Why can’t money buy happiness? Roberts, professor of marketing at Baylor University, studies why Americans believe and behave as if possessions will induce, increase, and enhance happiness—when, as studies show, materialism “negatively correlate[s]” with well-being. He examines the psychological underpinnings of our desire to purchase—even beyond our means (it’s a high “similar to that caused by drugs or alcohol… triggered by internal psychological tension and accompanied by relief and frustration”). Roberts offers a history of American consumerism, drawing parallels between different eras (e.g., the gold rush and the more recent dot-com boom), the impact of Calvinism, Henry Ford, F. Scott Fitzgerald, the Vietnam War and the counterculture, and how the attacks of September 11 influenced (and usually stoked) the American mania for consumption. Roberts’s inquiry provides ample psychological and historical insights, but the book’s most valuable and unique feature is the quizzes included in each chapter. These opportunities for self-assessment—on how much we spend, how vulnerable we are to status anxiety—give readers “time, space and motivation” to examine our own relationships toward consumer culture and personal happiness. An intriguing cultural history–cum–self-help book with abundant hard scientific data. (Nov.)
James A. Roberts
$25.99 H, ISBN 978-0-06-209360-8
www.harperone.comMost of your customers don’t need a book to tell them that consumerism gone wild has brought the American economy to the brink of collapse. Many of them, however, may not be aware of the historical, psychological, and even biological factors that brought us to the place in which we now find ourselves. Roberts, a leading expert on marketing and consumer behavior, explains it all to readers, with research to back up the picture that he paints. He gives us evidence that we can’t buy happiness, or stress relief, despite the fact that the current version of the American Dream tells us otherwise. Once he has defined the problem, he starts giving us the tools we need to start working on a solution. The book covers topics like how to monitor spending behavior, the effects of stress on spending, credit card abuse, environmental programming (avoiding temptation), and using self-reward and self-punishment to change behavior. While he doesn’t use traditional addiction language, that’s clearly what he’s talking about. His message is that we can all develop the capacity to change and take back control of our lives. Let customers know that this one contains both the plain truth and real-world solutions for the financial dilemma many of them are struggling with.
New York, NY
Advanced Review – Uncorrected Proof
Issue: November 1, 2011
Shiny Objects: Why We Spend Money We Don’t Have in Search of Happiness We Can’t Buy.
Roberts, James A. (Author)
Nov 2011. 368 p. HarperOne, hardcover, $25.99. (9780062093608). 339.4.
Though most of us fully acknowledge that material possessions don’t lead to happiness, we buy stuff anyway, making us a nation of consumers in an economy overly dependent on our spending habits. Why do we do it? Marketing professor Roberts examines the perceived relationship between materialism and happiness in the quest for status, self-image, or comfort, and the havoc it is wreaking in individual lives and the U.S. economy. He explores how American culture has evolved from frugality and a strong work ethic into impulsive consumerism and instant gratification. He draws on 20 years of research on materialism but goes beyond studies and statistics to offer vignettes of maxed-out credit cards and crazed mobs of shoppers trampling store employees in the frenzy of Christmas sales. Roberts defines materialism as the worship of things and offers readers a chance to profile their own spending habits with classifications ranging from tightwad to spendthrift. He examines the psychology, politics, and economics of overspending, devoting a separate chapter to the religious phenomenon of the prosperity gospel. A farreaching analysis of why we spend so much and how to break the habit.
— Vanessa Bush
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