- Spending Spree: The History of American Shopping by Cynthia Overbeck Bix
Yes, yes, we know that America holds the lead in rampant consumerism, but Bix turns from ethical implications and cautionary tales of personal financial mismanagement to a simpler exploration of how, as a nation, we’ve conducted our shopping over time. Five chapters take readers from general store and mail order shopping, which was once a family experience; to the department store and the rise in importance of women consumers; to self-service chain stores, bargain stores, and deep discounters; to the many iterations of post—World War II suburban malls; and ultimately to our current tensions between brick and mortar stores and cyber-shopping. There’s less attention paid to advertising, branding, and the psychology of recreational shopping than one might reasonably expect from the title, and the black and white photo reproductions, particularly of twentieth and twenty-first [End Page 202] century shoppers, fail to convey the enticement of the buying experience to account for its hold over American wallets, purses, and credit cards. The tidy organization, brief chapter format, and helpful end matter (source notes, bibliography, index, and annotated lists for further research) may nonetheless make this a useful title for assignments in U.S. History and Consumer Economics classes.