Vancouver Public Library and V.I.A. have teamed up to help you discover new reads, hidden book gems and surprising literary finds. Check back every couple of weeks for the latest reading recommendations from the experts at Vancouver’s library.
Did Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales whip you into a shopping frenzy? Need to cool off your credit card? Use a piece of plastic that won’t pile on any debt – your library card – and check out these books to help you with your shopping addiction.
The Clothes They Stood Up In by Alan Bennett
In this short and clever novel, the Ransomes are robbed of every single possession in their London flat – including the toilet paper – and must confront questions about their identity without all the stuff that they have accumulated over a lifetime.
Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
Frothy and engaging, the paper-thin plot of this bestseller is almost beside the point to the spectacle of rich people spending ridiculous sums of money on exclusive brands. Reading it might cure you of any desire to consume. Or not.
Generation X by Douglas Coupland
When it appeared in 1991, this short book became an instant cultural landmark. Three disaffected, overeducated and underemployed Generation Xers hang out in Palm Springs, and give us their spiky musings on materialism, plastic surgery and disposable culture.
The Lightning Field by Dana Spiotta
Amid the rootless, acquisitive world of wealthy Angelenos, Mina drifts along with her screenwriter husband and occasional lovers, all of them seeking the next trend. The novel also follows a fashionable restaurant owner and a house cleaner. Spiotta’s writing has moments of arresting brilliance and humour.
Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
One of literature’s most important works contains an anxiety-inducing debt spiral. Emma Bovary, the original shopaholic, bored of her dreary life and dazzled by wealthier neighbours, tries to spend her way to happiness and falls into ruin.
White Noise by Don DeLillo
Published in 1985, this seminal novel revolves around a small town professor who tries to navigate the world’s constant hum of “white noise” – consumerist chatter, tabloid news, background music – while his family is under threat of a toxic chemical cloud and his marriage in danger.
Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy
Set in two time periods, the 1970s and 2137, this classic utopian science fiction tale centres around Connie Ramos, a Mexican-American woman who is unfairly held in a mental hospital. She travels to two alternate futures, one a consumerist dystopia, and the other an idealized but still imperfect state of purity and equality.
My Life with Things: The Consumer Diaries by Elizabeth Chin
A meditation on the things that surround us, like kitchen cabinet knobs and vintage linens. Anthropologist Chin uses her own possessions as a launching point for deep insights into how we interact politically, socially and emotionally with everyday items.
No Logo by Naomi Klein
Klein’s manifesto against name-branded material culture addresses issues of globalization, anti-competitive forces, and the choice between consumerism and citizenship.
The Year of Less by Cait Flanders
Flanders, tired of being in debt and stressed, dared herself to go one year where she spent money only on consumables; food, toiletries and gas. Lacking her usual emotional crutches of alcohol and consumerism, she discovers fulfillment in a simpler life.