This was a good book, learned quite a lot actually. But it wasn't great. It felt like the editor got her friends, or at least people she knew to writeThis was a good book, learned quite a lot actually. But it wasn't great. It felt like the editor got her friends, or at least people she knew to write the essays. There was quite a lot of similarity between some of the stories. Yes, much diversity too, but easily could make a few groups out of the stories. The places where the writers grew up could be placed in just a few different areas, such as the Bay Area. We all know that unfortunately, poor are everywhere. So that may account for some of the sameness feeling I got.
There was also a lot of anger, really felt like it was toward whomever was reading the book. Which I feel is displaced. There is a lot of heartrending stories, injustices, deep tragedy as one might expect. But there is also hope, courage, determination and always strength. I knew classism was abundant, but these stories tell you how far it goes. Even when one makes it out, it is still very evident. One author really dislikes Barbara Ehrenreich, since she is writing from another class. But isn't more good being done because of Ehrenreich's books, despite her temporarily "slumming" it? Her books brought attention to poverty in a different way than how it was typically talked about. Certainly Ehrenreich had a net and didn't truly experience what it's like, the depth of always not having enough. (Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America is one of my next reads...)
Despite the negatives I'm glad I read the book. As several other goodreads reviewers also said, there should be more anthologies like this one.
Robert Frank has a strong message, which is we are spending too much of our money in keeping up with our peers and the rich. We do this in order to liRobert Frank has a strong message, which is we are spending too much of our money in keeping up with our peers and the rich. We do this in order to live in a better neighborhood, and send the kids to a better school, and it sends prices up. The sizes of people’s houses has been increasing as well. When you compare your house to large oversized house suddenly it looks small. But comparing to another poorer country it may seem large. There’s relatively in play.
Frank uses an example of replacing his broken backyard grill. At the store he’s shown a super deluxe do everything grill that costs $5,000. He tells the salesperson there’s no way he’s buying that, so now shown a $1,000 grill that seems like a bargain in comparison. But what he went in to buy he hoped to spend more like a 10th of the cheap one. This is one way people end up spending more than they expect.
When looking at cars, they have become increasingly bigger and heavier. Now a cheaper small car that was more than adequate 20 or 30 years ago is not as safe as it used to be if involved in a car accident. For safety reasons then a family may choose to buy a bigger and heavier car than they need.
Frank also relates research that consistently shows that buying more things, including bigger houses does not make one happier. We need to stop buying bigger houses and heavier cars. We often don’t recognize the trade off, of bigger house to working more hours, which means less time for spending with family and friends. He also goes into some of the research on happiness, or overall satisfaction with one's life.
The voluntary simplicity movement has been talking about reducing buying of stuff for over 20 years and has done little to change the situation. Frank points out that it’s one thing to reduce your spending when you’re a top wage earner, but if you are struggling and already take your lunch to work, have a 15 year old car, there is no room to cut back. Thus the simplicity movement really does not apply to many.
Frank has a policy solution, which is a progressive tax on consumption with no taxes on savings.
It was a short book, I got through it in a day. It felt on occasion somewhat academic as he uses the economist terminology and gives several thought experiments throughout. Since it is a short book, full of information, albeit a little dated, it is worth one’s time to read if interested in this topic.
The book covers several descriptions on variations of the slow movement: cities, food, love making. Overall I can't say the book was exciting or inspiThe book covers several descriptions on variations of the slow movement: cities, food, love making. Overall I can't say the book was exciting or inspirational. I didn't get the feeling of learning anything new. Discussions about slower driving -- everyone knows this. And occasionally the author disregards what he is saying by being dismissive, claiming sometimes people wouldn't want to do this or what not.