fiction I have ever read, and it inspired me to write my book.

Our disease – the Western divorce of consciousness from flesh – appears as consumerism, environmental degradation, fundamentalism, perpetual war, genocide, and racism. Yet, mysteriously, it may be possible that the terrible uprooting and enslavement of some fifty million black people over three centuries actually initiated a great healing process.

For all its sorrows, the twentieth century saw periods when Dionysian madness seized the Apollonian mind in its flight from the body and brought it back to Earth. African-American music fundamentally altered America and began the slow process of cleaning out the festering wounds underlying puritanism, nationalism, and materialism. We have a long way to go, but Ventura has…

By Michael Ventura,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Shadow Dancing in the USA as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Essays discuss marriage, sexuality and religion, dance, the sixties, conversation, the American Revolution, television, rock music, motion pictures, cities, and modern myths


Book cover of The Joyless Economy: The Psychology of Human Satisfaction

Maurizio Pugno Author Of Well-being and Growth in Advanced Economies: The Need to Prioritise Human Development

From my list on human development in advanced economies.

Why am I passionate about this?

'Human development' indicates an advancement that I would like to find in any kind of progress. Different disciplines define 'human development' in different ways, but my research is to identify the common core in order to link both the individual- with the social dimension, and natural evolution with changes due to personal choices and policies. Through such research, I have been able to take a new perspective on my academic subjects: economic growth and happiness. My belief is that it is possible to make human development, economic growth, and happiness go together. But unfortunately, this is not what is occurring, and understanding why is key.

Maurizio's book list on human development in advanced economies

Maurizio Pugno Why did Maurizio love this book?

Are we able to use free time, once secured our livelihood, to make life happier?

The Joyless Economy provides a negative answer, as the title already suggests.

The book is premonitory because Scitovsky wrote in the 1970s referring to the United States, while today Americans say they are less happy, despite the economic and technological progress since then..

Scitovsky was still original in explaining this puzzle: the pursuit of happiness in the comfort of material goods and social approval has prevailed over the pleasure of learning, as children do when they play, and then over the pursuit of ambitious life goals.

I loved this book because, although drawing on the psychology and neurosciences of the time, it gives valuable insights for understanding today's world, such as consumerism and the education crisis.

By Tibor Scitovsky,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Joyless Economy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When this classic work was first published in 1976, its central tenet--more is not necessarily better--placed it in direct conflict with mainstream thought in economics. Within a few years, however, this apparently paradoxical claim was gaining wide acceptance. Scitovsky's ground-breaking book was the first to apply theories of behaviorist psychology to questions of consumer behavior and to do so in clear, non-technical language. Setting out to analyze the
failures of our consumerist lifestyle, Scitovsky concluded that people's need for stimulation is so vital that it can lead to violence if not satisfied by novelty--whether in challenging work, art, fashion,
gadgets,…


Book cover of How Modernity Forgets

Guy Beiner Author Of Forgetful Remembrance: Social Forgetting and Vernacular Historiography of a Rebellion in Ulster

From my list on forgetting.

Why am I passionate about this?

Guy Beiner specializes in the history of social remembering in the late modern era. An interest in Irish folklore and oral traditions as historical sources led him to explore folk memory, which in turn aroused an interest in forgetting. He examines the many ways in which communities recall their past, as well as how they struggle with the urge to supress troublesome memories of discomfiting episodes.

Guy's book list on forgetting

Guy Beiner Why did Guy love this book?

A concise and lucid sociological treatise that relates forgetting to the transitions and rapid changes of contemporary urban life, which has eroded the ways in which societies traditionally remembered the past.

By Paul Connerton,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked How Modernity Forgets as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Why are we sometimes unable to remember events, places and objects? This concise overview explores the concept of 'forgetting', and how modern society affects our ability to remember things. It takes ideas from Francis Yates classic work, The Art of Memory, which viewed memory as being dependent on stability, and argues that today's world is full of change, making 'forgetting' characteristic of contemporary society. We live our lives at great speed; cities have become so enormous that they are unmemorable; consumerism has become disconnected from the labour process; urban architecture has a short life-span; and social relationships are less clearly…


Book cover of The More of Less: Finding the Life You Want Under Everything You Own

Joni Hilton Author Of Housekeeping Secrets My Mother Never Taught Me

From my list on home organization.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ll admit it: I love the domestic arts. As a natural klutz, I knew sports would be out and I focused on organizing, cooking, gardening, cleaning, and decorating. My mother knew all the old-fashioned tricks and I collected the new ones. Today I have several thousand followers on my youtube channel, where I share life hacks, housekeeping hints, and even motherly advice as the Youtube Mom. One of my sons said that none of his buddies knew how to do laundry, cook, iron, etc., and suggested I have a channel to fill in the gaps for Millenials. Having hosted a TV talk show in Los Angeles, this appealed to me right away. And, you guessed it, lots of moms and grandmas write in as well, saying they never knew those tricks themselves. It’s truly gratifying to share these time-and-money-saving ideas.

Joni's book list on home organization

Joni Hilton Why did Joni love this book?

This is the book for people who want to truly embrace minimalism. Becker offers a spiritual approach to living with less, and really knows how to motivate his readers to slow down, live deliberately, be grateful, and donate generously. Even tips on staying out of debt. It will affect many aspects of your life, not just organizing. You simply feel like a better person after reading his book!

By Joshua Becker,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The More of Less as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Don’t Settle for More
 
Most of us know we own too much stuff. We feel the weight and burden of our clutter, and we tire of cleaning and managing and organizing.
 
While excess consumption leads to bigger houses, faster cars, fancier technology, and cluttered homes, it never brings happiness. Rather, it results in a desire for more. It redirects our greatest passions to things that can never fulfill. And it distracts us from the very life we wish we were living.
 
Live a better life with less.
 
In The More of Less, Joshua Becker helps you...
 
• Recognize the life-giving…