Not Buying It – Review

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Not Buying It: My Year Without Shopping by Judith Levine
Age: Adult

In an experiment sparked by a particularly arduous Black Friday shopping trip, author Judith Levine and her husband Paul impose a year-long moratorium on extraneous shopping and try to live off just the basic necessities.

I have so many issues with this book, I don’t even know how to articulate them. I will use bullet points to illustrate what I did and did not like about this book.

  • During this year of “no-shopping” Levine and her husband underwent $25,000.oo in renovations to one of their 2 houses. (One in Vermont, and an apartment in New York.)
  • $7.oo per pound of coffee is a necessity, yet socks and q-tips are not?
  • Written as a diary, with each chapter dedicated to a month: Levine’s rants were boring, long-winded and particularly whiny. Why impose such strict sanctions if you’re going to complain about the entire ordeal or look for loopholes by mooching off of generous friends?
  • There were many, many filler entries about local and nationwide politics that felt unnecessary and took away from the consumerism aspects of the book. I would have preferred a shorter book without the political preaching.
  • Levine spent more time discussing economic policy and consumerism’s effects on society than she did discussing her own experiences with the no-shopping experiments. I still have no idea what she considers a basic necessity and what is a luxury. All I gathered is that she hated every minute of her experiment.

Although I appreciate the concept of the experiment, and think its always good for everyone to be more conscientious of what they are buying and whether or not it is a needed purchase, Levine’s writing really turned me off. I found myself skimming through a majority of the book. I didn’t connect to her as a reader, and I certainly didn’t feel any pity for her plight at being unable to go to the movies or the theater.

Not Buying It: My Year Without Shopping
by Judith Levine
Free Press (imprint of Simon & Schuster), 2006
ISBN 0743269365
257 pages
Book 15 of 2011
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Find this book at your local library
Not buying it : my year without shopping
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3 responses to “Not Buying It – Review

  1. Too bad the writing and choices here weren’t worth the read, as it definitely sounded like an interesting concept. I guess the concept – not buying things – can still be worthwhile even if the reading isn’t, though! Now if only I could figure out how to actually do that.

  2. I feel you really didn’t understand the book. The author was candid in describing the sense of discomfort in not shopping. What you refer to as whining, was her acknowledging the psychological aspect of why we consume/shop. As for the political sections, I thought they fit well with the other sections that drew on sociology, history, economics, philosophy, and environmentalism. Her final conclusion was that being a citizen was an alternative to being a consumer. Thus, the political discourse was the context for that. And, sure, there were plenty of seeming incongruities (the 2 houses, the 3 cars), but this was the story of a couple of two human beings in the real world seeing what non-essential buying was like for a year. I found the writing excellent and the book provocative and honest.

    • I think we’ll just have to agree that we disagree with this book. I can appreciate that you found value in her story, but it just didn’t have the same resonance with me.

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