Tag Archives: Shoptimism

Come and Get It

Shiny Objects: Why We Spend Money We Don’t Have in Search of Happiness We Can’t Buy by James A. Roberts (HarperOne, $25.99, 368 pages)

“The chief value of money lies in the fact that one lives in a world in which it is overestimated.”   – H. L. Mencken

Author James A. Roberts is a professor of marketing at Baylor University in Waco, Texas.   There’s no doubt that he knows of what he writes.   In some ways Shiny Objects is similar to The Man Who Sold America by Jeffrey Cruikshank and Arthur Schultz, and Shoptimism – Why the American Consumer Will Keep on Buying No Matter What by Lee Eisenberg.   Among them, the three  books capture a wide view of the marketing tricks, human weaknesses and buying trends that are behind the urge to attain the American dream.

Shiny Objects is clearly written for readers in the USA.   Author Roberts tailors what could easily be just another self-help book into a person-centered experience complete with memorable quotes at the start of each chapter (such as the one posted above).   He includes graphs, charts, sidebars and illustrations that enliven the very serious subject – compulsive acquisition that most folks cloak in the guise of the pursuit of the Great American Dream.

There is a strong interactive presence in many chapters that gently allows the reader to respond to the questionnaires that are designed to reveal personal tendencies, proclivities or urges related to material possessions and their appearance – which is, sadly, a false one – of granting happiness.

There is some original research associated with the writing of the book as well as numerous well-annotated references, data and quotes.   Roberts also references his survey of other researchers’ research on consumption/consumerism.

The marketing classes at Baylor presented by Dr. Roberts must be very popular given his smooth conversational style and ability to weave useful strategies through his narrative.   Perhaps this book, which is highly skeptical of the marketing practices in this country, is his way of offsetting the marketing skills he teaches in his college classes.   This quote makes the point: “The primary goal of this book is to make the argument that lasting happiness lies outside the consumer realm, beyond the shiny-object ethos.”

Highly recommended.

Ruta Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher.   Shiny Objects was released on November 8, 2011, and is available as a Kindle Edition and Nook Book download.   “Shiny Objects is ultimately a hopeful statement about the power we each hold to redefine the pursuit of happiness.”   Amazon

Readers who find this book interesting may also want to consider Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert (Vintage, $15.95, 336 pages) and Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything by Steven D. Levitt (William Morrow Paperbacks, $15.99, 315 pages).


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Wide Awake

Wide Awake: A Memoir of Insomnia by Patricia Morrisroe (Spiegel & Grau, $25.00, 266 pages)

Insomnia, a very serious subject for anyone afflicted by it, is given star treatment by veteran writer Patricia Morrisroe as she describes her quest for enough good-quality sleep.   The reader is brought up to date with a bit of family history, including her mom’s sleep problems, the terrors of Catholic school, and the remarkable fact that her grandfather – though he suffered from tinnitus – escaped insomnia.   Morrisroe delivers her tale in an enjoyable, chatty tone that she no doubt cultivated when writing for Vanity Fair and Vogue.   In this, her book is reminiscent of Lee Eisenberg’s Shoptimism.

Morrisroe illustrates her experiences related to sleep, or the lack thereof, with descriptions of the professional services of a psychologist, a psychiatrist and psychopharmacologist – who knew there was such a profession?   She even went so far as to gladly embrace the notion of jet lag with the hope it would bring relief at the journey’s end.

Because sleep deprivation has taken on the image of an American affliction, drug manufacturers have geared up production of sleep potions with names like Lunesta and Rozerem.   This book includes a survey of this category of drugs, how they are perceived and how they worked, or did not, for the author.


This review was written by Ruta Arellano.   Reprinted courtesy of Sacramento Book Review.


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The Cutting

Author James Hayman has applied the skills he developed during a 20+ year career as an advertising executive to mystery writing.   Madison Avenue’s loss is the mystery-lover’s gain.   Like his main character, Detective Sergeant Michael McCabe, Hayman has transplanted himself to Portland, Maine from New York.   His use of dialog and plot line are reminiscent of the TV drama Criminal Minds.   As is customary on Criminal Minds, the lead investigator reaches out to colleagues for clues in piercing together the profile of the perpetrator.

In this case, McCabe is dealing with an “unsub” (unknown subject) who has surgically removed the heart from a teenage girl.   Added to the grisly crime against the teen is the abduction of Lucinda Cassidy, who just happens to work for an ad agency.   Typical of many popular mysteries, this one has a time factor that is key to a rescue opportunity.   Each chapter featuring McCabe has a subheading with the date and time.   Whenever the story switches to Lucinda, there’s a change in the type font.   We are not advised of the date or time.   This serves to heighten the suspense and draw the reader into the action.

Be ready for clever references to what surely must be Hayman’s favorite classic movies, The Third Man and The Day of the Jackal.   The story is kinky in a normal sort of way.   Hayman has applied his word use skills well, much as former corporate executive Lee Eisenberg did in his first book, Shoptimism:  Why the American Consumer Will Keep on Buying No Matter What.   Of course, that’s where the similarity ends.   The characters at the center of McCabe’s life are:  his artist girlfriend Kyra, his 13-year-old daughter Cassie, his ex-wife Sandy and Maggie Savage who is his cop partner.   These characters and their interactions are compelling enough to merit a sequel.

Highly recommended.   4 stars with just enough plot twists and car chases to move the story along nicely in this very good first novel.

This review was written by Ruta Arellano.   A review copy was provided by Dorothy of Pump Up Your Book Promotion. 

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