We face dizzying displays of abundance in modern American life. Our stores are packed with plenty, and we're continually bombarded with ads that exploit our every desire. Does this excess ultimately affect our happiness? In new books, two authors explore this question and examine alternatives to the richly lived life.

Give It Up! My Year of Learning to Live Better with Less is Mary Carlomagno's diary of deprivation, of the intention to eliminate unnecessary facets of life. For one year, she eliminated one thing monthly: in January, alcohol; in February, shopping; in March, elevator rides. Over the year, newspapers, cell phones, restaurants, television, taxis, coffee, cursing, chocolate and multitasking all got tossed. Chronicling her reflections on doing without, Carlomagno discovered the richness of simplicity and an awareness and enjoyment of the things in life that I was blessed to have. Anyone resolving to live a less cluttered life this year will appreciate her wry, honest account of doing without some of the things we have come to regard as indispensable.

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