The Ugly History of Beautiful Things: Essays on Desire and Consumption

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Product Details
$27.99  $26.03
Simon & Schuster
Publish Date
6.33 X 9.29 X 0.93 inches | 0.91 pounds

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About the Author
Katy Kelleher is an art, design, nature, and science writer living in the woods of Maine. Her work has appeared in the pages of the New York Times, The Guardian, American Scholar, and Town & Country. She's written online for Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, Jezebel, and others. She's a frequent contributor to The Paris Review and spent several years writing a popular column on color, Hue's Hue. Her essays have been anthologized in both Best American Food Writing and Best American Science and Nature Writing.
"Rigorous and is sumptuous text, full of delicious facts and sharp meditations."--Washington Post

"The Ugly History of Beautiful Things is an installment in the vanishingly rare and valuable genre of decidedly non-self-help books that nonetheless contain truly helpful ideas about how to live."--The Atlantic

"[Kelleher] has a knack for nimbly threading together her own memories and tastes with the histories of the objects themselves"--New York Times Book Review

"A lovely book... the major pleasure in reading it is anticipating Kelleher's next turns. Kelleher writes patiently, painstakingly, with a sense of unfurling not unlike the meticulous act of plucking petals, one by one, to discover what lies underneath."--Star Tribune

"Deeply fascinating essays...Kelleher's message is ultimately a hopeful one: There is plenty of pleasure to be had by honing your eye to see an object of beauty instead of rushing to own it." --Curbed

"Stunning in its book's end, I got the sense that I'd spent 10 chapters with someone who experiences life so fully and with such agony that even shiny ornaments have the power to bewitch and undo her." --Jezebel

"[Kelleher's] extensive research and magical prose make the book almost impossible to put down." --Maine Home + Design

"There are writers you want to read on every subject, because they are able to whip up such stylish, intricate, and sparkling prose that they elevate every paragraph to an event. Katy Kelleher is such a writer - her sentences are as beautiful as the diamonds and marble surfaces she writes about, but contain far more depth. Her research shines through every page of this book without ever weighing it down. Kelleher has pulled off a magic trick: she has written a book that is both sumptuous and airy, rich and gossamer. I inhaled it." --Rachel Syme, Staff Writer, The New Yorker

"A lovely book. Kelleher's voice is curious and full of insight into the often dark histories of the things we call beautiful. By the end of this book, you'll want to go pick some flowers and listen to the ocean out of a conch shell, empowered by the knowledge of where that desire comes from." --Rax King, Author of Tacky and co-host of the podcast Low Culture Boil

"Fascinating and richly researched. You'll never smell a rose or stroke a silk blouse quite the same way again - even if, like Kelleher, you can't stop loving them." --Alexandra Lange, author of Meet Me By the Fountain

"Katy Kelleher's The Ugly History of Beautiful Things is an astonishing accomplishment--for its insight, its honesty, and its willingness to ask difficult questions and probe the darkest corners of human nature for the answers. Without judgment or preciousness, Kelleher takes us on a journey into the complexity, power, necessity, and aliveness of beauty. This book's strengths are many, but above all, it is Kelleher's restless, thrilling curiosity itself--which she turns inward as much as outward--that will stay with readers long after they turn the last page." --Chloé Cooper Jones, author of Easy Beauty

"Fascinating, compelling, and at times unnerving-Kelleher's deep dive into the nature of beauty and the material reality that lurks beneath its surface lingers in your mind long after you've put it down."--Colin Dickey, author of Ghostland

"Kelleher has always been obsessed with beauty, and this poetic book is a careful study of its ambiguity and meaning." --Kirkus Reviews

"Kelleher's engrossing essays cogently explore the unsettling dichotomy between the precious and the problematic, the seedy and the sublime to vividly reveal the pleasures and perils in pursuit of ideal beauty. --Booklist (starred review)

"Kelleher eloquently interrogates the allure of luxury items even as she remains clear-eyed about the damaging social expectations that drive their value...The author's perceptive analysis and self-reflection raise intriguing questions about consumerism, aesthetics, and gendered understandings of beauty. The result is a thoughtful offering as precious as the goods studied."--Publishers Weekly