With grace, a keen eye for detail, an interesting cast of characters who spend their life reselling used things, and the perennially curious mind of a great journalist, Minter takes readers from the backs of thrift stores all across the United States to small apartments and vintage shops in Tokyo, and from a truck in Mexico to an office in Mumbai, to show the inner workings of one of the world's largest markets. Along the way, he interviews many fascinating people who make a living buying, selling and throwing away what others discard, all while wondering what the future holds for this business in an era where consumers crave new things ... a gripping narrative. Minter is a superb storyteller who knows empathy is easier to connect with than numbers. In this book, there are plenty of both, but the people he interviews and the stories he tells are what make it an enthralling read. Also, Minter has a great understanding of how people work and how we have morphed into something new as the world around us has changed. And he also gets the way those changes affect how we act, what we consume, and even how we define ourselves ... Besides making financial and trade data palatable, one thing Minter does exceptionally well is jump from place to place to give readers a good idea at what the market for secondhand goods looks like on a global scale without bogging down the narrative with too many numbers ... Minter looks at the microcosm of individual houses and then at the macrocosm of the world effortlessly ... an entertaining, important and informative book that deals with something we are all part of.
... this fascinating account of what happens to that sweater you bag for Goodwill or the totaled car your insurance company writes off, is eye-opening—and even surprisingly hopeful ... His chapter on Japan is particularly eye-opening ... Minter is no poet. His prose is statistic-rich and straightforward. He’s at his best in the chapters discussing the ecological impact of waste in terms of product durability, and encouraging companies to be more transparent about planned obsolescence.
Armed with a passionate curiosity coupled with an investigative journalism background as a Bloomberg reporter, Minter interviews and observes dozens of buyers, sorters, cutters and shippers while tracking the journey of the approximately four million tons of used clothes exported around the world each year. Secondhand details an intricate and diverse network of operations spanning the United States, Canada, West Africa, India, Asia and many other points along the way. Minter provides an eye-opening look at the ways used clothes are sold and repurposed as furniture stuffing and rags, a high-demand product for the hospitality, automotive and healthcare fields, among others ... In an accessible and engaging style, Secondhand unravels the complexities of a vast yet mostly hidden and often secretive enterprise of used clothes and good...The result is an unparalleled look at the lifespan of everyday things and the unexpected ways our society's abundance of discarded items are, refreshingly, being repurposed for a second life.
The book has two great strengths. The first rests in its careful research coupled with an almost ethnographic sensibility. Minter immerses himself in the places and people who provide the social lubricant for the flow of reused material across the globe. We hear their stories and get to know them with some intimacy. The second strength is its cross-cultural and comparative orientation. We see how the secondhand business works itself out in places like Canada, Japan, Mexico, India, China, the Philippines, West Africa ... tells an important story about consumerism gone wild, the complex industry that has grown around its detritus, and how we can push back on an entrenched culture of disposability. Our current cycles of production, consumption, and disposal are clearly highly unsustainable. Hopefully the book will make readers far more conscious, intentional, and reflexive about their consumer-disposer behavior.
... an anthem to decluttering, recycling, making better quality goods and living a simpler life with less stuff. The book is a compelling argument for tempering acquisitions, especially now that global warming compels people to rethink how they live.
On the surface, an entire book detailing the world’s obsession with 'stuff' seems dry. In Minter’s capable hands, the topic comes alive ... Minter designs a workable path forward to combat the glut of stuff, including a plea for solid construction that can be used for years and legislation that promotes repair rather than disposal.
Minter takes readers on a surprisingly jaunty trip through the global market for secondhand goods ... Largely a portrait of an industry in decline due to items such as clothing becoming cheaper and less durable and higher ticket electronics being developed to insure that they are difficult to repair, Minter’s book reveals an economy hampered by an increasing overabundance of supply ... a fascinating, eye-opening look at a dynamic, largely unseen world that only starts when one drops off something at a thrift store.
The author’s respect for the people working in the business is clear, but the character-driven approach tends to lengthen the report and blur its clarity. Still, readers will come away with an understanding that the supply of secondhand goods is vast, the amount of stuff in the world is still growing, and that the secondhand business is supplying billions of people around the world with goods they want and need. The author also offers some recommendations, especially about the quality of goods, noting how the manufacture of more durable and repairable goods would have a positive effect on the secondhand business, something he notes that is beginning to happen already. The handful of black-and-white photographs, unfortunately, are generally small, murky, and unhelpful ... A character-driven, detailed, eye-opening report far richer in description than analysis.