I Want That! by Thomas Hine
How We All Became Shoppers

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"Shopping has a lot in common with sex," Thomas Hine observes near the beginning of this wide-ranging exploration of the history and psychology of one of the most commonplace and important activities of modern Life. "Just about everybody does it. Some people brag about how well they do it. Some keep it a secret. Most people worry, at Least a little, about whether they do it right. And both provide ample opportunities to make foolish choices."

Choosing and using objects is a primal human activity, and I Want That! is nothing less than a portrait of humanity as the species that shops. We shop to nourish our bodies and to feed our fantasies. We shop to belong to groups. We shop to define ourselves as individuals. We shop to be powerful. We shop to be responsible. We shop to celebrate. We shop because we don't want to miss out on the excitement of life. I Want That! shows how these fundamental desires play out in today's malls, Web sites, boutiques, and superstores.

The book also offers a lively, fast-paced history of finding, choosing, and spending. It makes stops in the crossroads markets in which prehistoric merchants traded gold, amber, and obsidian; in the agora in Athens, where sharp setters wet their wool to make it weigh more, and everyone came to buy, talk, eat, and get their hair done. It visits the great fairs of medieval times -- brief, gaudy moments in monotonous, laborious lives -- and it considers the cities of Renaissance Europe, where shopping districts and the idea of individual expression arose side by side. It demonstrates how one simple idea -- manufacturing garments that were ready to wear -- brought the explosive growth of department stores and turned cities into vast shopping centers. It continues the story to the age of the Internet, when the buying never seems to stop, and, in times of crisis, political Leaders tout shopping, not sacrifice, as the act of patriots.

I Want That! tells the fascinating story of how shopping came to be the way it is -- and how you became the shopper you are.


About Thomas Hine

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Thomas Hine, the author of four previous books, including Populuxe and The Total Package, is a writer on culture, history, and design. He is a columnist for Philadelphia Magazine and a contributor to the Atlantic Monthly, Martha Stewart Living, Architectural Record, the Washington Post, the New York Times, and other publications. He Lives in Philadelphia.
Published October 14, 2003 by Harper Perennial. 222 pages
Genres: Business & Economics, History, Political & Social Sciences. Non-fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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“Self-Expression” and “Attention” offer a history of markets from the Greek agora through large medieval fairs and on to modern trends, when things like ready-to-wear clothing and fixed prices freed consumers from dealing with annoying salesmen and the anonymity of large stores with appealing arr...

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Publishers Weekly

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Although he touches on shopping's psychological effects (especially with those who seem addicted to it), Hine mainly refrains from assigning a positive or negative judgment.

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Entertainment Weekly

Anyone who's ever tussled over the last remaining bargain buy in the middle of an overheated, overcrowded Wal-Mart and pondered, ''How in the world did it come to this?'' can find pointed answers to their query in Hine's spirited summation on modern consumerism.

Jan 03 2003 | Read Full Review of I Want That!: How We All Beca...

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