The Story of Stuff by Annie Leonard (thoughts)
I loved this book! It’s the kind of ‘here’s a huge world problem’ nonfiction that’s aimed at a popular audience and actually manages to leave the reader invigorated rather than depressed. As someone very interested in social justice and environmental issues, let me tell you: it’s all too easy to fall into a bleak, overwhelmed mood when reading some of the authors out there. I can’t blame them, since many of the topics are quite entrenched, but it makes me appreciate writers like Leonard all the more. She never sets out to guilt-trip the reader, which makes me happy to recommend this to everyone!
So, the book is a richer exploration of the same issues discussed in the short (twenty-minute) film Leonard published on the internet a few years ago. It looks at the life-cycle of the kind of ‘stuff’ (aka, material objects) that occupy so much space in our modern, developed world lives. For each phase in the cycle (extraction, production, distribution, consumption, and disposal), Leonard mixes general overview information with specific case studies that show the principles in action. As regular blog readers know, this is one of my very favourite approaches to nonfiction, and Leonard pulls it off beautifully!
By the time I’d finished the book, I felt much more aware and knowledgeable, renewed in my commitment to a ‘simpler’ lifestyle (to be honest, a commitment greatly helped by my lack of income!), and inspired about how in the next few years people could change the tide. I can’t recommend this book enough: admittedly, my reading it meant Leonard was preaching to the choir, but I imagine even those who have never heard of/thought about these issues before will come away with a slightly changed worldview. Of course, you can always watch the film first!
Suggested Companion Reads
- Hope, Human and Wild by Bill McKibben (Another book that looks at current problems and out-of-box solutions that have been developed around the globe.)
- Status Anxiety by Alain de Botton (de Botton does a good job exploring the relationship between jobs and incomes and status and gives philosophically-based advice to escape that trap. I think it’d be a neat companion because at its heart, Stuff Matters is calling for a change in worldview, so Status Anxiety could inform that.)
- Food Matters by Mark Bittman (This book takes a similar approach to issues of diet and the food industry in the twenty-first century.)