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A Brief History of the Smile
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A Brief History of the Smile

3.08  ·  Rating Details  ·  72 Ratings  ·  15 Reviews
Every smile is the product of physical processes common to all humans. But since the dawn of civilization, the upward movement of the muscles of the face has carried a bewildering range of meanings. Supreme enlightenment is reflected in the holy smile of the Buddha, yet the Victorians thought of open-mouthed smiling as obscene, and nineteenth-century English and American s ...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published February 2nd 2005 by Basic Books (first published January 7th 2004)
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(showing 1-30 of 247)
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Paige
Sep 17, 2012 Paige rated it it was ok
If you're on the fence about this one, I'd skip it. Nothing earth-shattering here. For me, there was a little too much emphasis on art history. Art is great and art history is interesting, but I was under the impression I'd be reading a book about the history of the SMILE, not some tunnel-vision description of paintings. This guy is really focused on Western European art, and to a few very specific countries at that. Ancient Greece is cool, but it's not the only place that existed--in fact (and ...more
Corey
May 02, 2007 Corey rated it liked it
This book was a bit of a surprise. While I began with few assumptions about the book, after reading the introduction, I think I expected something a little bit more along the art historical line. Despite the very art historical introduction, the book ended up delving into all kinds of random areas of interest. While the book is definitely a valuable source of random knowledge vaguely pertaining to smiling, there were times when I got the feeling the author wasn't quite the expert he was portrayi ...more
Lavinia Petrache
Nov 24, 2015 Lavinia Petrache rated it it was ok
Shelves: history
I really wasn't interested to know that the cranial nerve number 7 is the one responsible for the smiling muscles. Other than that, there were some some fun facts quite interesting: about Orlan, Mona Lisa, Italian renaissance paintings, Dutch paintings of the xvith century and hen groping boys (yes, really, the most exciting part of the book, I swear).

Unfortunately everything lacked structure and it seemed presented in a somewhat chaotic mess. The author goes from art to dentists to religion to
...more
lavinia
Jan 31, 2013 lavinia rated it it was ok
Shelves: history
I really wasn't interested to know that the cranial nerve number 7 is the one responsible for the smiling muscles. Other than that, there were some some fun facts quite interesting: about Orlan, Mona Lisa, Italian renaissance paintings, Dutch paintings of the xvith century and hen groping boys (yes, really, the most exciting part of the book, I swear).

Unfortunately everything lacked structure and it seemed presented in a somewhat chaotic mess. The author goes from art to dentists to religion to
...more
Otto
Sep 05, 2014 Otto added it
Fun read; well researched and contrary to the views of Mary Beard, who cited it in her book on Roman Humor
Joanne
Aug 23, 2013 Joanne rated it liked it
While the chapters had some interesting points, their contents didn't always match the title - for example the conclusion-happiness- was about the smiles they create on corpses...? The majority of examples of smiles are taken from art, not behavioural examples or biology etc. as suggested by the blurb. Overall the book doesn't coincide with the title, nor am I convinced the author knows what he is talking about, being an art historian not a scientist.
I would recommend this book for general inte
...more
kathy
Jun 21, 2007 kathy rated it it was ok
Bleh. One of the interdisciplinary books that are so popular today. This one was full of fancy scientific terms and latin vocabulary. It read like a poem that I read for rhythm and enjoyment, rather than a novel I can remember anything substantive out of. I've only read the first two pages of "Crying: A Natural and Cultural History of Tears" and it's already a bigger hit than "Smile."
Jessica Draper
Oct 06, 2009 Jessica Draper rated it liked it
A rather more art-intensive than expected but informative and well-written review of what smiling has meant through various ages, with digressions into the musculature of smiling, a dash of the psychological research into smiles (babies--are they manipulative little critters or just happy?), and a cavalcade of amusing sidelights on English/European culture. A quick & easy read.
Lindsey
Jan 26, 2016 Lindsey rated it it was ok
Shelves: book-on-book
Fascinating, love the art history tie ins. May not have been in the mood to read this type of book or the fact I never got a good interrupted stretch to read. It never absorbed me fully. I would much rather have attended a lecture on the topic then read the book. I may try something else by this author but it is highly unlikely.
Emily
Oct 08, 2015 Emily rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction, history
Some interesting history but overall conjecture and speculation based on a lot of looking at portraits (as far as I can tell). Some loose tying in of the evolution of languages to how smiles/laughter/expression was immortalized in art but it seems like a stretch to present the vast speculation as truth.
dejah_thoris
Aug 29, 2013 dejah_thoris rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, history
A very thorough history of the smile with an emphasis on its representation in visual art. The chapter on lewdness was my favorite because it features 17th Century naughty Dutch memes and the great Celtic goddess the sheela.
Liz
Dec 08, 2014 Liz added it
Shelves: attempted
7/14/13 - I have to put this one back on the shelf. I got caught up in some other books and haven't looked at it in over 3 weeks.
Sue Lipton
Jun 16, 2013 Sue Lipton rated it liked it
That was fun; would have enjoyed more illustrations.
Leli
Jan 10, 2011 Leli marked it as to-read
wishlist. someday...:D
Huishu Jia
Oct 24, 2012 Huishu Jia is currently reading it
smile
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