Thursday, May 19, 2011

Review: Encyclopedia of the Exquisite by Jessica Kerwin Jenkins

Synopsis:  From Goodreads, "Encyclopedia of the Exquisite is a lifestyle guide for the Francophile and the Anglomaniac, the gourmet and the style maven, the armchair traveler and the art lover. It’s an homage to the esoteric world of glamour that doesn’t require much spending but makes us feel rich.

Taking a cue from the exotic encyclopedias of the sixteenth century, which brimmed with mysterious artifacts, Jessica Kerwin Jenkins’s Encyclopedia of the Exquisite focuses on the elegant, the rare, the commonplace, and the delightful. A com­pendium of style, it merges whimsy and practicality, traipsing through the fine arts and the worlds of fashion, food, travel, home, garden, and beauty."

Review:  I couldn't help myself when I saw this pretty book sitting on the "New Arrivals" shelf at my local library.  When I flipped it open, it had the coolest entries about things like milk baths, the trapeze, the omelet, badminton, and more, all with their history and context.  The history isn't intense, but it is a nice overview of how things have evolved.  In a sense, it's a cultural encyclopedia of random facts that might pop up in a British or French novel.  For instance, the entry on red lipstick was great, and something I could see featured in a magazine.  I also thought the information on obelisks and their popularity around the world was pretty outside the realm of normal history books.  Although I wasn't 100% sure how the topics were selected for the encyclopedia, seeing as they were a quirky collection of random facts and information, they were all pretty interesting. This is one "informational" book that can be read like a novel, for its fun facts and details.  I definitely think this would make for a pretty interesting coffee table book!
Here is a fun snapshot of one of the entries on the trapeze:

Does anyone even still set out coffee table books?  Maybe that would make for a great entry in this encyclopedia?

*FTC Disclosure:  Review was based on a library copy of the book.


  1. This sounds fascinating. I know I'd love it, and yes I still put coffee table books on the coffee table and one shelf of the living room bookcase.

  2. This sounds like a intriguing book, although I have to be honest and say I'd probably never read it! Just flip through it once in a while.

    I don't think I own any coffee table books, unless you count the massive art books I've accumulated.