16 books directly related to consumerism 📚

All 16 consumerism books as recommended by authors and experts. Updated weekly.

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

By Victoria de Grazia,

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

Why 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.


Friday Black

By Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah,

Book cover of Friday Black

Why this book?

The scenarios in Friday Black, at first, felt unbelievable, even though they were an amplification of rampant capitalism and racism that are already very real. I didn't want them to be real. Adjei-Brenyah rendered them so perfectly and developed his narrators' psychology so effectively (especially his retail workers, so reminiscent of a commercial world I used to inhabit) that I became immersed in these new realities. 

The characters are underdogs by virtue of simply being Black people in America. But they are resilient and complex, finding unique ways to resist. 

The writing is beautiful, with tightly turned phrases aptly describing the time and place.


How Modernity Forgets

By Paul Connerton,

Book cover of How Modernity Forgets

Why 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.


A Thirst for Empire: How Tea Shaped the Modern World

By Erika Rappaport,

Book cover of A Thirst for Empire: How Tea Shaped the Modern World

Why this book?

There is no shortage of great books on the history of tea, but this one is my favorite because it is a global history of how a commodity, rather than a people, conquered the world. Carefully researched and engagingly written, the book begins its story in the seventeenth century, when China controlled the trade and Europe was a distant secondary market. The book then moves through tea's history—from exclusively Asian drink to staple at the heart of English identity—and the consequences for the planet and human history.


"Don't You Know Who I Am?" How to Stay Sane in an Era of Narcissism, Entitlement, and Incivility

By Ramani S. Durvasula,

Book cover of "Don't You Know Who I Am?" How to Stay Sane in an Era of Narcissism, Entitlement, and Incivility

Why this book?

If you feel like the world has become more narcissistic and entitled, then this book is for you. It examines the root of narcissism and how we can and should remove toxic narcissists from our lives. If you have ever witnessed egregious, inappropriate, and downright nasty behavior from others, you will get a deeper understanding of it and how to disengage from it in your own life.


Consumed: The Need for Collective Change: Colonialism, Climate Change, and Consumerism

By Aja Barber,

Book cover of Consumed: The Need for Collective Change: Colonialism, Climate Change, and Consumerism

Why this book?

My secret theory (or formerly secret, anyway) is that if books had best friends, my book's BFF would be this book. Aja and I were clearly on the same wavelength when writing our books, and there are many common threads, but Consumed takes a much deeper dive into consumerism broadly and the fashion industry specifically, tying environmental and worker exploitation concerns together seamlessly. You’ll come away with real resolve to consume much less, as well as clarity on how to push producers of goods you buy to do much, much better.


Cairo: City of Sand

By Maria Golia,

Book cover of Cairo: City of Sand

Why this book?

Maria Golia’s witty and discerning portrait is -- hands-down -- the best book on Cairo. Golia, the author of acclaimed works on jazz, natural history, photography, and a forthcoming history of tomb raiding (!), writes about the Nile’s megacity with tremendous empathy, erudition, and – after 35 years of living in Cairo – an insider’s nuanced eye. Packed with humor and irony, it’s a book that begs to be read aloud. As I prepare for my own return to Egypt after a decade away, Cairo: City of Sand is first on my list.


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

By Joshua Becker,

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

Why 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!

The World-Ending Fire: The Essential Wendell Berry

By Wendell Berry,

Book cover of The World-Ending Fire: The Essential Wendell Berry

Why this book?

Wendell Berry writes in multiple forms—poetry, essays, novels—and also practices sustainable farming in rural Kentucky. The World Ending Fire is a compilation of essays spanning over fifty years of his work and displays his wide-ranging intellect and care for the natural world. He emphasizes individual responsibility and stewardship of the earth, but his tone never becomes pedantic or preachy. Instead, his passion and conviction are contagious, and I always feel a sense of gratitude and clarity when I read his words. 


Waste and Want: A Social History of Trash

By Susan Strasser, Alice Austen (photographer),

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

Why this book?

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.


Love People, Use Things: Because the Opposite Never Works

By Joshua Fields Millburn, Ryan Nicodemus,

Book cover of Love People, Use Things: Because the Opposite Never Works

Why this book?

Josh and Ryan of The Minimalists have been doing a good job, for years, writing about the correlation between consumeristic compulsions and the spaces in our lives these acquisitions are meant to fill. This book focuses especially on several types of relationships that tend to shape our sense of satisfaction and fulfillment with life, alongside discussions of their own (at times troubled) relationships with people and possessions.


The Year of Less: How I Stopped Shopping, Gave Away My Belongings, and Discovered Life Is Worth More Than Anything You Can Buy in a Store

By Cait Flanders,

Book cover of The Year of Less: How I Stopped Shopping, Gave Away My Belongings, and Discovered Life Is Worth More Than Anything You Can Buy in a Store

Why this book?

In this beautifully written and painfully honest memoir, the author gives up buying anything but consumables for a year. During that year, she realizes the treadmill of consumerism had kept her stuck and unhappy. Working to live, living to work. She dives deep into the cycles of spending, debt, and regret and realizes how often she had turned to spending, food, and booze to avoid feeling her feelings. 

Not only did Cait’s journey remind me so much of my own in my 20’s. Spending money I didn’t have to make myself feel better about things I couldn’t change about myself, all the while ignoring the things I could change, she also reminded me of so many of my clients. Hoping that the stuff they buy will fix their problems.


Fight Club

By Chuck Palahniuk,

Book cover of Fight Club

Why this book?

Let me tell you, this is the mother of all unreliable narrators. We probably all know the moment when it happens, when we realize that Brad Pitt and Edward Norton, errr, Tyler Durden, can no longer be considered reliable in their telling of the tale. But how much better to read the words Palahniuk wrote, find in them the genesis of the movie, than to just get them fed to you while you're tied to an office chair with a gun in your mouth? Read it. You'll feel dirty and smart all at once.


A Scanner Darkly

By Philip K. Dick,

Book cover of A Scanner Darkly

Why this book?

The Philip K Dick novel I always recommend. Bob Arctor lives a double life as both an undercover narc and a slacker drug abuser, but the new drug Substance D is the most dangerous drug to find its way onto the streets, destroying the user's brain bit by bit until they are no longer able to recognise themselves. Based on Dick's own drug misadventures in the 1970s, it's a novel about "some people who were punished entirely too much for what they did."


Bobos in Paradise: The New Upper Class and How They Got There

By David Brooks,

Book cover of Bobos in Paradise: The New Upper Class and How They Got There

Why this book?

Bourgeois Bohemians sneer at expensive cars, but they spend much more renovating their bathrooms. They are eager to make a statement against consumerism, but they are also eager to let you know how successful they are. I grew up around this thinking, so I love to hear the forbidden thoughts expressed publicly.

Brooks explains the inner conflict of bobos. They feel guilty about their success, so they call attention to their solidarity with the common man. They want to keep achieving, but don’t want to appear that way.

Brooks misses the deeper engine of this inner conflict: all mammals seek status in their herd or pack or troop because it promotes “reproductive success.” Natural selection built a brain that rewards you with serotonin when you raise your status.


Armed with Abundance: Consumerism and Soldiering in the Vietnam War

By Meredith H. Lair,

Book cover of Armed with Abundance: Consumerism and Soldiering in the Vietnam War

Why this book?

How music became so readily available to Vietnam soldiers is emphasized in Armed with Abundance. Trying to remedy the tenuous morale among GIs, the U.S. military provided them with “creature comforts” in an effort to make war easier, and certainly more palatable. Lair finds that consumption and satiety, more so than privation and sacrifice, defined the experience of most soldiers' Vietnam deployments. She reveals that in 1969 and 1970, for example, soldiers purchased nearly 500,000 radios, 178,000 reel-to-reel tape decks, and 220,000 cassette recorders. Rock and roll was there to stay!