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Publisher's Summary

A New York Times Editors' Choice

Named a Best Book of the Year by Time, NPR, InStyle, and Good Housekeeping

“A sensational new book [that] tries to figure out whether it's possible to live an ethical life in a capitalist society.... The results are enthralling.” (Associated Press)

A timely and arresting new look at affluence by the New York Times best-selling author.

"My adult life can be divided into two distinct parts," Eula Biss writes, "the time before I owned a washing machine and the time after." Having just purchased her first home, the poet and essayist now embarks on a provocative exploration of the value system she has bought into. Through a series of engaging exchanges - in libraries and laundromats, over barstools and backyard fences - she examines our assumptions about class and property and the ways we internalize the demands of capitalism. 

Described by the New York Times as a writer who “advances from all sides, like a chess player”, Biss offers an uncommonly immersive and deeply revealing new portrait of work and luxury, of accumulation and consumption, of the value of time and how we spend it. Ranging from IKEA to Beyoncé to Pokemon, Biss asks, of both herself and her class, “In what have we invested?” 

©2020 Eula Biss (P)2020 Penguin Audio

What listeners say about Having and Being Had

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Not Very Deep

The book feels like the banter college educated adults might have over a few drinks, sharing bits of insight, personal experience, and humor, but not deep research. There were occasional interesting anecdotes, but I don't expect most people who have thought about their own socioeconomic positions and sought out this book to learn very much. It is more about painting a picture of the author's feelings of privilege (the author refers to herself as an artist), rather than a deep dive into issues and solutions. That's not necessarily bad, but not what I was looking for and not what I expected before starting the book.

2 people found this helpful

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Sometimes Interesting

I was really excited to get this audiobook after hearing the author on an NPR interview. It sounded light a very insightful look at modern day capitalism. I was disappointed to find that at many times, I found myself being annoyed by the author’s seemingly constant complaining about her desires and obstacles she faces during her interactions with others. The flow seemed frequently scattered, and I would often feel lost amongst her stream of consciousness. Perhaps it was due to the performance of the narrator (which seemed repetitive in her delivery), but I could help feeling as if she was on a constant rant of privilege. That said, there were some good nuggets of information here and there, and some insights that allowed me to challenge my own thinking and lived experience. I guess I just expected many more of those moments.

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self-indulgent, snarky, entitled rant

I really tried to endure this audiobook until 2;22 to try to understand why it gets such accolades. I found it to be a self-indulgent rant by a privileged white woman and narrated in an equally-offensive tone. The author officially 'lost' me when she launched into the entitled rant about the 'Mexican woman' who knocked on her door asking if she would rent an apparently empty room in her house and the author's snarky retort 'I live here!' My entire book club agreed with my take on this book. Disappointing.

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Blather

Like listening to an actress reading the transcription of a month’s worth of a child’s dreams as if she were reading the Gettysburg Address.