Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The History of Beauty

edited by Umberto Eco

With short chapters and a wealth of captioned illustrations, this book is much less academic than it could be and is therefore open to a wider audience. It's still rather cerebral stuff, though, despite its unsurprising preoccupation with art and artifice, so it's not quite casual reading purely for pleasure. If the book were smaller and less heavy, I'd say it would make a good toilet book; instead, it's probably a good waiting room or coffee table book. Reading straight through isn't necessary, but going that route (as I did) could be very rewarding. While the book tells a coherent and linear story about the idea and ideals of beauty, it is a history of Western aesthetics constructed from from fragments and vignettes. A good book for someone interested in art, philosophy, and/or history, and for those looking to stock their trivia arsenals.

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