Affluenza: The All-Consuming Epidemic
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Affluenza: The All-Consuming Epidemic

3.75 of 5 stars 3.75  ·  rating details  ·  1,726 ratings  ·  236 reviews
In chapters with titles like "Swollen Expectations" and "A Rash of Bankruptcies, " Affluenza uses the whimsical metaphor of a disease to tackle a very serious subject: the damage done -- to our health, our families, our communities, and our environment -- by the obsessive quest for material gain. The authors examine the origins, evolution, and symptoms of the affluenza epi
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Paperback, 288 pages
Published August 9th 2002 by Berrett-Koehler Publishers (first published 2001)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Dave
Let's begin with the end. The very end. "When your time comes and your whole life flashes before you, will it hold your interest? How much of the story will be about moments of clarity and grace, kindness and caring? Will the main character - you - appear as large and noble as life itself, or as tiny and absurd as a cartoon figure, darting frantically among mountains of stuff? It's up to you, and indeed, it's up to all of us!"

When you read those last words on page 247 of this convicting book, yo...more
Terry Lynn
This is such an important topic but the writing was so bad that I just couldn't bear it. It's WAY too polemical. I'm looking for an analysis of the problem (and found it in _Born To Buy_) but these authors seem more interested in making the reader outraged. Their examples are way over the top exaggerations--usually punctuated with exclamation marks--designed more to hook the emotions than to engage the mind. It reads like a used-car sales pitch or an infomercial with an agenda rather than a seri...more
Jen
My favorite quote from this book is from T.S. Eliot: "We are the hollow men. We are the stuffed men" (page 72). This hollowness or emptiness of modern American life, the breaking up of families and communities, the pollution in the environment, according to the authors, is all in large part due to affluenza, "a painful, contagious, socially transmitted condition of overload, debt, anxiety, and waste resulting from the dogged pursuit of more." (pg.2)

I love the ideas in this book and I liked how i...more
Jerry
Just finished reading this after seeing it on the libraries sale shelf. The first half of the book would have earned 4 stars from me. Right on... total agreement with a lot of what is stated. Further in though, I found myself getting a bit frustrated with what I would call a left leaning agenda.. global warming, positive affirmation of Marxism, proposing environmental taxes on cars, carbon credits.... things that I think are just going to make guys like Al Gore richer. Maybe he will be able to b...more
Trena
Dec 16, 2009 Trena rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Trena by: thethockmonthter
This wasn't a great book; the title was really the best thing about it. I wavered between 2 and 3 stars. Ultimately, the breadth (though not the depth) of the content just barely got it to 3 stars. I did not really enjoy reading it and it took me about three weeks to get through, even though it is neither long nor dense.

It has nothing new to say, although that may be my fault because the first edition was written in 2002 and at that time it may have been new. Now all the information is old hat a...more
Malakalima
Excellent points, great information, and it really inspired me to want to change.
My issues with it, however, were two-fold:
First, this book was based off a documentary. Obviously a book requires a lot more material than a documentary. In addition to it reading more like a documentary (which I don't think is a good thing), there were many points where I could kind of feel or sense the padding. Not a big deal, and it didn't make or break the read for me. I still learned a lot and consider a very...more
Tamra
Jul 02, 2009 Tamra rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone who owns a house--you don't need that much space!
Recommended to Tamra by: Tricia
Excellent book. Or, at least the parts that I liked were excellent. The parts I didnt like, though, were AWFUL. In fact, it was so painful that I skipped about 100 pages, right in the middle of the book.

The book starts with Symptoms of Affluenza. I was going right along with them, nodding in agreement and shouting, "Right on!" every 10 pages. But then some of the comments were weird and frustrating to me. There was very little scholarship in this book, so there would be stats that didn't necessa...more
Monica
I enjoyed the premise of the book. I've been trying to lead a simpler life for a number of reasons, and this book definitely reinforces why a simpler life may be the answer to many of our current social "afflictions." I gave the book 3 stars because I liked the facts it presents, but I found the illness metaphors to be drawn-out and annoying. I think the book would be stronger if it weren't trying to compare our over-consuming society to the flu at every possible point.

My only other concern abo...more
Lindsey
I loved this book, and the premise that time is more valuable than stuff...people/relationships/community are more important than material possessions...we should use our efficiencies and technological advances to enjoy more time with our family and friends (and connect with ourselves), rather than to produce more more more.

Two days after completing this book, I was driving downtown with my goddaughter (4 years old), when she pointed at a huge billboard with a Dr. Pepper can on it, exclaiming, "...more
Erin
If I could give this book no stars, I would. It is deeply disturbing that such a tome of complete indoctrination is being passed off as a textbook in our schools. I knew the authors were leftist nuts right from the preface where they apologized for referring to Americans as Americans- hey authors: If someone is from Brazil, they are Brazilian. If someone is from Canada, they are Canadian. Only people from the USA are Americans as we are the only country called America!

The book starts off with s...more
Nikki
I checked this book out because it was on a list that appeared, I think, in the Food and Drink issue of the New York Times Magazine. (You'll see many others in my current or recent reading list.) I saw the television documentary on which it was based several years ago, and I have to say that this is one case where the film made its point much better than the book did. This is quite often the case with PBS-type documentaries, but usually the books based on such films at least have a number of nic...more
Kressel Housman
In some ways, the message of this book was exactly like all the millionaire/cheapskate books I've been reading recently: spend less and enjoy what you have. The difference is that while the aim of the cheapskate books is to get yourself out of debt so you can get rich, the aim of this book is to reduce consumption in order to save the environment. It's a noble cause, but personally, I'm more motivated to save my bank balance than the world. Perhaps in these days, it's precisely the same thing.

I...more
Janie
Affluenza is a discursive smorgasbord. It has some interesting and useful descriptions and prescriptions (e.g., the 30 hour workweek as implemented by the Kellogg Company from the '30s to the '80s; tax policies that target big spenders on luxury items). But there's too much explored and explained too little.

They're a bit extreme about the causes and effects of the affluenza epidemic. It's the anti-panacea: it causes practically every ill.

I agree with a lot of the general principles around the b...more
Margie
In each of the past four years more Americans declared personal bankruptcy than graduated from college. Our annual production of solid waste would fill a convoy of garbage trucks stretching halfway to the moon. We have twice as many shopping centers as high schools.

Fascinating, important information, right? Unfortunately, Affluenza: The All-Consuming Epidemic doesn't go much beyond the informative. It's not wholly without analysis, but I wanted so much more. (And yes, that's meant to be ironic.)...more
Serena
I picked up this book because one quote in particular caught my attention:

"We hear the same refrain all the time from people: I have no life. I get up in the morning, day care, elder care, a 40 minute commute to work. I have to work late. I get home at night, there's laundry, bills to pay, jam something into the microwave. I'm exhausted, I go to sleep, I wake up and this routine begins all over again. This is what life has become in America."

This is something that resonates deeply with myself an...more
Anie
I liked the book, but found it a bit disappointing. I'd heard very excellent things about it, and it didn't quite live up to par. The writing is a little lackluster -- the authors aren't particularly gifted with prose, and the rhetoric was a little much at times. More importantly, I didn't feel like I'd learned anything by the end of the book. As someone who's been thinking about these issues for a long time, the book felt more like a righteous snobfest than something that really expanded my kno...more
Matt
This book will force you to reexamine your day to day life as an American consumer. This book takes a close look at the consequences and causes of our consumer culture and offers some alternatives to living a life controlled by "stuff". The information contained within may not be anything new to a lot of people, but when it is assembled with their somewhat humorous writing style, it really made me realize how absurd things have become. I liked this book because it didn't seem to have a political...more
Linda Trionfo
If you want a book that changes your entire outlook on a daily trip to the super market or mall this is it. The consumption of americans is so out of hand and gross. This book seems to cross all party lines and just give you the facts. I am a stats kind of girl and this is full of them but he is witty at the same time and really makes you think. Great for couples, Kenny and I have had many talks about how we can cut back, find more time for the family and give in less to the machine called " Kee...more
Sandra Strange
This excellent book treats the values of the American consumer economy and the serious effects of increasing American demand for consumer goods in all their forms--on politics, on families, on the environment. The format, with copious graphics, including chapter and subheadings, inviting spacing, and graphs and charts that are easy to read, makes the book more accessible reading, since the topic is pretty heavy. Informative and provocative, this book will help you clarify your own values, and le...more
Anna
Affluenza was not the refreshing, motivating read I had anticipated. This was a depressing, highly critical description of what for most thinking people is common knowledge. The scope of the book was narrow, and the tone's prejudice weakened an important message. Affluenza has been written over and over again (and much more elegantly and effectively, in my opinion). I recommend Tolstoy, Dickens, and history itself.
Nancy
I read this book back when it first came out in 2001, and wanted to reread it now at a different stage in my life. The position of this book is that culture's demands of "buy now" will truly result in a "pay later" disaster...this has certainly come true in the real estate/financial crash of 2008 that resulted in many bankruptcies and that so many people are still climbing out of. While I agree with the premise of this book and thought the cartoons were spot on, plus I know I am just as guilty a...more
Erin
Disappointing. This book reads like an infomercial, and the flu metaphor is so trite, and was so overused, that I actually felt embarrassed for the authors.
Joshua Hedlund
Why are we always busy and stressed out despite the huge advances of the last century? The authors convincing detail how productivity and technology increases have left us much richer than our grandparents - but instead of living the same and working less, we acquire an abundance of formerly luxurious (or non-existent) goods without leaving any more time to clean our bigger houses or reorganize, repair, and refill all our stuff. I disagreed with many of the minor points and prognoses that betray...more
Kelly
Everyone in America should read this book.

The authors compare our level of consumption to a disease, hence the title. At first I thought it was just a gimmick, but now I believe our over-consumption truly is a disease that we need to treat and eventually cure.

Bankruptcies and foreclosures are happening at a higher rate than ever before. Our expectations for the size of our houses and cars grow and grow and grow with no signs of slowing down. Just about every moderate- to large-sized city in the...more
Jodi
This book was interesting to read in the current economy because it was fascinating peeking into the past when money was flowing, times were good and spending was rampant. Over and over again there were quotes from experts warning that so much of this spending and excess was being suspended by a buoyant economy and if things went downhill, it could be disastrous for so many Americans.

Aside from that I will tell you what I liked and disliked most about this book. The Like: I never thought of mys...more
Marshall
A fun "bookumentary" about voluntary simplicity. It was a movie turned into a book, and it reads like a documentary. It covers all the basics about the damage the wasteful American lifestyle is causing, and how to overcome it, always referring back to its analogy of it being a virus, "Affluenza," that spreads but can be cured. It's very cutesy, and even though it's packed with all the standard voluntary simplicity stuff, it really adds nothing.

It was a little nostalgic to read, because I used to...more
Melanie
I'm reading the "updated" 2005 version of this book, but it still feels very quaint. Parts of it have me wanting to volunteer for a one-way ticket to Mars, though. It's pretty easy to read and does have a pretty good bibliography.

This book is definitely a left-leaning polemic. Some of the political solutions the authors propose include federal maximum annual working hours and federal maximum weekly working hours, single-payer health care, and carbon taxes. The phrase "wealth redistribution" does...more
Becca Nelson
First of all, this book makes more sense if you watch the documentary that it was based on (I watched it on YouTube). Many of the quotes and examples in the book come straight from the documentary, and may have seemed a little out of place otherwise.

I loved the first two-thirds of this book. It really makes you think about the products we buy and why we buy them. Personally I think I've spent less money since reading this book because I'm better able to discern whether I'm buying a necessary pr...more
Tensy
The college where I work is using this book as a campus wide reading project and it has led to interesting discussions among the student body. In essence, John De Graaf want us to take a close look at how consumption rules our lives. In Affluenza, he lists ways to do a self-audit of our habits and lifestyles, and then ask ourselves whether our lifestyles are making us happy, and the world a better place to live. He wants us to take note of the diseases and environmental problems caused by an aff...more
Christine
I wish there were a three-and-a-half star rating...

What I liked...

It does a good job listing the obsessions of the American consumer. For years, watching the houses spout like mushrooms all over suburban Orlando and the prices of those homes skyrocketing, I wondered where is all this money was coming from and who really needs a 3500 square foot home?

This book does an excellent job highlighting the insatiable need for more, for instant gratification. It reveals many things that we are coming to l...more
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