Secondhand: Travels in the New Global Garage Sale (Paperback)

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Staff Reviews

If you’ve ever felt conflicted about dropping off yet another load of old clothes at Goodwill, wondering if you’re just adding another stop before they end up in a landfill, this book is for you. Adam Minter’s investigation into all things sold secondhand is fascinating and energizing. He meets with people in the industry all over the world, from managers at giant thrift stores to consignment furniture buyers with niche markets to clean-out crews who endeavor to rehome items let go by downsizing seniors. If you stick with this book (not a difficult thing to do; Minter’s voice is funny and compelling), you’ll be rewarded with a renewed hope for the future of reuse. 

— From Alyson

Winter 2020 Reading Group Indie Next List

“Have you ever wondered what happens to all those items you’ve donated? You might be shocked to know that only a fraction ever makes it to thrift store shelves; instead, the majority goes to the landfill or is exported to other countries to be reused or recycled in ways you’ve never imagined. Secondhand is a fascinating, informative look into the afterlife of discarded items and the ecological impact created by our obsessive consumerism.”
— Adrian Newell, Warwick's, La Jolla, CA


From the author of Junkyard Planet, "an anthem to decluttering, recycling, making better quality goods and living a simpler life with less stuff." -Associated Press

Downsizing. Decluttering. Discarding. Sooner or later, all of us are faced with things we no longer need or want. But when we drop our old clothes and other items off at a local donation center, where do they go? Sometimes across the country-or even halfway across the world-to people and places who find value in what we leave behind.

In Secondhand, journalist Adam Minter takes us on an unexpected adventure into the often-hidden, multibillion-dollar industry of reuse: thrift stores in the American Southwest to vintage shops in Tokyo, flea markets in Southeast Asia to used-goods enterprises in Ghana, and more. Along the way, Minter meets the fascinating people who handle-and profit from-our rising tide of discarded stuff, and asks a pressing question: In a world that craves shiny and new, is there room for it all?

Secondhand offers hopeful answers and hard truths. A history of the stuff we've used and a contemplation of why we keep buying more, it also reveals the marketing practices, design failures, and racial prejudices that push used items into landfills instead of new homes. Secondhand shows us that it doesn't have to be this way, and what really needs to change to build a sustainable future free of excess stuff.

"Minter is a superb storyteller . . . [Secondhand is] a book I'd recommend buying now instead of waiting for it to show up at your local thrift store."-NPR

"Revelatory, terrifying, but, ultimately, hopeful." -Elizabeth Kolbert, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of THE SIXTH EXTINCTION

About the Author

Adam Minter grew up in a family of scrap dealers in Minneapolis. He became a professional journalist and now serves as the Shanghai correspondent for Bloomberg World View, in addition to making regular contributions to the Atlantic, Foreign Policy, and other publications. He now lives in Shanghai and blogs at Junkyard Planet is his first book.

Praise For…

“Gripping . . . 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 . . . It's a book I'd recommend buying now instead of waiting for it to show up at your local thrift store.” —NPR

“An anthem to decluttering, recycling, making better quality goods and living a simpler life with less stuff.” —Associated Press

“A sprawling, insightful travelogue through the world of repair, reuse and waste.” —Nature

Secondhand 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.” —New York Journal of Books

“In an accessible and engaging style, Secondhand unravels the complexities of a vast yet mostly hidden and often secretive enterprise of used clothes and goods . . . 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.” —Shelf Awareness

“This is a fascinating, eye-opening look at a dynamic, largely unseen world that only starts when one drops off something at a thrift store.” —Publishers Weekly

“Engaging . . . well-written and packed with intriguing details, this is a great look at a global industry to which virtually all of us contribute.” —Library Journal

“In Minter's capable hands, [this] topic comes alive…Minter designs a workable path forward to combat the glut of stuff.” —Booklist

“Minter's travels through the afterlife of stuff are revelatory, terrifying, but, ultimately, hopeful. 'Secondhand' helps us to see a world of possibility in the objects we discard.” —Elizabeth Kolbert, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Sixth Extinction

“A well balanced blend of practical data, real-life experiences, colourful character descriptions and amusing anecdotes. An interesting read for people inside as well as outside the recycling industry.” —Recycling International

“Minter tells stories and offers insight suffused with legitimacy, pragmatism, and optimism.” —Science

“Minter's approach manages to be both detail-orientated and a page-turner.” —Foreign Policy

“An epic journey across continents to untangle the used-goods market. Minter reports his findings in a readable style laced with anecdotes and statistics…Minter's greatest contribution is his balanced look at the economies of India, Ghana and other countries that have figured out that most things can have a second consumer life, if only we let them.” —The Providence Journal

“[Minter's] new book moves up a step in the classic environmental hierarchy of 'Reduce, Reuse, Recycle,' to see what becomes of our stuff once we let go of it.” —Sierra

Product Details
ISBN: 9781635570113
ISBN-10: 1635570115
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
Publication Date: January 19th, 2021
Pages: 320
Language: English