Judith Williamson, a British journalist and filmmaker, is a graduate of Sussex University and the Royal College of Art. In the introduction to this snappy collection of essays she notes:

"We are consuming passions all the time — at the shops, at the movies, in the streets, in the classroom: in the old familiar ways that no longer seem passionate because they are the shared paths of our social world, the known shapes of our waking dreams."

Williamson divides her essays into four sections: Modern Girl, Picture This, Hollywood Nights, and Do Nothing. With a relaxed and accessible style, she explores the Walkman as a symbol of urban alienation, assesses the movie Body Heat, wonders about the long-lasting popularity of the royal family, accounts for the Hoover Vacuum Company's yearning to explain to customers the different kinds of dirt, and offers a defense of the much-lampooned career of Doris Day, who played characters who plow through troubles with "generosity, humour and self-respect."

Our favorite essay is "The Politics of Consumption," where Williamson examines this widespread activity as a source of meaning in our society. For her, buying and owning objects is one of the few ways that people in Western countries feel they have control over their lives (see the excerpt).