In review

In Review

The holidays can be emotionally and environmentally wearing. According to the Center for a New American Dream (, over 5 million extra tons of trash are produced in the US between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day.

If you’re in the mood to make any New Year’s Resolutions, consider curbing your consumption, helping not only your sanity but the health of the planet as well. Here are books that’ll get you started. (If you buy one, share it with your friends.)

Timeless Simplicity—Creative Living in a Consumer Society
By John Lane, Green Books, 2002
Timeless Simplicity, artist John Lane’s thoughtful meditation on the merits of a pared-down existence, stands head and shoulders above most of its rivals to date. In turns absorbing, provocative, and life affirming, the book insists on both the superiority of the simple life and the fact that it is now an absolute requirement if we are to survive as a species.

The phrase “Timeless Simplicity,” states Lane, embraces all of the following:

A state of consciousness; those who are in retreat from industrialism; those making a personal response to what they see as an increasingly wasteful world; and those seeking to discover a deeper personal fulfillment than that which they are finding in their stressful work and extravagant life.

Over the course of a mere 100 pages, Lane includes a historical background that mentions Christian ascetics, medieval mystics, Transcendentalist poets and Taoist hermits. He shows us how simplicity is one of the few unifying features among almost all of these faiths.

In contrast, Lane shows us, the average man in today’s world is depressingly concerned with the mundane. Bowed down by the strain of surviving in a materialist society, he thinks of little beyond the next paycheck, the accumulation of more possessions, the booking of the next tropical holiday. Our first step then, if we are to rekindle the sanctity of human existence, is to loosen the bond with wage labor, decrease our consumption, rekindle our belief systems and, perhaps most importantly, to slow down.

With this as its premise, Timeless Simplicity sets out to provide practical advice by which we can return our attention to both life’s important questions and to its plain pleasures. No doubt this book will find its way onto many of the essential reading lists of 2002. Literary, profound, erudite, this is one of the most eloquent hymns yet to a more considered way of life. Lane’s voice resembles that of an English Krishnamurti: a commanding, sagacious voice urging us to change our ways before it is too late.

Further Reading
Do Americans Shop Too Much?
by Juliet Schor, Beacon Press, 2000;

Money Makes the World Go Around
by Barbara Garson, Penguin Putnam Inc., 2002

The Overspent American: Why we want what we don’t need
By Juliet B. Schor, HarperCollins, 1999 (paper)

Confronting Consumption
by Thomas Princen, Michael Maniates, Ken Conca, MIT Press; 2002

Affluenza; The All Consuming Epidemic
by John De Graaf, David Wann, Thomas H. Naylor, Berrett-Koehler, 2001;

Culture Jam: How to Reverse America’s Suicidal Consumer Binge—And Why We Must
by Kalle Lasn, Quill, 2000

Coercion: Why We Listen to What “They” Say
by Douglas Rushkoff, Riverhead Books, 2000

Cute, Quaint, Hungry and Romantic: The Aesthetics of Consumerism
by Daniel Harris, Da Capo Press, 2001

Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping
by Paco Underhill, Touchstone Books, 2000

The Soul of the New Consumer: Authenticity—What We Buy and Why in the New Economy
by David Lewis, Darren Bridger, Nicholas Brealey 2000

Lead Us Into Temptation
by James B. Twitchell, Columbia University Press, 2000

Commodify Your Dissent: Salvos from the Baffler
by Thomas Frank (Editor), Matt Weiland (Editor); W.W. Norton & Company 1997

The Consumer Society Reader
by Juliet Schor (Editor), Douglas B. Holt (Editor), Douglas Holt; New Press, 2000

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