Book Review: Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture by Ellen Ruppel Shell

Author: Ellen Ruppel Shell, Lorna Raver (narrator)
Title: Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture
Publication Info: Tantor Media (2009)

Cheap is an intriguing expose on the modern American desire for bargains fed by discount stores and discount ideology in more areas of commerce than one would realize.  Ruppel Shell offers a fascinating history of discount stores from the late 19th-century to present.  Interestingly, many of the originators went under by the 1980s to be absorbed by the more ruthless corporations of today.  The hidden costs of inexpensive purchases are then detailed from environmental destruction, human rights violations of the employees who manufacture, distribute, and sell the products, the dangers of poor quality goods to the consumer, the erosion of the middle class, and the fact that a lot of this cheap stuff isn’t even worth what we pay for it.  Ruppel Shell makes the interesting point that we now live in a world where there are high-end goods and discount goods, but no reliable in-between.  IKEA, Wal-Mart, and outlet malls are singled out as some actors in the discount culture, but the closing “hope-for-the-future” chapter also details companies like Wegmans and Costco that are thriving despite adopting strategies that go against the grain of discount culture.  While the essence of this book is not likely to be surprising to most readers, it is still eye-opening in its details.

Recommended books:Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense (and Stick You with the Bill) by David Cay Johnston, Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America by Barbara Ehrenreich, and In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto by Michael Pollan,

Book Review: The Walking Dead: March To War (vol. 19) by Robert Kirkman

Author: Robert Kirkman
TitleThe Walking Dead: March To War (vol. 19)
Publication Info:Image Comics (2013)
ISBN: 9781607068181

As noted in my review for volume 18, The Walking Dead series too often forces the drama by having the survivors in violent conflict with one another and all too often with a sadistic bully who is using the zombie apocalypse as an excuse to make a personal fiefdom.  I think there are more possible stories to be told of survival and adapting to the new world, but here we have a whole volume with preparation for war, with the upcoming two volumes dedicated to the war itself.  Sigh.  I guess in a way, The Walking Dead shows the post-apocalyptic world is a lot like our own after all.
Rating: **

Book Review: The Walking Dead: What Comes After (vol 18) by Robert Kirkman

Author: Robert Kirkman
TitleThe Walking Dead: What Comes After (v0l 18)
Publication Info: Image Comics (2013)
ISBN: 9781607066873

I’m not sure why I keep reading this series.  There’s the curiosity of what will happen next, of course, but I feel like I’m rereading what’s already happened. Negan and the Saviors have some nuances, but in the end it’s the story of The Governor and Woodbury all over again.  In the post-apocalyptic world ultra-violent bullies will take control and there will be more to fear from the living than the dead, and blah, blah, blah.  Perhaps it’s the influence of reading Rebecaa Solnit’s A Paradise Built in Hell, but I’d like to see more of how communities come together after a disaster.  The Walking Dead  – both the comics and the tv show – is at it’s best when it’s showing how people adapt to life in the post-apocalyptic world, the little things they do to adapt.  But all too often I find that the writers force the drama by constantly having all the survivors want to kill one another.  At least Ezekiel and his tiger are making things interesting.

Rating: **