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

3.69 of 5 stars 3.69  ·  rating details  ·  178 ratings  ·  28 reviews
An unprecedented history of that most commonplace act of everyday life -- throwing things away -- and how it has transformed American society. Written by a historian widely praised for "retrieving what history discards: the taken-for-granted minutiae of the everyday life of ordinary people" (The New Yorker).
Hardcover, 355 pages
Published by Metropolitan Books (first published September 1st 2000)
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professor strasser sure knows her way around original source materials. But a litany of quotes from Women's Housekeeping through the ages does not satisfying reading make.
Alex Lee
Strasser's modest book is an examination into the short history of trash... which is also a history of how the image of household status became, through post-industrial capitalism, attainable for the average American family... and how that image in its purity, shed its excess into garbage bins, trash cans, landfills, and the ocean.

Strasser examines how we go to where we are with our attitudes of what is disposable, what is usable, and what is wholly taken for granted, mostly examining from the m

It took me FOREVER to finish this book. It was sooooo dull in parts but I persevered just because there were sections I found fascinating. It was just way too long and read like someone's dissertation. The pages and pages on the collection and disposal of rags was enough to make me toss the book aside. But I did enjoy learning more about the development of things like feminine products and the consumer culture. Two and half stars.
I love this book. Thought provoking look at the anthropology of waste. My grandparents have had the same television for over 20 years; is my 4 year-old laptop really that ancient?
A different take on the many books about garbage I've now read. This one follows the origins of garbage and its many different uses.
Not a bad read - it was times a little too in-depth and at times not in-depth enough. I found the exhaustive discussions of rag collecting and reuse to be utterly boring, but the discussion of Kotex and Kleenex's proliferation in the consumer market were fascinating to me. Overall, I think Strasser did a pretty nice job covering the social aspect of trash and our attitudes toward it over the years and how it has changed.

Historically, people religiously used and re-used all items until they were
David Bates
Waste and Want by Susan Strasser is about a nexus which unites a broader story of economic transformation - Strasser’s subject is trash. Defining trash conceptually as something which is out of place and unusable to us Strasser uses it as the lynchpin of an examination of the journey of American society from largely self-sufficient colonial agriculture to modern consumer culture. The transition away from a self-sufficient attitude toward goods, in which much of the stock of the household was per ...more
Waste and Want: A Social History of Trash
© 2000 Susan Strasser
368 pages

Consider your trash can. In all likelihood, you cannot imagine not using it. What else would you do all with the trash generated in the course of day to day living? And yet trash cans haven't always been a fixture in our homes; until the 19th century, people invariably fond uses for whatever extraneous materials they produced, so much so that waste was an anomaly But now, disposing of it is a mammoth task, handled by the go
Terrific book, very well-written and well-researched. I loved this book's historical take on trash--focusing not on actual disposal practices (what "Gone Tomorrow" tried but failed to do), but instead on how we define trash, and how that definition is shaped by the times and the resources/technologies available to us.

From the intro chapter: "Everything that comes into the end-of-millennium home--every toaster, pair of trousers, and ounce of soda pop, and every box and bag and bottles they arrive
This efficient but readable history of trash, specifically American trash, and the cultural developments in our attitudes toward discards, worn out or no longer fashionable items, covers a lot of ground successfully. Admittedly, the author is rather addicted to the word "bricolage" (constructing things from whatever comes to hand, i.e. re-using bits and pieces to repair and re-use items), but other than that, her writing style is addictive. Find out about the rise of the garage sale, where "Use ...more
Like reading a research paper. Sure there was a lot of interesting information... but it was soooooo boring that I just couldn't read the entirety of this book.
Add to the list of "I never thought the history of ____ would be so interesting."
Read as background material for an upcoming exhibit at the museum, this is one of the most readable histories I've read in a while. Strasser starts with rag shops, peddlars, and takes us all the way to the recycling boom of the 1970s. She explores class, industry, personal habits, corporations, and marketing. One of the best passages was about the development of Kotex.
Great, great stuff with all sorts of fun tidbits
Jun 19, 2014 mahatma marked it as belum-selesai  ·  review of another edition
"nothing is inherently trash...trash is created by sorting"
This book explains what people (mainly in the 1800's) used to do with trash. For example, it talks about how people would make old clothing over into new outfits, turn sheets, use cooking fats to make soap, fix broken items because they knew how those items worked and had spare parts around, and so on. She also details how these attitudes changed over time from then to now.

I found the book very interesting and also easy-to-read. I've added it to my personal library for future reference.
Adam Minter
This is one of the great social histories that I've ever read. Strasser's narrative not only explains how we wasted, but how our thinking about waste has evolved since the industrial revolution. That may sound dry, but it's written so well, and with such scintillating insight, that I think somebody who isn't even interested in the subject would be entranced with it after this book. Few books will change how you look at history and the present so completely as this one. A gem.
Very impressed just after reading the Introduction "Toward a History of Trashmaking". Nice to know that if I ever want to read the ruling by the Supreme Court on how private is our household trash, I know where to go.

Kind of a fun read in learning how changes came about in terms of consumption, the collection of re-usable/fixable items and trash, donations to charities, municipalities, during WW II, and views on recycling.
more about consumption and history of objects and how we use them..was good. lots of facts-not really a storytelling style (which is fun in some nonfiction) but also not too dry. a lot of info on rag pickers and peddlers, I would be interested in reading a bit more on them. also, the full history of how sanitary napkins was a nice example of how a disposable product was also advertised as liberating.
This is not an entertaining book, it really is the history of trash, but I was very entertained. It's about how American's have dealt with garbage over the years. It really is an interesting book filled with historical tidbits, great for trivia games.
Cristy Davies
I found this fascinating. The household moves from a unit of production whose waste is sold and reused (bones, rags, etc.) to a pure unit of consumption creating ever more waste. Thought provoking and relevant.
Jada Roche
Not sure what I was expecting, but this wasn't really all that interesting. Writing was dry and felt like fact were just being rhymed off. I love this type of thing usually so I was disappointed by thi.
I'm old enough to have practiced some of these techniques--not that I do that now. City-living, like the book proposes, does not promote recycling as they did it before the 20th century.
The book started off too slow, too much emphasis and repetition about what used to happen to textiles. It got more interesting after that.
Our relationship with the stuff we don't want or need any more is reviewed from early American history til modern times.
Elizabeth Newell
A really interesting book on the how waste was created, viewed, and disposed of/reused in the history of the US.
Just couldn't do this one right now. So much history! But I have to say I didn't make it past the first chapter!
need to keep reading this sometime, but it was due at the library... interesting book!
Premise was interesting, but the writing was a huge-turn off. Blech.
Katie marked it as to-read
Dec 25, 2014
Laura is currently reading it
Dec 23, 2014
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