I’ve started reading a new book that I already love. I don’t usually write about books when I haven’t finished them because what will I write about when I’m done? but this book is awesome. It’s called The Overspent American and it’s by Juliet Schor.
When I was a kid, I used to discover authors and I would devour their entire body of work immediately. I read almost all of the “Redwall” series, Narnia, A Wrinkle in Time, and Roald Dahl’s work this way. I read these authors exclusively until I could find nothing else of theirs to read. The work absorbed me completely. But it is rare for me to find an author who touches me this way as an adult. And it is extremely rare to find an author of nonfiction whose work compels me like this.
But The Overspent American is addictive (and I am a big nerd). Written in the ‘90s, most of the statistics are outdated, but the conclusions have only gotten stronger. We live in a highly commercialized, materialistic society and that has only gotten worse since the time this book was written. I know this, and I don’t need another book to tell me about US consumption, but I like this one anyway. I haven’t finished the book, but in addition to surveying US-ians on work, happiness, and likelihood of success, Schor has also profiled people who have “downshifted” away from our consumer culture. What she found was that it is not just people who’ve already made a bunch of money who’ve cut back; regular folks found ways to make it work too, either out of choice or necessity.
What I appreciate most about The Overspent American is the feeling that I am not alone. We don’t talk about money much in our daily lives; it is still “taboo” but I see the spending habits of my coworkers. I watch television. I am inundated with examples of consumerism showing me that this is what is normal, this is what is right. Examples of frugality and downsizing are much rarer, and almost nonexistent in pop culture, so this boo, even if the date is twenty years old, is a welcome addition to my frugal resources. Basically it tells me, “There are people like you out there!”
I had an email this evening that Schor’s most recent book, Plenitude: The New Economics of True Wealth, is waiting for me at the library and I’ll probably be checking out The Overworked American shortly thereafter. Now if I could only find a few more nonfiction nerds to geek out about this author, my life would be complete.