Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Book Review: Carjacked: The Culture of the Automobile and Its Effects on Our Lives

In Carjacked: The Culture of the Automobile and its Effects on Our Lives, Catherine Lutz and Anne Lutz Fernandez take on the daunting task of cataloguing the hidden costs of car ownership in America. The book is divided into roughly three sections: the first describes the ways the automobile industry cultivates America’s love affair with cars, the second unmasks predatory selling and financing schemes, and the third explains the non-financial costs of car ownership on the environment and society.

The Good: The book is a fairly compelling, fluid read. I was able to finish it without ever once falling asleep! I am a very sleep deprived person, so I can’t actually say this about every book.

For those who don’t have the time to read more than a small chunk of the book at once, the authors have obligingly provided section headers every few pages with descriptive names like “Hell on Wheels: Road Rage, Other Drivers, and the Pope” “Paying $34000 for a $17000 car” and “Driving while black, walking while Latino,” making it very easy to flip to the interesting parts first.

Most claims are well supported with references and statistics, and the authors finish the book with a useful summary of concrete things readers can do to help. We aren’t just left wallowing in the disillusionment.

The Not-as-Good: Unless cars and the car industry are really your thing, the book isn’t terribly exciting. There are some surprising facts and interesting anecdotes, but if you’re looking for a very colorful, attention-grabbing book, this isn’t it.

This book is appropriate for: people who are interested in cars, people who are interested in American culture, who like to delve into the details of these things, and who aren’t yet so wise and knowledgeable that they’d know everything in the book already.

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