Not Buying It by Judith Levine

not-buying-itNonfiction — print. Free Press, 2008. 288 pgs. Library copy.

Subtitled “My Year Without Shopping”, Levine’s memoir was in my local public library’s Look! Read! section. I wound up picking it up after I had checked out a different book because the cover caught my eye.

Levine and her husband decided to do away with a whole year of buying all but the most necessary purchases for an entire year.  Tracking their progress — and inevitable lapses — Levine contemplates need and desire, scarcity and security, consumerism and citizenship. She asks the Big Questions: Can the economy survive without shopping?

“Teach a man to fish and he will buy a pair of $400 Simms waders. then, he’ll have to go back to work and stay overtime to pay the bill, and he won’t have time to wear them.” (pg. 258)

Not Buying It is no primer on the simple life and how to live it. It’s the confessions of a woman any reader can identify with: someone who can’t live without French roast coffee or SmartWool socks but who has had it up to here with overconsumption and its effects on the earth and everyone who dwells there.

Levine’s memoir reads like a blog. It’s simple and straight-forward. The memoir had me wondering if I could survive without shopping, though the gas would be the problem. I tagged over 25 passages I liked or could relate to, that’s how much this book spoke to me.

“It occurs to me that I have better choices in paint than I do in presidents.” (pg. 193)

I think the best part of the memoir was that Levine lapped twice. She’s flawed and not here to tell us that the rest of us are horrible, over consuming Americans who are as righteous as us. It’s an interesting memoir that had me wondering if I could do it and what really is the point of shopping?


  1. Love

    This sounds really interesting. It’s definitely going on my wishlist (as I doubt very much that my library would have it).I’m actually planning to try to have a “not buying anything except food and absolute bare essentials”-month. Next month, probably.


  2. Katrina Stonoff

    This book fascinates me. I’ve been wanting to read it since I first heard about it.One of these days I actually will. :-)(How, btw, did she go a year without buying gas?)


  3. Christina

    Love: I’m glad you want to read it.Katrina: Technically, she only goes without gas for 6 months in New York. The other 6 she is in Vermont and does use gas.


  4. bethany

    I a definetly into this type of book…not sure I could do it for a full year, but you can always learn great things from books like this.I’ll have to add it to my wish list!thanks for the great review!


  5. Stephanie

    That sounds like a really interesting book and would make a great experiment (although I don’t relly think I could do it)! I have in the past put myself on a budget and that seems to work great. Hmmm, maybe I should do that again soon.


  6. Pingback: Lost Connections by Johann Hari | Ardent Reader

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