Book Club: Encyclopedia of the Exquisite

Did anyone I know shop at Borders? I didn’t, but when it was going out of business, I couldn’t help but stop by and check out what was remaining. I found this book, which was on a lot of end-of-year Christmas gift lists in 2010. It was pretty expensive, so I never bought it, but I couldn’t argue with picking it up for $5.

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Such a pretty little thing, isn’t it?

The idea behind the book is that it has little capsule entries of “exquisite” things, which sounds right up my alley. What, exactly, is exquisite, might you ask?

“Enthusiasm.” “Lipstick.” “Silence.” “Fanfare.” “Giochi d’Acqua.” “Gloves.” “String.” You get the idea. I like all those things and the writing is fun and clear, but I was bored to tears throughout.

I’ve got two gripes with this little volume.

First and foremost was the definition of “exquisite.” Can we discuss that for a second? Geishas, yes. Okay, geishas are exquisite. Is string? I don’t know that it is. This book, more than anything, felt like a small collection of things Jessica Kerwin Jenkins (a Vogue editor whose work I like!) found interesting and wanted to research for a few hours.

The other thing I don’t love about this book is how much it skips around. Okay, so I know there’s a disclaimer that this is an anecdotal book, but it’s just…so anecdotal. I don’t doubt that it’s all factual– indeed, it seems to be pretty thoroughly checked out– but my gosh! It skips around so much. I felt like I didn’t really learn anything about anything, and that even the entries that interested me most examined only a teeny facet of whatever it was that was fascinating. Tell me more about Catherine the Great’s love notes! I want to know more about ill-fated hot air balloon rides! I felt like I had to sit through some silly entries (string) and I didn’t get enough of the stuff I had really signed up for by reading this book. Overall, I couldn’t wait to be finished with this book so I could move on to my next thing. I feel like this would work out better as a blog (which it is, and it does!).

Did you read this? What did you think? Did I overpay?

Next week, I’ll be reading this. Please, please join me. I’m really excited to share this one with you.

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