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Shiny Objects: Why We Spend Money We Don’t Have in Search of Happiness We Can’t Buy ~ By James A. Roberts

Shiny Objects

Right at the top of the review I am going to tell you I thought  Shiny Objects was a 5 (ladybugs) book.  It is exceptional and if you only read one non-fiction book in the coming year, I think you would be wise to pick this one.

“ If you want to live the American Dream, one would need to move to Denmark.” Richard Wilkinson, July 2011 Ted Lecture on Economic Inequality

Shiny Objects is a well written study about how we have become one of the most successfully materialistic cultures ever experienced.  James Roberts is a Professor of Marketing at Baylor University and he takes us slowly and deliberately through the steps of how we got to this peak and how our natural disposition towards materialism was promoted and designed to drop us into the correct chute.  Very kindly, Robert’s last few chapters of the book provide the ladders and the hindsight to help us up and out of the mire; including reminders that ignorance is not bliss and it is our responsibility for recovery.   I will just say that his tests and quizzes throughout the book are invaluable tools for assessing one’s  true standing in this world of Materialism and where we might need to work at making changes in order to survive and come out standing upright and provided for our own futures.

Truthfully, almost everyone in the USA believes they can become part of the 1% and many, many of the immigrants to this country attest to that belief.   Yet, decade after decade we are so distracted by marketing ploys and Shiny Objects dangled in front of us as treasures that we still are deluded.  We work longer hours than nearly any other country on the planet and it is not proving to be so that we can get to the top but so that we can pay off our credit cards and get out of debt.  “ We are not all meant to own our own homes.”    We are in love with our credit cards and our Shiny Objects and we are on a consumption binge.

“ We toss out 140 million cell phones each year, use 1 million brown-paper bags each hour (yes, hour), expend 1 million plastic cups on commercial airplanes every six hours, and run through 2 million petroleum-based plastic bottles every five minutes.”

We have learned over the years through the media suggesting it repeatedly that we may not reach our goals for a long time and not without a great deal of effort.  So why wait?  Why not enjoy your life now and pay for it later?   Marketers, politicians and many religious pillars are all just waiting for you to take on this attitude and enroll in another credit card offer.  We are repeatedly told this until we believe it to be true.  We are trying to buy our happiness (see the Constitution) and build our self-worth and esteem through Shiny Objects and credit.

“The ability to delay gratification signifies the transition from an impulsive driven existence to a higher order, future oriented perspective.”     Sigmund Freud

Robert’s peels back the layers and layers of design and mythology within the framework of history, and the knowledge and skills he shares with his students.  He takes on everyone including students, politicians, Prosperity Gospel Preachers, and each of us as individuals.   He challenges us to find self-esteem an inside job and to pursue deeper meaning and satisfaction through more humane channels.

I know I have been practicing Voluntary Simplicity for 30 years now, have been environmentally pro-active, and am a child of Depression Era parents, and I do not watch TV.  I was amazed at how influenced I am as evidenced by the taking of each of the questionnaires and self-testing with the complete appendix overview.  I am wiser for having read Shiny Objects.

“Iron Man2, [the movie], contained a league-leading 64 product placements. … “The Biggest Loser, [TV show], had an eye-popping 250 product placements per show.  American Idol had 4,151 [product placements] in its first thirty-eight episodes of 2008”

This book was an amazing integration of so many of the books I have read recently, and yet, it does not just report the problems and the test results, it does not just share with us why this marketing works so well as to delude us, and it gives us the steps to liberate us from this dragon.   We definitely need to smarten up and not keep allowing the system to dumb us down.

“Credit Cards Can Make You Fat.”


Thank you to TLC book tours for putting me on this tour.  It was a pleasure.  I received a copy of the book from Julie Burton at HarperOne publishing.

James A. Roberts James A Roberts website

If you purchase anything from this site from Amazon, I will receive a few beans in my bucket.

Related Reading You might also enjoy:
Walking the Green
We Have Met the Enemy
Your Money or Your Life

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23 Responses to “Shiny Objects: Why We Spend Money We Don’t Have in Search of Happiness We Can’t Buy ~ By James A. Roberts”

  1. Sara Says:

    Once again, you have written a review of a book I probably would never have picked up. After reading your review and the wonderful quotes you added, I’ll definitely will be looking for this book

    I especially loved the last quote, “Credit cards can make you fat.” I just think another line should be added that says “And make your financial security anorexic.”

    Thanks for this excellent book review, Patricia!
    Sara recently posted..Story Photo: Tales of AutumnMy Profile

  2. patricia Says:

    I was worried that I had read too many of these books in a row, but this one was more interpretation of what we have learned from all the psychology tests and studies/ history and it is well written. I also thought he might avoid the “churches” issues because Baylor is so conservative and not often on the leading edge. Rather it is very comprehensive and the author does not skim over anything…It has taken us years to get into this mess and most of the recovery will be of a personal nature, but we can make a lot of changes from his findings.

    I think our next State and National Leaders need to read this book. Very interesting.
    Thank you for your kind words…
    and I loved your addition to the quote

  3. Galen Pearl Says:

    I should just follow your suggestions for my reading list and I would be in good shape, in every meaning of the word!

    patricia Reply:

    Most of the books that I review I get as recommendations from TLC book tours because they fit my Change theme….I could go an pick books but I usually like what they send me and then it has an element of surprise – and they are often books I would not read if they did not pass them along.

    I also go to their site to find new fiction, I think the folks who review their fiction selections are very good about being honest in their appraisals.

    I am reviewing another book that was recommended by three bloggers to me – so I purchased that book, which is tentatively scheduled for Nov. 14th review. I am thinking you might already know that one?

  4. Terrill Welch Says:

    Patricia this sounds excellent! Seems like a great Christmas gift 😉 I know, I know! :) We are such a consumer era. Love your review and the underlying premise of the book – it is not that we are dumb but that we have participated in a belief system that is not working for us. Great piece!

    patricia Reply:

    Yep Terrill and it all started with Thomas Jefferson’s definition of the American Dream – well the great philosophers have debated this for centuries – but Jefferson said everyone should be able to own their own home and have wealth… the first grab onto it sound bite and we bit….

    I think the history offers quite a good look at how we peaked into this financial and emotional dilemma but so many were not watching and preparing….

    Look at us…we did everything to the letter and now need to work until we are dead and maybe even then for medical needs?
    It is a very good book – a moderate reasonable voice

  5. suzen Says:

    Hi Patricia! You and I have similar backgrounds – we always saved then paid cash and to this very day, I do the same thing. (Except for the mortgage on the house). We have one credit card and it is paid in full at the end of every month. The only reason we even use the darn thing is to accumulate miles which have taken us on vacations with the kids for years.

    Consumerism is a disease and this book sounds like the right medicine to effect a cure. You know I’ve raged on about plastic bottled water, plastic grocery bags, junk food, fast food – it’s all related. A little (no, I’m wrong – a LOT) of mindfulness is imperative.

    This culture has become disposable and the majority of folks are lazy and irresponsible rather than contributing to the common good of anyone or anything. I’m into simplicity as you are, also huge on recycling, and making do with what we have. Kind of dinosaur-like I suppose.

    Boy I betcha this book would throw fuel on my fires, eh? I think what upsets me the most is that we are being very cleverly lied to, manipulated, and/or being told to believe in things that our grandparents would never, ever accept. Oh wise they were!
    Sure there were no credit cards in their lives, but just the work ethic and practicality – they were so not disposable people.

    You write the best reviews I’ve ever read – seriously.

    patricia Reply:

    thank you so much – I try not to ruin the book for others (telling the plot and all) I just want to share the things that I think others will truly want to read the book.

    This book is a gem…it did not light my fire or anger…it explained how we got here and why so many folks get trapped by the sound bites in a race to catch happiness….and yes the being manipulated and set up has reached a fevered pitch and now one by one we need to take hold and make the changes.

    We need to think in terms of what is best for our community and act locally. Most of the school Dist. in our State are applying to get rid of No Child Left Behind….our schools were in the top 10 in the Nation and are now 47th in the last 10 years….our public schools were amazing then everyone thought they needed to send their kids to private schools after NCLB….no parents there volunteering…

    This book is about understanding the big picture…and I think we need to keep educating like crazy….we just had a record low for voter turn out yesterday….people think they live in Ohio with all the paid for election???

    Thank you for coming by and keep up the good words – we need so much education on so many levels – Discernment

  6. Laurie Buchanan Says:

    Patricia – I love when you said:

    “…and it gives us the steps to liberate us from this dragon. We definitely need to smarten up and not keep allowing the system to dumb us down.”

    This sounds like a book that oh-so-many people could benefit from. Great review – thank you!
    Laurie Buchanan recently posted..11-11-11My Profile

  7. patricia Says:

    Thank you for coming by and reading my review. I so liked this book because it was like a course in re-thinking and understanding. It was not just a “look how stupid you are” kind of tell all.

    I think I am going to chose this book for my next book group selection. It is powerful…and well written

  8. Melody | Deliberate Receiving Says:

    It’s nice to see this common sense approach. The financial crisis wasn’t just a result of mismanagement in the banking world, but a result of the overall mindset of the average consumer.

    It’s interesting what you said about not watching TV and still being influenced. I also don’t watch TV and rarely see movies, but I’m certain that I’m still influenced by the Media and advertising. I’m on the internet. How can I avoid it? But it still helps to cut down as much as possible, even if we can’t avoid it altogether…

    I’ve added this book to my reading list. :o) And I’ll keep trying to stumble this post. Not sure why it’s not working…

    Melody | Deliberate Receiving recently posted..Are You Missing This Step When Shifting A Limiting Belief?My Profile

    patricia Reply:

    Ii think seeing the historic perspective was also a healthy part of this book…it is really quite an antique problem..

    A marketing fellow writing about all the ways we are deceived and how we accept it….it is no wonder people are clueless…and have dumbed themselves down to the nub

    I think there is a problem with stumbleupon and my site…I have put IT Girl to the test with an email….Thank you for trying

    Yes put this book on your reading list…it is very good and will help you with your work

  9. Jenny Ann Fraser Says:

    Fantastic Patricia!
    You keep making my reading list longer! LOL.
    This sounds like a truly important book. One issue that I have had with such books in the past, is that it makes the problems seem so monumental that I could see where people would become too discouraged to want to even try.
    I suspect this contributes to much of the apathy that we see around us. We all have a tendency to feel as though we are powerless to create change.
    I too do not have television, and I am constantly surprised about how it impacts me when I spend time watching at my Mum’s. Suddenly, I find myself thinking about buying things that I didn’t know existed before, which is a pretty clear indication that I don’t need them.
    Thank you for another excellent review. I will definitely be picking up a copy of this book!
    Jenny Ann Fraser recently posted..Why We Need To Work TogetherMy Profile

    patricia Reply:

    I think you will truly like this book Jenny Ann, This fellow is very practical and is a DAD besides a faculty at a university and there are lots of practical things near the end of the book – plus it helps you think up things you can do.

    I can not swim out and clean up all the plastic bags ( size of Texas) floating in an island formation, but I can say at all the stores, “here is my own bag, because I do not want to contribute even one more plastic bag to the 1 million that leave US stores every hour of every day.” I also say thank you to the other shoppers who brought bags…and thank the folks at my CSA

    People like to know that you appreciate their efforts…that vacuum feeling is kind of uncomfortable.
    Thank you for dropping by Jenny Ann – love reading your words and sharing space

  10. Jannie Funster Says:

    WOW, that is a LOT of cellphones. I had no idea.

    Such a throw-away people. But in know you sure do your part to reuse and recycle. We are plastic junkies, and that’s just sad in so many ways. That floating island makes me so sad.

    I want and have less than I used to, in general. My shiny things. I want are to send shiny songs out to welcoming ears.

    Did I mention I only ever have 1 pair of earrings at a time? When one gets lost I buy a new pair. I’ve had these 2 months, but before these, I had a pair for about a year, and the pair before that for 3 years!

    I always love being here! And hope you are well.

    Jannie Funster recently posted..WAY More Than “Just Some Guy” We Sold A Car To In 1994My Profile

    patricia Reply:

    Hi Jannie,
    ALWAYS a delight to find you here and to hear your shiny song words.

    I love your earrings story – I have a pair on that are 28 years old and I paid $3.49 for them – pewter hearts! I have about 5 pair of earrings, but only wear a couple….I have to get dressed up every now and again so I have some lovely pearls set aside for those occasions. I have 13 purses right now and am having a very hard time thinking about getting rid of any!

    I have so much paperwork on my desk right now it is a bit crazy making…creative expression not so much mess…Next week, I will just scoop most of it into the trash.

    This book is really a gracious read…and so helpful at making change and understanding how to do it…

    Thanks for your good words here

    Oh yes! I am having a spectacular giveaway on the 24th of November – through that weekend…You will not want to miss this Beautiful Gift offered up for a beautiful comment.

  11. Barbara Swafford Says:

    Hi Patricia,

    This sounds like an awesome book, and the tests and quizzes sound like a lot of fun.

    I’m with you. We do live in a throw away society. It’s just like when I look at the trash cans lined up on garbage day – brimming over the top with who knows what; paper, plastic, cans, excess/leftover food, bottles, etc…

    I’m big on recycling and am working on living a minimalist way of life. More is not better, however advertisers try to convince us differently.

    Although I watch TV, I’m well aware of what the ads are there for – how they want to convince us we NEED this or that. Sadly, many fall for those tactics and soon even those items end up in the trash/landfills. :(

    patricia Reply:

    It is a wonderful book Barbara – and it is now offered in paperback and e-book readers.

    I try to hard to live a simple lifestyle and be gentle with the earth, but sometimes I get a bit discouraged by the thoughtlessness of others…I was relieve to know that historically this is an ancient problem and even they had to deal with shiny objects

    the book is well written.

    I think doing Christmas as a non-material event has truly made us a closer family unit…it is nice to see the kids enjoying the new rituals and traditions…I so love change and meaning combos!

  12. Hilary Says:

    Hi Patricia .. this does sound a very good book – so so many of us in the Western world are lulled into dreams and desires – whereas we only have one life & SHOULD LIVE THAT ONE LIFE: OURS .. not others .. we don’t learn as we go … we all fall into the trap and equally some of us realise and clamber on up the rock ..

    I like how he has a few chapters to help us / guide us towards getting out of the dark abyss …

    Sounds an excellent read .. and one I definitely will get in due course .. thanks so much for highlighting for us .. cheers Hilary
    Hilary recently posted..Leonardo da Vinci – London’s a flutter with a polymath’s art … while his formula for trees is proving true today …My Profile

    Patricia Reply:

    It is an excellent read and I know you would enjoy it because it digs back into history of how we got here and gives one hope of moving forward..very moderate voice, but solid information sharing with a great package

  13. Wanting | The Biking Architect Says:

    […] we are at Thanksgiving time in the USA and the frenzy of wanting and Shiny Objects is all around us as though it is part of the air pressure and atmospheric […]

  14. Heather J. @ TLC Book Tours Says:

    Thanks for the great review. I’m featuring it on TLC’s Facebook page today. This is definitely the kind of book many people NEED to read!

    Patricia Reply:

    An excellent book – well written and informative.

    Thanks for sending me the book to read and review…