So Much to Read
"A man ought to read just as inclination leads him, for what he reads as a task will do him little good."—Samuel Johnson



The day after Thanksgiving is known in the United States as the biggest shopping day of the year. A few years back, at the confluence of an economic boom time and the voluntary simplicity movement (funny how simplicity is more fun when its voluntary), someone suggested that to counteract rampant consumerism and to restore meaning to the holiday season we celebrate that Friday as “Buy Nothing Day.” In Vermont, we spent the morning hanging out at the front doors of Wal-Mart handing out “spend time, not money” flyers with homemade gift ideas and suggestions of low-cost, fun activities to enjoy with friends and family. We didn't bring Wal-Mart to its knees, but we had a good time wearing silly paper hats and singing alternative versions of popular holiday songs. I wrote words for a few in November of 1997 and we sang them in 1997 and 1998. I am delighted that my lyrics have spread throughout the web (Watch British men in Santa costumes sing the words I wrote!), and am quite happy to permit anyone to reprint and distribute (as well as sing) them for any project that promotes thoughtfulness and discourages consumerism. Please do credit me for them. I would also ask that they not be used for any profit-making endeavor—but then, that wouldn't make any sense.

Buy and Sell (to the tune of “Silver Bells”)
City Sidewalks, busy sidewalks
Lined with advertising
It's the big retail season of Christmas
Children begging for each new thing
Toys for mile after mile
And the mood of the season is clear

Buy and Sell (Buy and Sell)
Buy and Sell (Buy and Sell)
It's Christmas time for consumers
Ching-a-ching (Ching-a-ching)
Cash registers ring (Cash registers ring)
Must we spend Christmas this way?

Maxing credit, running debits
Buying things we don't need
With money we don't really have
Children crying, parents sighing
No time for family
And the reason behind it is clear

Buy and Sell (Buy and Sell)
Buy and Sell (Buy and Sell)
It's Christmas time for consumers
Ching-a-ching (Ching-a-ching)
Cash registers ring (Cash registers ring)
Must we spend Christmas this way?

Consumer Wonderland (to the tune of “Winter Wonderland”)
The TV's on / are you watching?
Another product / that they're hawking
One more thing you need
To make life complete
Welcome to Consumer Wonderland

In the stores / you will hear it
“Pricey gifts / show holiday spirit”
That's what they call it
To get to your wallet
Welcome to Consumer Wonderland

At the mall we can go out shopping
And buy lots of stuff we can't afford
We'll have lots of fun with our new toys
Until we realize that we're still bored

When you shop / ain't it thrilling?
Until / you get the billing
The money you still owe/ the stuff broke long ago
Welcome to Consumer Wonderland

"There was so much to read, for one thing, and so much fine health to be pulled down out of the young breathgiving air... I was rather literary in college—one year I wrote a series of very solemn and obvious editorials for the Yale News—and now I was going to bring back all such things into my life and become again that most limited of all specialists, the 'well-rounded man.' This isn't just an epigram— life is much more successfully looked at from a single window, after all." —F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby