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Top Ten Books on Consumerism

October 20, 2009

Unfettered HopeAs I’m just finishing a book on Consumerism (now published – Consumer Detox, Zondervan 2011), I thought I’d share my thoughts on some of the literature out there. It’s a personal Top Ten, of course; and I’ve chosen books from a broadly Christian view. Perhaps you have your own suggestions / recommendations?

1 Unfettered Hope by Marva Dawn – This was the one that put it all together for me: justice, lifestyle, consumer Christianity, technology and how to break the mould. She ranges around a bit, but for sheer inspiration and clarity of insight, this is my number one.

2 Consuming Religion by Vincent Miller – written by a Catholic theologian/sociologist this is pretty deep stuff. But he gets to the issues – how consumerism began, why it grew and how it works – like no other book. Very sharp on advertising and seduction, the news media, and how consumerism shapes our lives and therefore our spirituality.

3 Money, Sex and Power by Richard Foster – worth it for the title alone! For some reason I found this more approachable than his volume on Simplicity (see No. 7, below). He deals with the biblical teaching more fairly than anything I’ve read, does justice to the kingdom of God (no easy thing), but avoids a shrill tone. Plus, he’s living it, too.

4 Power Failure by Albert Borgmann – I love this guy! He’s a philospher, and this is a collection of his essays. If you want to know why plastic tat is so unfulfilling, what connects technology and atheism, how we can rebuild community and what sort of habits mark a more substantial life, this is the book.

5 Irrisistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne – OK, this wasn’t initially in the list. Firstly, I struggle to spell the title. Second, he claims not to be a ‘radical’ but he clearly is. Third, I don’t accept some of the conclusions he draws from scripture. But actually, so what! The book is so inspiring, so disarming, charming, hopeful and provocative. He’s a prophetic voice we should all be listening to, myself included.

6 Serve God, Save the Planet by Matthew Sleeth – this guy really has gone through a lifestyle transformation, and he passionate and articulate in setting out what we too can do to change. It covers just about every relevant topic in a bite-sized way (TV, shopping, budgeting, Christmas, work, rest, you name it).

7 Freedom of Simplicity by Richard Foster – I was daunted by this for many years (maybe that says more about me than about the book). But it’s a classic survey of teaching and practice on simplicity (now updated) and it does all this without becoming obsessive. It’s one of those books that makes me think, If he was saying this 20 years ago, how come the church now seems more consumerist and not less?!

8 Consuming Life by Zigmunt Bauman – Here’s a sociologist who provides a very clear and sharp argument about contemporary consumerism (using some very long sentences). He addresses how consumerism will never stop, how it shapes our time, how it flattens our relationships, and how it excludes the poor. Brilliant stuff.

9 Do Nothing to Change Your Life by Stephen Cottrell – a little gem. He takes a gentle, freeing, spiritual angle on the whole rest, rush, busyness issue. If you like short books…

10 Consuming Faith by Tom Beaudoin – Well-written, short, with a particular eye on the emerging generation. He focusses on the brand / identity issue and brings some helpful insights. I wouldn’t agree with all the theology, but it’s definitely a powerful read.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. B. H. permalink
    August 27, 2011 2:48 am

    Thank you very much for such a great list! I am just beginning my process of searching for sources for my Senior Thesis, which I have chosen to do as a critique of modern-day consumerism. This list is very helpful, and I will be looking into these works for assistance. Thanks again!

  2. Mike permalink
    March 1, 2012 11:31 am

    Enjoyoing your great book and finding it inspirational.

    However there is a slightly sad irony that at the bottom of this list on books about consumerism there is a Tesco advert! I get the point about we are all living with these contradictions, but surely it undermines the cause somewhat!

    • Mark permalink*
      March 5, 2012 12:04 am

      Hi Mike,

      WordPress say: ‘From time to time, we display text ads on your blog to logged-out users who aren’t regular visitors.’

      For $29 per year we can lose these – what do you think?

  3. March 4, 2012 10:49 pm

    Thanks! Two more suggestions:

    Affluenza: When too much is never enough by Clive Hamilton and Richard Denniss.

    Being Consumed: Economics and Christian Desire by William Cavanaugh.

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