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(Object Lessons)

really liked it 4.00  ·  Rating details ·  70 ratings  ·  32 reviews
Object Lessons is a series of short, beautifully designed books about the hidden lives of ordinary things.

For as long as people have traveled to distant lands, they have brought home objects to certify the journey. More than mere merchandise, these travel souvenirs take on a personal and cultural meaning that goes beyond the object itself. Drawing on several millennia of e
Paperback, 144 pages
Published March 8th 2018 by Bloomsbury Academic
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really liked it 4.00  · 
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 ·  70 ratings  ·  32 reviews

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If you've never read any of the Object Lessons series from Bloomsbury Publishing, you may not understand the wonderfulness of this book. Every book examines the history and cultural significance of an ubiquitous, everyday item in 100-ish pages. Every once in a while you'll read one that will answer the exact questions that have been perplexing you about that item. For me, Souvenir was that book.

Souvenirs have been on my mind lately. Cleaning out the belongings of a deceased loved one will make
Dec 05, 2017 rated it liked it
It’s a nice idea to write a history of souvenir collecting as it’s a reasonably interesting subject. Unfortunately, however, I didn’t feel there was much originality in this short essay and didn’t learn much that was new to me. Although there are occasional attempts at humour, and clearly the author has researched the subject quite well, there wasn’t enough to lift this from average to good.

With thanks to Bloomsbury Academic and NetGalley for a review copy.
Jun 20, 2018 rated it liked it
I read Rolf Potts' Souvenir whilst on holiday, as it seemed a fitting tome to absorb whilst travelling. I have enjoyed the couple of books from the Object Lessons collection which I have read thus far, and I was quite looking forward to this one.

In a way, Potts' essay is a souvenir guidebook of sorts, not a rundown of which items to collect, or where to get them from; rather, it is an exploration of why we seek out such objects as mementoes when we travel, what they have represented to travelle
Nov 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
If you're reading this at home, stop and look around you. Chances are your eyes will light on a souvenir. Perhaps it's a feather collected on a walk through a local park or perhaps something more exotic like a mask bought on a trip to India. Perhaps it's an 'authentic' cultural item such as a Haida totem pole key chain that was actually made in China. What do the items we collect as souvenirs say about us and about human nature?

Souvenir by Rolf Potts is part of the "Object Lessons" series which
Sep 17, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Definitely one of the more interesting and successful volumes in the Object Lessons series. It explores the history, significance and universality of collecting souvenirs on our travels - it appears that as far back as the pilgrimages travellers have always felt the need to take something tangible back home with them. In fact that’s how the first museums began – with people collecting and bringing home mementos of their travels and putting them in cabinets of curiosities to show to their family ...more
Karen Germain
Mar 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Thank you to Bloomsbury Academic for providing me with an advance copy of Rolf Potts' book, Object Lessons: Souvenir, in exchange for an honest review.

PLOT- Object Lessons is a short non-fiction book series, where different authors explore the history and meaning of ordinary objects. In this installment, Rolf Potts explores souvenirs.

LIKE- This is my second book in the Object Lessons series. Last week, I read Susan Harlan's Luggage. Perhaps it was the subject manner, but I was much more engaged
Ryan Fohl
Jan 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A thought provoking great read with a good structure and lots of fun facts. Charming personal, but universal in its message. I read this while on vacation. I bought more souvenirs than I usually would, but I was more conscious about making the buying process more memorable. Each one has a personal story, and could remind me of our anniversary trip to Lisbon. Contains a very interesting look at "authenticity."

What I learned: All about Omiyage, and now I need to know what the most common or expec
John Plowright
Mar 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
‘Souvenir’ by Rolf Potts reflects on why we seek out these physical remembrances of our travels, and what this act of collection can tell us at both a social and personal level.

The author’s own souvenir collecting is set within the context of a history of the practice which includes the trade in religious relics; the creation of cabinets of curiosities; the Grand Tour; the endowment of public museums; and the gradual displacement of “artifacts, found objects, or place-specific keepsakes created
Jan 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Souvenir by Rolf Potts is a history of what people collect to remember their travels. Potts has reported from more than sixty countries for the likes of National Geographic Traveler, the New York Times Magazine,, Conde Nast Traveler, Outside, The Believer, The Guardian (U.K.), National Public Radio, and the Travel Channel.

Bloomsbury’s look at common objects focuses on souvenirs in this edition. Starting at a shop that specializes in Eiffel Tower souvenirs and moves to the history the t
Diane Hernandez
Jan 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
Everyone has at least one souvenir sitting on a shelf or hanging on a wall. Why do we buy them? What do they represent? How did the practice start? All these questions and more are answered in this cute little information-packed book.

There are three types of souvenirs discussed in Souvenir: physical fragments, local products, and pictorial images (i.e., postcards, t-shirts, keychains, shot glasses and tiny Eiffel towers). Beginning with Christian pilgrims taking a bit of the dirt where Christ wa
Emi Bevacqua
Dec 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Souvenir by Rolf Potts reads like a quick history of travel, not laugh out loud funny like Bill Bryson, but engrossing, academic and edifying the way he is. Potts writes non-fiction with heart, like Oliver Sacks. I had no idea the subject of souvenirs was so rich in drama, scope and horror. This book covers so much of the world, and includes great turns of phrase like "a pompous display of conspicuous piety," "The Dire Souvenir Mania" (a newspaper editorial heading), and "staged authenticity". I ...more
Apr 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ebook, non-fiction, travel
“In French, the word souvenir is commonly used as a verb, and means ‘to get back to myself,’ or ‘to remember.’ People have brought home travel mementos since 2200BC when an Egyptian prince brought back leopard skins and elephant tusks to present to the pharaoh. Potts writes a lovely ‘little book/ essay/ musings’ on souvenirs, both entertaining and informative.

‘Piece of the rock’ souvenirs are physical fragments of the destination. Potts tells a humorous story about pilgrims taking ‘Jesus touch
Luke Campbell
Dec 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Rolf Potts, in this short book, tells historically and psychologically about our infatuations with souvenirs. He shows how we all seem to succumb at one point or another to wanting a souvenir, no matter how famous (such as Thomas Jefferson) or common (the reader). He talks of his own souvenirs as a travel writer and which ones mean the most to him. He tells about the different types of souvenirs and how, historically, the idea of souvenirs has changed cities and towns (usually by destroying the ...more
Evan Leigh Warren
May 05, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Of Trinkets and Talismans

A vivid account of travel experiences that produce a personal museum of objects which allow our memories of far away places to remain omnipresent.

I just saw London for the first-time. I bought a mini Mini Cooper whose window box has the Harrods department store logo on it.

Rolf Potts described why we collect souvenirs so effectively that I realized how different cultures affect our choices of treasured objects.

I did seek out the portable. In the end I ran into a
gift sh
May 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
A tiny read (pretty much of the size of a souvenir) on travel souvenirs in a broad sense of the word. A lovely mix of authors personal experience and more extensive research; a good starting point for those specifically interested in compulsive documentation of an experience or a commodification of culture; but most importantly, it's a book for everyone who travels, buys a magnet or a postcard or takes a snapshot of oneself in front of a famous building – we all do it, and this book puts these h ...more
Margaret Sankey
Nov 12, 2017 rated it liked it
This is another entry in a good little series on objects--this time it is the concept of souvenir, from the fancy-packaged treats (Hawaiian macadamia nuts, Scotch whisky, Cuban cigars) at the Tokyo airport meant to allow returning passengers to pick up the delicacies of places without taking time out from business to find them, medieval Christian pilgrimage badges, Grand Tour purchases (and syphilis!) , war trophies and lynching postcards, a trade show in Vegas for souvenir manufacturers, the di ...more
May 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Souvenir is an interesting analysis of the history of souvenirs, and what they've meant to people and countries. As someone that has mostly sworn off collecting souvenirs for the most part, I found the chapter to authenticity to be an interesting reinforcement of my beliefs on acquiring items while traveling. I was surprised and horrified to find out some of the things collected and their meaning for certain individuals.

I've always enjoyed Rolf Potts travel literature. While less lengthy than hi
Kevin Thurman
Jul 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Potts does a great job of exploring in depth & simply at the same time a complex subject

For those interested in travel, sociology, and history Potts’ Object Lesson for Souvenirs is a great read and highly recommended. It is one of the few tourism and travel focused books that looks at the subject through history, modern, and personal means that make it an informative and insightful read.
Dec 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
A great short read about the history, cultural significance of souvenirs along with a bit of modern tourist behaviour thrown in. It seems to be well researched although the parts that struck a chord with me where his reflections on souvenirs and how we give a part of the self identity into them. I really liked the writing style of Potts which is more like a conversation with a friend

Apr 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: amazon-reviewed
Souvenir by Rolf Potts is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in early March.

Arranged chronologically, Souvenirs can be goods created on the spot, miniatures, or sometimes pieces of important, sometimes garish/traumatic monuments and locations (often in acts of secretive vandalism). Potts also speaks of the cheapening of souvenirs over time and them being useful versus decorative.
Sreevarsha Sreejith
Jan 29, 2018 rated it liked it
As an avid collector of souvenirs myself, I was intrigued by the concept of this book. Many of the anecdotes and historical facts presented make for interesting reading. However, it is not a book you just pick up and go with. In some places, I felt that the minute details given were unnecessary and led my mind to wander. But over all, it is an interesting read.
Michael Murphy

This book takes the reader on an adventure around the world by a keyring. Why do we collect and what do all of those obscure things in the box in back of the closet mean anyway?
Jill Cook
Good book and an interesting subject. Not something I would typically read, but again, an intriguing topic and the habits of why people collect/buy souvenirs to remember things/places/feelings.
Interesting musings on our magpie-like behaviour of purchasing and collecting souvenirs.

Thank you Netgalley and the publishers for the arc.
Nov 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A superlative read, about something we all take for granted, and never thought to enjoy reading about nearly as much. You will always remember where you were when you bought this…
Sep 01, 2018 rated it liked it
interesting look at the history of souvenir collecting
Jenny Bhatt
Feb 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
In French, " se souvenir de quelque chose" means "to remember something". 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. Along the way, he analyzes how this evolution has changed the way travelers and tourists have identified with and collected souvenirs to preserve memories and pass on stories. Further, he describes how these psychological shifts have, in turn, ...more
Cassidy (Reminders of the Changing Time)
To see all of my book-related content, check out my blog @

Souvenir presents an incredibly fascinating look into society’s long-held obsession with, you guessed it, souvenirs. I know, I know, it seems like an incredibly specific thing to study but, as I have found whilst reading my first in the series of books that look at the hidden lives of everyday things, this minuscule part of modern society lends itself to far larger insights into wider themes of human behaviour, both
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Rolf Potts has reported from more than sixty countries for the likes of National Geographic Traveler, the New York Times Magazine,, Conde Nast Traveler, Outside, The Believer, The Guardian (U.K.), National Public Radio, and the Travel Channel. A veteran travel columnist for the likes of and World Hum, his adventures have taken him across six continents, and include piloting a f ...more

Other books in the series

Object Lessons (1 - 10 of 45 books)
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  • Hood
  • Traffic
  • Earth
  • Burger
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