Life Lessons Learned While Shopping, by Amanda Ford
Like many books, this one is aimed at women, because the author appears to assume that only women would be interested in books dealing with the mentality of shopping. And to be sure, the author has some nuanced advice when it comes to shopping, areas where the author puts different ideals in tension with each other and points out that sometimes certain approaches to shopping work and sometimes other approaches to shopping work. The author also has a mixed degree of advice relating to shopping with her husband, pointing out that her husband and her have very different views of shopping and that these views have often led to conflict in their personal lives. The author’s determination not to let her husband’s lack of understanding about her shopping bring her down has led her to both split up and shop at different stores where each of them enjoys the process of shopping while also shopping with friends of hers who better appreciate what she is up to. Similarly, there is a lot of advice that the author gives that appears to be somewhat of a challenge to remember when it comes to balancing different concerns, such as the author’s comments on when retail therapy works best and when going to a therapist is better, as well as some of the limitations of shopping.
This book is between 175 and 200 pages long and consists of nine chapters that are themselves composed of many smaller essays about related topics. The book begins with an introduction that demonstrates how it is that shopping saved the author’s life in her own mind. After that the author states that the best path to follow is one’s own (1) as well as a discussion on how one never knows how things will work out (2). The topics of the chapters as a whole are often rather heavily freighted, but the individual smaller essays themselves are often far more nuanced, and the advice and insights do not come from the author’s own experience alone but also from other people the author happens to have known. Later chapters of the book explore the importance of gratitude as a cure for discontent (3), or the importance of creativity when it comes to shopping (4), as well as some of the author’s views of the differences between men and women when it comes to shopping (5). There are chapters on heartache and the problem of retail therapy (6), as well as the help that other people can provide in tough times (7), and the book ends with chapters about places where a girl must go alone (8), the importance of being present and aware in one’s shopping (9), as well as some acknowledgements and information about the author, who focuses on shopping in the Pacific Northwest, as it happens.
One of the more notable aspects of this book is the way discussing shopping advice as if it was some sort of secret sisterhood. This makes me feel somewhat ambivalent. On the one hand, the author clearly knows a lot about shopping and is able to provide a high degree of insight in the subject to a great many readers, depending on how many people read this book. Yet as is often the case in books written by women, the author seems not to know how or to have the desire to appeal to a broader readership. The author seems aware on some level, for example, that her husband shops with at least the same degree of passion and interest in some items that she has with clothes, and yet the author seems to have a divide in her mind between men and women when it comes to shopping nonetheless, not recognizing that different people have different shopping styles and that the items we look for and that we enjoy shopping for will likely condition us to shop differently. There are some people I know who have no interest in shopping for food or clothes, but who will shop antiques or cars enthusiastically. I enjoy shopping for books and music, for example, and so the author’s failure to recognize that insights gained from shopping can have a much wider relevance to others makes this book a much more narrow work than it really needs to be.