Crap. We all have it. Filling drawers. Overflowing bins and baskets. Proudly displayed or stuffed in boxes in basements and garages. Big and small. Metal, fabric, and a whole lot of plastic. So much crap. Abundant cheap stuff is about as American as it gets. And it offers unique insights into ourselves--our values and our desires.

In Crap: A History of Cheap Stuff in America, Wendy A. Woloson takes seriously the history of objects that are often cynically-made and easy to dismiss: things not made to last; things we don't really need; things we often don't even really want. Woloson does not mock these ordinary, everyday possessions but seeks to understand them as a way to understand aspects of ourselves, socially, culturally, and economically: Why do we--as individuals and as a culture--possess these things? Where do they come from? Why do we want them? And what is the true cost of owning them?

Taking on the full brilliant and depressing array of crappy material goods, the book explores the overlooked corners of the American market and mindset, revealing the complexity of our relationship with commodity culture over time. In her study of crap, Woloson shows us a new way to truly understand ourselves, our national character, and our collective psyche. For all its problems, and despite its disposability, our crap is us.

416 pages. Hardcover.

About the Author

Wendy A. Woloson is associate professor of history at Rutgers University-Camden and the author, most recently, of In Hock: Pawning in America from Independence through the Great Depression, also published by the University of Chicago Press, and coeditor of the collection Capitalism by Gaslight: Illuminating the Economy of 19th-Century America.