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The Book of Human Emotions: From Ambiguphobia to Umpty -- 154 Words from Around the World for How We Feel

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  638 ratings  ·  79 reviews
A thoughtful, "gleeful "encyclopedia of emotions, both broad and outrageously specific, from throughout history and around the world.
How do you feel today? Is your heart fluttering in anticipation? Your stomach tight with nerves? Are you falling in love? Feeling a bit miffed? Do you have the heebie-jeebies? Are you antsy with iktsuarpok or filled with nakhes?
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ebook, 336 pages
Published June 7th 2016 by Little Brown and Company (first published September 17th 2015)
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Start your review of The Book of Human Emotions: From Ambiguphobia to Umpty -- 154 Words from Around the World for How We Feel
Emotions are funny things…some flit through us at the speed of light, barely registering on our face or consciousness, while others linger, hovering over us, coloring our perceptions of each new day. Descartes thought here were six basic emotions: wonder, love, hatred, desire, joy, and sadness, but most of us can name several more of which we have intimate knowledge.

There are emotions that we experience only once or twice in a lifetime and yet someone somewhere has probably identified and named
Lyn Elliott
Sep 13, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: psychology, 2016-best
Tiffany Watt smith asks a big question at the beginning of this book, 'what are emotions' then tackles a series of possible answers with a combination of learning and humour that is irresistible.
The Introduction explores the invention of emotions as a concept, browsing from ancient Greece, via the emergence of C17 empirical science to Charles Darwin (who claimed that our emotions were not fixed responses but the result of millions of years of evolutionary processes which were still ongoing), to
Andrew Howdle
Mar 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A book that does what it says, offers an encyclopaedia of human emotions, and one that balances intelligence with readability. Watt Smith is very good at teasing open linked emotions and showing their subtle differences. She also uses her choice of entries to highlight cultural attitudes to emotions. The book has many poetic moments that lead a reader to go, "Oh, yes, I see that exactly." A book to be read and re-read, like an encyclopaedia, but with an eye on something not quite grasped before. ...more
Dead John Williams
Sep 09, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
I really enjoyed this book but it takes some reading. It opens with a chapter about the history of modern emotions which was completely gripping. But then after that it is simply an alphabetical list of emotions. The first chapter gives context to what you are reading but the alphabetical index doesn’t which is what made is so jarring to plod through.

But having said that I did plod through and found much to ponder over therein.

I have long known that other languages had emotions that in English w
Peter Aspin
Dec 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Usually I'm one to devour a book as quickly as I fall in love with it. This however had me spending days on single pages enjoying the reflection of my own emotional life. Loved it! ...more
Nov 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
Toska. That is why I LOVE the Russians.
Mar 28, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
"Anticipation is a tiny theft of pleasure. A reckless spending of delights not yet owned."

"In France, the feeling of being an outsider is known as depaysement. Sometimes it is frustrsting, leaving us feeling unsettled and out of place. And then, just sometimes, it swirls up into a kind of giddiness, only ever felt when far away from home. When the unlikeliest of adventures seem possible. And the world becomes new again."

"Dolce far niente means the pleasure of doing nothing."

"Kaukokaipuu. Sometim
Annabel Daly
A delicious romp across the rainbow of emotions. Makes me excited to be a human, feeling, all the good, bad, and in between. This is a keeper.
Richard Wu
Die Grenzen meiner Sprache bedeuten die Grenzen meiner Welt.
This astonishing revelation could only have sprung—in the same way Athena sprung from Zeus—from the mind of one truly insane German man, insane because no one sane has any hope of approaching this close to reality, and German because, let’s face it, it’s obviously in German. With its trusty sidekick the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, this statement proves more or less that one who has control of language can control his very experience of
Aug 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very enjoyable read—to be savoured bit by bit, preferably over long evenings with tea and biscuits. A collection of essays, somewhere between history, psychology, and linguistics (hence, totally untranslatable) describing an extensive collection of human emotions.

Starting with Indian "abhiman" and ending with Polish "żal" it gives emotional and cultural context to those many little feelings we have, but not always know how to name.
A.M. Steiner
Jan 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A beautifully written and thought provoking examination of the history of human emotions, told in dictionary form. The book delivers a fascinating insight into the way in which society's views on the relative importance, merits and appropriate displays of feelings which we might consider immutable have changed radically over time. ...more
"All sentiment is right, because sentiment refers to nothing beyond itself and it is always real, whenever a man is conscious of it." - David Hume about being ghosted by people we barely even knew, probably. ...more
Jessica Welman
Oct 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a fascinating experience, learning to understand your emotions in a historical and cultural contet. An invaluable read for anyone aiming to be more self-aware.
Fascinating (and useful for writers of fiction).
Mar 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
How does one capture the complexity of the human emotion in a short story? This led me to pick up this book. Using stories that are historical, cultural or modern, the author managed to capture the essence of a feeling in a compelling way.
Jun 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Rich and enriching, dreamy, wonderful.
Jan 29, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Yaaresse by: Goodreads
Update: I had some busy work to do, so decided to give this another chance on audio since that's the only format my library offered. Manged to get through it. And by "manage," I'm commenting more on my tolerance for audio than on the quality of the content or narrator. Both content and reader were very good. In fact, the excellence of the reader is probably why I got all the way through the audiobook. She's pretty damn spectacular, especially when she's beautifully coasting through phrases in Ge ...more
Knife Cat
Jul 02, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Made for an excellent self-help book, despite resisting being categorised as such. It's more like a lengthy research essay on the history of emotions. I happened to start on this book right when I needed a nudge to examine my own emotions more closely, and it was an entertaining read (admittedly, I mostly mean to say that it was a good distraction from brooding); educational and threaded through with the author's wry sense of humour. The liberal referencing to pop culture helped, creating more a ...more
Cheryl Lassiter
Jan 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Engaging and fun reference book for writers who need to better understand the emotional behavior of their characters, or to find interesting emotions to assign to them. Also a nice intro to the field of emotionology and psychology, and the author fills up her pages with brief histories of how and when particular emotions entered into various cultures. S0me emotions are more ancient than others, and some no longer exist (acedia, for example). I rated it a 4 because I felt that she came up short o ...more
Feb 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
It was the intersection of everything I find fascinating: psychology, moods, etymology, culture, philosophy, science-history, language, and well-written sentences. Each word/section felt like the right length with the right depth and often with the oddest little tidbits of knowledge that made it clear the depth of research done for this book.

While I learned a lot about emotions and their origins, I was also thrilled to plump up my general vocabulary because of the, I guess, higher level of word
Jun 28, 2016 rated it liked it
Thoughtfully collected, with a lovely writing style, and a fresh approach to an important topic.
As with any collection of terms, there is no broad narrative to carry the reader through, but it is certainly more than the sum of its parts.
Each word/ phrase/ chapter is an easy dive into emotion across time and language and place and culture.
I expect the moments this book hits home and to what extent will depend on the individual reader.
In his recent book, David Johnston talks about the electric for
Apr 21, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016, own, non-fiction
So many words I didn't know existed and I can finally put a term to those many fangirling feelings or different types of impulses I feel. Certainly a great impulsive purchase. Might come in handy sometime later on in my life if I do literature translations...or not. ...more
Dec 03, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's interesting. I liked reading about the emotions from other countries we don't have names for. You don't realise people celebrate different emotions in different ways. ...more
Sep 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an excellent book. It is written by a human on humans for humans, and it is just an experience of its own to read. You are induced in this systemic introspection and memory dive, feeling echoes of whatever emotion is being described.
I find it so amazing that I could really understand and remember feeling everything described, in at lest some shade, which probably means something both about how humans experience largely the same emotions and how we can therefore communicate about them in
Jenny Gaitskell
May 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I bought this book from a display chosen to reflect Van Gogh's interests. He said 'Reading books is like looking at paintings, one must find that which is beautiful.'

Tiffany Watt Smith defines more than 150 distinct emotions with great delight. She also explains their cultural contexts and shifts in meaning over time. It seems there are emotions we'd be ashamed to admit now which were once quite acceptable. The book has a wonderful mix of intriguing facts, storytelling, word-play and jokes. The
Mar 22, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
This was surprisingly interesting and entertaining. We get mini-essays on emotions, very basic ones like love and hate and more obscure ones like "vergüenza ajena", which apparently means the same as "fremdschämen" in German. And what fascinated me most is that given an explanation you can sort of understand what an unknown emotion means but what one understands is that the fact that there is a word for it in a language like "mono no aware" (a sigh for the impermanence of life) also means that t ...more
Paul  Hankins
Jan 01, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ever felt "iktsuarpok (eet-so-ahr-poch)?" I know that I have but I just didn't know what to call it at the time. I found this book while looking at a recent TED talk by the author. I'm always looking for a book that might serve as an anchor text for a student inquiry project. This spring, I have a student doing a project about "emotional quotient." The emotions are presented in the "encyclopedia" mode as suggested by the title. On a personal reading note, I like reading about word origins so thi ...more
Michael Reffold
Oct 23, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really enjoyable and illuminating history of how we think about our feelings - both in America/Britain and further afield. A fascinating mixture of psychology, linguistics and history written in a very accessible and witty way. One star deducted as it was a little repetitive in places (because it's designed so you can dip in and out of it and read the entries in any order) and some parts were more interesting than others. But liked it a lot and will seek out similar non-fiction reads in future! ...more
Robert Day
Lots of thought food here for those who want to know more about their emotions.

Each emotion is supported by a little potted history and some fun facts.. Chock full of jokes. Easy to read in some places (the little stories) and excruciatingly difficult in other parts (the bits where I fell asleep).

Best parts for me are where the author speculates on the future of an emotion or delves into the deeper psychological and sociological implications of changes in attitude towards an emotion.

Worse parts
Colt Bradley
Oct 29, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a fascinating book. Being able to name so many increments of emotions is powerful, because it allows one to express how they are feeling so much more accurately. Additionally, seeing how the view of different emotions has changed over time is very telling. "Sadness" didn't always have the same negative connotation as it does today, and many more examples of how emotions have changed overtime. Overall, worth a read. ...more
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Dr. Tiffany Watt Smith is a cultural historian and author of The Book of Human Emotions. In 2014, she was named a BBC New Generation Thinker, and her TED talk The History of Emotions has over 1.5 million views. She is currently a Wellcome Trust research fellow at the Centre for the History of the Emotions at Queen Mary University of London. In her previous career, she was a theater director.

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