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The Gift of Thanks: The Roots and Rituals of Gratitude Hardcover – November 19, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Like a modern Ruth Benedict immersed in classical literature, Visser (Much Depends on Dinner) examines what it really means, in the course of human interaction, to be thankful. Her kindly book turns on itself in an exhaustive but continually engrossing fashion. Beginning with the assumption that [g]ratitude must be freely given; otherwise, it might be a polite show, but it is not gratitude, Visser asks many questions of cultures East and West and provides a plethora of answers. The obscured and deeper meaning of giving thanks is probed through such divergent cultural markers as the work of Georg Simmel and Dickens; the Bible and Proust; Japanese sumimasen, which is both a thanking and an apologizing, and C.C. Baxter in Bill Wilder's The Apartment; Plato's Laws and Seneca's massive treatise on gift giving and the slipperiness of saying you're welcome in today's U.K. What is tipping all about? What is the etymological relationship between votive, vow, favors, grace and gratitude? What might the gestures of courtesy—the curtsy for example—be? Overall, this is a delightful and graceful gift of a book, for which any fortunate recipient will be thankful. (Nov. 19)
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About the Author

MARGARET VISSER is an award-winning author and essayist. Much Depends on Dinner was named one of the best books of the year by The New York Times. The Rituals of Dinner won the IACP Literary Food Writing Award and the Jane Grigson Award, and was named a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. Her most recent book, The Geometry of Love was a finalist for the Charles Taylor Prize. Margaret Visser taught classics at York University for 18 years and now devotes her time to research and writing. She lives in Toronto, Paris, and the south of France. Visit her online at www.margaretvisser.com
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (November 19, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0151013314
  • ISBN-13: 978-0151013319
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,214,971 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By SingleEyePhotos on March 31, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I enjoyed this book very much, and it really opened my eyes to what was 'behind' everyday expressions like "Thank you" or "Thanks". We use those words without even thinking about it, but according to the author, they are essential to the fabric of society. This was a very intellectual, yet approachable, look across time and cultures at the origins of the sentiment of gratitude, of appreciation, and of memory; and how important all those are in interpersonal and intersocietal relationships. I have to say I particularly liked the discussions about the sympolism and purpose of wrapping a gift, and how in Japan, people will say "I am sorry" where we would say "Thank you" - it really gives you a look inside your cultural norms.

This was a very long book - it took me almost a month to read, and normally I would just dive right into a book like this. However, I had to stop a couple times during that time and read something 'lighter'. Not because this was a difficult or hard-to-follow book - it was very accessible and well-written - but it was 'heavy' in the intellectual sense of the word. A lot of thought went into the writing, and I guess I was trying to show my gratitude to the author for her work and insights by giving what she has to say my full attention. (See! She corrupted me - I'm thinking in terms of 'The Gift'!!!)

Highly recommended for anyone who is interested in the sociological aspects of gratitude or gift-giving, or who just finds the concept intruiging. Be warned, this book requires work, but it's worth it! The Kindle edition has over 7000 locations, which probably translates to 400-500 pages in a paper edition.

Note on Kindle formatting: Very good. There were instances of two words being run together scattered throughout, but they were sporadic. Those were the only formatting errors I noticed and they did not impact reading.
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