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THE BATTLE OF ARGINUSAE :
VICTORY AT SEA AND ITS TRAGIC AFTERMATH IN THE FINAL YEARS OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR
By Debra Hamel


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KILLING ERATOSTHENES:
A TRUE CRIME STORY
FROM ANCIENT ATHENS
By Debra Hamel


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READING HERODOTUS:
A GUIDED TOUR THROUGH THE WILD BOARS, DANCING SUITORS, AND CRAZY TYRANTS OF THE HISTORY
By Debra Hamel


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THE MUTILATION OF THE HERMS:
UNPACKING AN ANCIENT MYSTERY
By Debra Hamel


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TRYING NEAIRA:
THE TRUE STORY OF A COURTESAN'S SCANDALOUS LIFE IN ANCIENT GREECE
By Debra Hamel


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PRISONERS OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR
By Debra Hamel


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SOCRATES AT WAR:
THE MILITARY HEROICS OF AN ICONIC INTELLECTUAL
By Debra Hamel


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ANCIENT GREEKS IN DRAG:
THE LIBERATION OF THEBES AND OTHER ACTS OF HEROIC TRANSVESTISM
By Debra Hamel


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IT WAS A DARK AND STORMY TWEET:
FIVE HUNDRED 1ST LINES IN 140 CHARACTERS OR LESS
By Debra Hamel


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I've decided to stop accepting review copies. The downside of getting buried in free books is that reading increasingly becomes an obligatory act. After some seven years of blogging books, it's time for me to return to the simple pleasure of reading only the books I want to read, when I want to read them.



  
From a random review:

  

« Smiley, Patricia: Cover Your Assets | Main | Twain, Mark: A Murder, A Mystery, and a Marriage »

Levine, Judith: Not Buying It: My Year Without Shopping

  

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Free Press © 2006, 264 pages [amazon]
3 stars

In Not Buying It author Judith Levine documents the year she and her partner Paul spent attempting to limit their expenditures to essential items. Levine undertook the project because she felt guilty at being part of a culture of overconsumption and because she wanted to explore issues related to the acquisition of stuff:

"I ask myself, can a person have a social, community, or family life, a business, a connection to the culture, an identity, even a self outside the realm of purchased things and experiences?

Levine will also have suspected, of course, that the project would make good fodder for a book. The couple's year of deprivation began on January 1, 2004, after a couple weeks of mad spending in late 2003--their last-minute expenditures including the purchase of a concrete baby elephant ordered  over the web some two hours before the year's end.

Also annoying is that somewhere along the line the book turns into little more than an extended liberal rant, wherein the author sounds off on the evils of George Bush and Walmart and the consumer culture, and she laments not being able to enjoy the "soul-cleansing polemics of Michael Moore" in Fahrenheit 9/11.Not Buying It is organized chronologically, with a chapter given to each month from December 2003 to December 2004, and individual chapters in turn broken up into dated entries. While detailing her "Year Without Shopping"--the impulse to buy a  pair of lime-green stiletto heels, the conundrum of gift-giving when one isn't buying anything, the various inconveniences imposed by her project--Levine winds up discussing also a variety of related issues: consumer psychology, gentrification, the Voluntary Simplicity movement, the Bush and Kerry presidential campaigns. In the process, too, we learn a lot about Levine's personal life: she and Paul have a sort of nomadic lifestyle, switching seasonally between a house in rural Vermont and a Brooklyn apartment. They are self-employed, socially aware fifty-somethings, politically active, left-leaning consumers of high-brow culture, neither wanting nor well-off, athletic, childless.

Levine's project is indeed an interesting one and might have made for a fun read, but it winds up being more annoying than enjoyable. For one thing, the rules by which she and Paul designated expenditures as necessary or not are incoherent: the couple refused to buy Q-Tips, yet $55 haircuts were deemed a necessity. Many readers, too, are likely to find some of the "deprivations" Levine complains of in the book risible, though what sets each reader off will differ. In my own case the author's mourning of a year spent without taking in a movie appears absurd. And her clothing purchases for the year, totaling $105, are a lot closer to my annual average than the $1664 she reports having spent on clothes in 2003. Also annoying is that somewhere along the line the book turns into little more than an extended liberal rant, wherein the author sounds off on the evils of George W. Bush and Walmart and the consumer culture, and she laments not being able to enjoy the "soul-cleansing polemics of Michael Moore" in Fahrenheit 9/11. (Here's a telling example. In the publicity materials sent with the copy of the book I received from the publisher--though not in the book itself--there is a list of "Rules for a Year of Not Buying It." Among the five permitted entertainment expenses listed, including "TV, basic" and "free performances, concerts, galleries, museums on free nights" there appears "activities for the purpose of the overthrow of the U.S. government." A joke, one assumes, but...why?)

You may or may not enjoy Levine's book, depending on your political bent and lifestyle. Certainly the author writes well. I just wish she'd reined in her politics a bit and written more on the subject of her project itself and its effects on her life.

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About the blogger: Debra is the mother of two preternaturally attractive girls and the author of a number of books about ancient Greece, including Trying Neaira: The True Story of a Courtesan's Scandalous Life in Ancient Greece. She writes and blogs from her subterranean lair in North Haven, CT. Read more.

  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  






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Book-blog.com by Debra Hamel is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution - Noncommercial - No Derivative Works 3.0 License.