It's always a bad sign when I read a nonfiction book and can't remember much of anything about it. This ist he case with Lee Eisenberg's Shoptimism: Why the American Consumer Will Keep On Buying No Matter What.
I was really excited to get this one, too, because as much as I hate actually shopping, that's how much I love reading books about shopping, retail, and consumerism. Eisenberg is best known for his bestselling nonfiction title The Number, which was a book about retirement goals and attitudes (he's also a former editor-in-chief of Esquire magazine). He's a serviceable writer, and although I read this whole book, I can quite honestly say that nothing in it particularly resonated (there's absolutely no bookmarks in it marking parts I want to revisit or quote) with me, and I can't for the life of me remember much of it. This is weird. Normally the nuances and plot points of nonfiction books are all I have a superhuman memory for.
I think what bothered me most about this book was how Eisenberg failed to follow through on his subtitle: I didn't really get an idea of WHY the American consumer will keep shopping no matter what, and that's what I was really interested in. The book is organized into two parts; the view from the side of people trying to sell you things (Eisenberg introduces this by letting the reader in on his own shopping tours and habits), and the view from the side of the people doing the shopping (that is, YOU). Each half is filled with anecdotes of Eisenberg's experiences as both a shopper and a shiller (he also was an executive vice president at Lands' End ), historical tidbits about shopping, and explanations of research about how people shop and buy.
But, for whatever reason? The text just never coalesced for me. I wasn't particularly interested in Eisenberg's efforts* to formulate his own "Unified Buy Theory," and even though his explanations about different types of buyers ("classic," "romantic," etc.) were interesting, I still didn't finish the book feeling that the American consumer would, in fact, "keep on buying no matter what." I think the current economic/retail climate would side with me on this one.
*I also found his tone sometimes, annoyingly, to resemble something I think of as "old annoying slick businessman who's done pretty well out of the system, although I'm not sure how or why." He reminded me of Thomas Friedman, just a bit, who I tend to sum up more succinctly: "smug."**
**Interestingly, Thomas Friedman's rich wife's family made her/their fortune in malls and real estate. It's a wacky world.