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Souvenir (Object Lessons)

New or Used: 5 copies from $24.99
New or Used: 5 copies from $24.99

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Table of Contents

Preface 1: Introduction: An Embarrassment of Eiffel Towers 2: Souvenirs in the Age of Pilgrimage 3: Souvenirs in the Age of Enlightenment Interlude: Museums of the Personal 4: Souvenirs in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction 5: Souvenirs and Human Suffering 6: Souvenirs and (the Complicated Notion of) Authenticity 7: Souvenirs, Memory, and the Shortness of Life Notes Index

Promotional Information

Drawing on a mix of historical, philosophical, and personal inquiry, Souvenir explores how we use mementos of travel to structure our memories and give meaning to our place in the world.

About the Author

Rolf Potts is the author of Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel (2003), which has sold more than 150,000 copies and has been translated into five languages. His other publications include Marco Polo Didn't Go There: Stories and Revelations From One Decade as a Postmodern Travel Writer (2008), which won the Chatwin Prize for international travel writing in 2009, and The Geto Boys (33 1/3 series, Bloomsbury, 2016). Potts has reported from more than 60 countries worldwide, for the likes of The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The Believer, the New York Times Magazine,,, National Geographic Traveler, Sports Illustrated, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and The Guardian.


Souvenir, a sweet new book by Rolf Potts, is a little gem (easily tucked into a jacket pocket) filled with big insights ... Souvenir explores our passions for such possessions and why we are compelled to transport items from one spot to another ... Souvenir's introduction, titled "An Embarrassment of Eiffel Towers," is a delight to ponder. * Forbes *
Potts guides readers through a philosophical, anthropological, and historical study of the objects we collect. Why do we buy souvenirs? What historical roots ground this ritual? Is one way of collecting souvenirs better than others? Potts shares stories behind his personal souvenirs, showing that uniquely personal emotions imbue our collected objects with meaning. Collecting souvenirs has been a way to mythologize his life, to externalize memories in a narrative form and maintain recollection of distant worlds. * The Rumpus *
Few of us would call ourselves collectors, but most travelers have, at some point or other, bought a keychain, pocketed a seashell, or saved a ticket stub from a vacation. Turns out, as Mr. Potts notes in a new little book called Souvenir, there's more to this seemingly simple (perhaps frivolous to some) practice than meets the eye ... Souvenir offers ideas about what may be in play when we seek mementos ... In the end, Souvenir suggests that the meaning of a keepsake is not fixed (its importance to the owner can change over time) and that its significance is bound up in the traveler's identity. * The New York Times *
This book takes a deep, thorough interest in the kitschy keychains you casually picked up at the airport, or the seashell you tucked in your pocket during a walk on the beach, or the carefully chosen scarf you found for your mother-in-law while shopping in Paris ... It is a fascinating journey that covers a lot of ground, and the author muses upon it with an engaging and charming curiosity. Readers of this little treatise will never look at souvenirs the same way again. Five stars. * San Francisco Book Review *
Rolf Potts writes with the soul of an explorer and a scholar's love of research. Much like the objects that we bestow with meaning, this book carries a rich, lingering resonance. A gem. * Andrew McCarthy, actor, director and author of The Longest Way Home (2013) *
In this slender but engrossing study of the phenomenology of souvenirs, Rolf Potts pinpoints the strange duality of travel, for where you 'go' is rarely identical to where you go. After reading it, I'll never be able to look at a Statue of Liberty key chain, Grand Canyon postcard, or Eiffel Tower ashtray in quite the same way again. If you love to travel, this book is essential. * Tom Bissell, journalist and author of Apostle: Travels Among the Tombs of the Twelve (2016) *
This book is a journey through time, a history lesson and a look into the human psyche all in one. An educational book from a series, for anyone looking to learn a little about everyday objects in our lives and their significances to us. * This Girl Reads Blog *
Potts takes us on a meditative sojourn across several millennia as he describes the evolution of travel from the early nomadic migrations to religious pilgrimages to modern tourism ... With a natural fluency, Potts also weaves in personal stories and epiphanic moments related to his own souvenir hunting and gathering during his many, varied quests around the globe. Through it all, he shows us how, far from the superficial and mindless consumerism it may seem, the souvenir ritual is closely connected to our core sense of self even as the souvenir itself is no longer as fully rooted in its actual place. 8 stars. * PopMatters *
A treasure trove of ... fascinating deep dives into the history of travel keepsakes ... Potts walks us through the origins of some of the most popular vacation memorabilia, including postcards and the still confoundedly ubiquitous souvenir spoons. He also examines the history of the more somber side of mementos, those depicting crimes and tragedies. Overall, the book, as do souvenirs themselves, speaks to the broader issues of time, memory, adventure, and nostalgia. * The Boston Globe *

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