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All We Want: Building the Life We Cannot Buy

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Our lives are defined by a story of endless growth and consumption. Now a climate crisis demands that we change. Can we write new stories? In All We Want, award-winning author Michael Harris dismantles our untenable consumer culture and delivers surprising, heartwarming alternatives. Drawing on the wisdom of philosophers, scientists, and artists, Harris uncovers three realm Our lives are defined by a story of endless growth and consumption. Now a climate crisis demands that we change. Can we write new stories? In All We Want, award-winning author Michael Harris dismantles our untenable consumer culture and delivers surprising, heartwarming alternatives. Drawing on the wisdom of philosophers, scientists, and artists, Harris uncovers three realms where humans have always found deeper meaning: the worlds of Craft, the Sublime, and Care. Past attempts to blunt our impact on the environment have simply redirected our consumption—we bought fuel-efficient cars and canvas tote bags. We cannot, however, buy our way out of this crisis. We need, instead, compelling new stories about life’s purpose. Part meditation and part manifesto, All We Want is a blazing inquest into the destructive and unfulfilling promise of our consumer society, and a roadmap toward a more humane future. -- “No writer is as humane, insightful, and clear-eyed as Michael Harris. His journey into the rabbit hole of consumer desire is one we all need to follow, and he makes it a joy along the way.” —Susan Orlean, author of The Orchid Thief


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Our lives are defined by a story of endless growth and consumption. Now a climate crisis demands that we change. Can we write new stories? In All We Want, award-winning author Michael Harris dismantles our untenable consumer culture and delivers surprising, heartwarming alternatives. Drawing on the wisdom of philosophers, scientists, and artists, Harris uncovers three realm Our lives are defined by a story of endless growth and consumption. Now a climate crisis demands that we change. Can we write new stories? In All We Want, award-winning author Michael Harris dismantles our untenable consumer culture and delivers surprising, heartwarming alternatives. Drawing on the wisdom of philosophers, scientists, and artists, Harris uncovers three realms where humans have always found deeper meaning: the worlds of Craft, the Sublime, and Care. Past attempts to blunt our impact on the environment have simply redirected our consumption—we bought fuel-efficient cars and canvas tote bags. We cannot, however, buy our way out of this crisis. We need, instead, compelling new stories about life’s purpose. Part meditation and part manifesto, All We Want is a blazing inquest into the destructive and unfulfilling promise of our consumer society, and a roadmap toward a more humane future. -- “No writer is as humane, insightful, and clear-eyed as Michael Harris. His journey into the rabbit hole of consumer desire is one we all need to follow, and he makes it a joy along the way.” —Susan Orlean, author of The Orchid Thief

54 review for All We Want: Building the Life We Cannot Buy

  1. 5 out of 5

    Kenneth

    A thoughtful examination of the consumer narrative that governs our lives. Especially loved reading about the history of Edward Bernays (the "father" of PR), and the second half of the book where Harris presents other forms of narratives that we can live by -- ones that we can't easily consume and may require a kind of work, but may inject more meaning into our lives. A thoughtful examination of the consumer narrative that governs our lives. Especially loved reading about the history of Edward Bernays (the "father" of PR), and the second half of the book where Harris presents other forms of narratives that we can live by -- ones that we can't easily consume and may require a kind of work, but may inject more meaning into our lives.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Samantha Duncan

    Main takeaway is that making/creating, time in nature, and caring for others are the cure to the downward spiral of our consumer culture. The narrative is a little clunky at times, but the thesis makes it worth the read.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Trina

    3.5 Thank you Libro.fm for the ALC. This book is powerful but also rather depressing so I advise reading it when your cup is full. The part about all of the birds that have disappeared was especially impactful to me, as the later sections on dementia.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Chris LaTray

    I liked this book enough to want to make sure I read Harris's other books, at least one of which I realize I already own (Solitude). It's not that I didn't like this one; the information is solid and the writing is beautiful. I don't know that the subtitle does justice to what the book is actually about, though, and I went into it expecting something different. It's more of a "this is the mess we've made of the world" book without a lot of attention to building a better one. Which is fine, just I liked this book enough to want to make sure I read Harris's other books, at least one of which I realize I already own (Solitude). It's not that I didn't like this one; the information is solid and the writing is beautiful. I don't know that the subtitle does justice to what the book is actually about, though, and I went into it expecting something different. It's more of a "this is the mess we've made of the world" book without a lot of attention to building a better one. Which is fine, just not what I was hoping for when I selected it to read. Still, I could just as easily give the book four stars except the last section related to Harris's husband's mother, while lovely and heartbreaking, seems a forced-fit into the rest of the story. The book is just a little disjointed, I guess I'd say.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Kayla Groening

    What do we (humans) want? What should we want? Why do we want, at all? Michael Harris explores these questions (and more) in his thought-provoking book "All We Want: Building the Life We Cannot Buy." As a faculty member of Literary Journalism, Michael Harris displays his craft in this piecework of stories that span time and space. "All We Want" is eloquently written, engaging and a pure delight to read. Thank you to Netgalley, Penguin Random House Canada, Doubleday Canada and Michael Harris for p What do we (humans) want? What should we want? Why do we want, at all? Michael Harris explores these questions (and more) in his thought-provoking book "All We Want: Building the Life We Cannot Buy." As a faculty member of Literary Journalism, Michael Harris displays his craft in this piecework of stories that span time and space. "All We Want" is eloquently written, engaging and a pure delight to read. Thank you to Netgalley, Penguin Random House Canada, Doubleday Canada and Michael Harris for providing an advanced reader copy of this e-book. All opinions expressed above are my own.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Vikki VanSickle

    Lovely succinct and meditative reflection of what makes life worthwhile: craft, the sublime, and care.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Vince Caparas

  8. 4 out of 5

    William Joyce

  9. 4 out of 5

    Pam

  10. 4 out of 5

    Chelsea

  11. 4 out of 5

    Shane McLeod

  12. 5 out of 5

    Katie Cerqua

  13. 5 out of 5

    Debra Purdy

  14. 5 out of 5

    Melanie

  15. 4 out of 5

    Marissa Kellett

  16. 5 out of 5

    Victoria

  17. 5 out of 5

    Nabeeha Feroze

  18. 5 out of 5

    Hmross

  19. 4 out of 5

    David

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

  21. 5 out of 5

    Katherine Morlog

  22. 5 out of 5

    Charlotte Gill

  23. 5 out of 5

    Bluewood

  24. 4 out of 5

    James Burnett

  25. 5 out of 5

    Kyle

  26. 5 out of 5

    Ron S

  27. 4 out of 5

    Michael Harris

  28. 4 out of 5

    Claire

  29. 4 out of 5

    Laurie Allee

  30. 5 out of 5

    Caleb

  31. 4 out of 5

    Jesse Couture

  32. 4 out of 5

    Ree

  33. 5 out of 5

    Brooklyn

  34. 5 out of 5

    Brittany Leighann

  35. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

  36. 4 out of 5

    Meghan Valeriani

  37. 5 out of 5

    Whitney

  38. 4 out of 5

    Robin

  39. 5 out of 5

    Rachael

  40. 4 out of 5

    Ivi

  41. 4 out of 5

    Barbara

  42. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

  43. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie

  44. 5 out of 5

    hashtagkate

  45. 5 out of 5

    Emily

  46. 4 out of 5

    Emma

  47. 5 out of 5

    Britt Corcoran

  48. 4 out of 5

    MS

  49. 5 out of 5

    Caryn Cathcart

  50. 5 out of 5

    Dayna

  51. 4 out of 5

    K

  52. 4 out of 5

    Jaclyn

  53. 4 out of 5

    Juarry

  54. 5 out of 5

    Brittany

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