IN THE REVIEW

More Is More

Christmas morning at Jackie and David Siegel’s Seagull Island mansion, Windermere, Florida, 2010. Their construction of a 90,000-square-foot mansion inspired by the palace of Versailles was the subject of Lauren Greenfield’s documentary The Queen of Versailles (2012); this photograph appears in her new book, Generation Wealth, just published by Phaidon.

Empire of Things: How We Became a World of Consumers, from the Fifteenth Century to the Twenty-First

by Frank Trentmann
Even if you think yourself a reluctant shopper, consider all of the resources used to create our material world: the steel to build our homes, the natural gas to fire our furnaces, the aluminum in our smartphones and tablets. In the world’s richest countries, consumption has ballooned by over a third in the past few decades to the point that in 2010, each person in the thirty-four richest nations consumed over 220 pounds of stuff every day. How did we come to be such voracious, irrepressible consumers? And how has all of this consuming changed the world? Those are the questions at the heart of Frank Trentmann’s Empire of Things, each of its nearly seven hundred pages of text jam-packed with telling facts and counterintuitive provocations.