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Wabi-Sabi: For Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  4,994 ratings  ·  375 reviews
Describes the principles of wabi-sabi, a Japanese aesthetic associated with Japanese tea ceremonies and based on the belief that true beauty comes from imperfection and incompletion, through text and photographs.
Paperback, 95 pages
Published 1994 by Stone Bridge Press
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Thad Absolutely. I enjoy the satirical comments as well. I believe wabi sabi, in much the same way as teaism, requires laughing at yourself.

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 ·  4,994 ratings  ·  375 reviews

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Jul 10, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2015
Some books are one-day reads, one-sitting reads, etc. This book was a one-bath read.


Our bath has lost almost all its enamel. It scratches my bum. Very Wabi-Sabi. My phone has a crack I refuse to fix. I like to slide my finger along smooth glass of the phone and feel the rupture. Very Wabi-Sabi. As I read this book I thought of a couple things. First, myself. I AM Wabi-Sabi. One only needs watch me bathe, swim, run, walk, sit, type, etc., to realize I am asymmetrical, scarred, broken, fixed, and
Aug 07, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Koren wastes no time in this concise text, briefly tracing the roots of wabi-sabi, the history of its obfuscation, and then laying out its qualities and principles with maximum clarity. Beautiful photographs accompany the delicately printed text and Koren provides an illuminating comparison with modernism, a masterful linguistic analysis, and many hints on where to look for wabi-sabi in the contemporary world.

Wabi-sabi is a Japanese aesthetics, difficult to describe clearly, perhaps because it i
Adam Graffunder
Jan 21, 2008 rated it liked it
I borrowed this book from my roommate and took it on a day hike. I removed it from my backpack on the drive home and realized that the top right corner of the front cover had gotten folded over and smashed during the hike, and there was a worn-off spot on the bottom of the front cover, and another lightly abraded spot on the back cover. The whole top right corner of the book actually had a brownish smooshed-ness to it.

I was a little embarrassed, as the book had been completely new when I started
Apr 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
I've had this book on my shelf for years. My impetus to take it off the shelf was a photography class I signed up for recently that's using it as a textbook. I'm sorry I waited so long. It's a wonderful book that addresses wabi-sabi not only as an aesthetic but as a cultural movement, tracing its origins to Zen Buddhism and to the rituals of the Japanese tea ceremony. Ironically, although its roots are firmly planted in Japan, wabi-sabi is less present there today as a design aesthetic than in o ...more
Kent Winward
Aug 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
"Wabi-sabi is exactly about the delicate balance between the pleasure we get from things and the pleasure we get from freedom from things."

Already, I'm liking wabi-sabi over simple minimalism. Minimalism neglects the fact that we live in a world of things and other beings.

"Their nicks, chips, bruises, scars, dents, peeling, and other forms of attrition are a testament to histories of use and misuse." I read that quote and it made me wonder, why we don't use wabi-sabi to see the beauty in people
Mar 04, 2009 rated it liked it
I believe this to be a key to the text and a key to Wabi-sabi generally:

"Beauty can be coaxed out of ugliness. Wabi-sabi is ambivalent about separating beauty from non-beauty or ugliness. The beauty of wabi-sabi is in one respect, the condition of coming to terms with what you consider ugly. Wabi-sabi suggests that beauty is a dynamic event that occurs between you and something else. Beauty can spontaneously occur at any moment given the proper circumstances, context, or point of view. Beauty i
Erik Carter
Apr 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
my goodreads reciews are wabi sabi becuase they embrace the imperfections and say nothing
Kevin Rutherford
Jun 28, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This is a wonderful little book about the Japanese art style called Wabi-sabi. The book is short, and many of the pages consist solely of full-page photographs illustrating the ideas. So it's a quick read, but worth taking the time to read slowly, let it sink in, and then read again.

Wabi-sabi itself originated as an eclectic style of the Japanese tea ceremony, emphasising the impermanence and ever-changing quality of all things. But the book keeps its feet on the ground and doesn't spend too muc
Jan 04, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Wabi-sabi is, according to Koren's slim book, "a beauty of things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete"; "a beauty of things modest and humble"; and "a beauty of things unconventional." True to this centuries-old Japanese aesthetic, Koren makes his prose unfancy and quiet, yet nevertheless deeply affecting. The book, too -- its rough paper and grainy photographs -- has a handmade quality to it that displays the very qualities that Koren explores. Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philo ...more
Jul 09, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I've always been fascinated with Japan`s history and culture, so when this short book was recommended to me I decided to read it although this type of book is usually not my cup of tea. This was a pleasant and an interesting read and was actually very enriching. ...more
Jun 19, 2016 rated it liked it
Sweet little book but don't get how it's for poets and writers.
Nov 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: design, nonfiction
A solid book on the concept of wabi-sabi. A brief history on its origins and an explanation of the concept that feels inline with the principles. I was hesitant that a book so short would superficially deal with the topic. I feel as though I got the value I was seeking from this book though.

The binding and presentation are appropriate to the topic. The book feels good in the hand, and the text perfect for reading and turning pages at calm pace. Small elements that reinforce the authors attentio
Feb 02, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Wabi-sabi is the grassy smell of my sweat as I step into a bath after three hours of shoveling snow. Wabi-sabi is the battered shovel I found on the island, in the cellar of my blind landlord's cottage. Wabi-sabi is the steam that escaped the bathroom, shrouding the windows and softening further the gray winter light. Wabi-sabi is the raw ache in my muscles after such labor that tells me I am alive.
Mar 04, 2018 rated it liked it
I enjoyed this concept, but neither this book nor this author.
Nov 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: a-english, t-art
This is the third book that I chose to read on my mini-quest to investigate Japanese Aesthetics. The first two are Donald Richie’s  A Tractate on Japanese Aesthetics (basic overview of the cultural background couched in philosophical terms of the West) and Jun'ichirō Tanizaki’s In Praise of Shadows (insightful lyrical prose from a Japanese master novelist).

Unlike with Richie’s wide scope, and Tanizaki’s poetic soul, Koren has a more direct goal he states at the beginning of the book:
I have att
Sep 12, 2016 rated it it was ok
Not a how-to book.

I picked up this book just because I'm embarrassingly ignorant about the Japanese aesthetic of wabi-sabi. In a way, this book is the epitome of wabi-sabi: large font, very short chapters, wabi-sabi photographs interspersed throughout, all in a slim volume that probably takes a few hours to read. The problem with it for me, however, is that I was expecting a more rigorous, analytical treatment of the aesthetic concept (a là Donald Keene's essay on Japanese aesthetics), but alas,
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
Jan 03, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: art, simplicity
If you don’t know much about wabi-Sabine’s, join the club.

Then read this book.
Elena Johansen
It's going to take me longer to write this review, probably, than it did to read the book.

Let's get the obvious complaints I have out of the way: the photographs are terrible and do nothing to enhance the book or my understanding of the concept of wabi-sabi. I don't know if they are in color in other editions, but this one, they are black and white, often out of focus, and sometimes lacking enough contrast or perspective to even tell what it is I'm looking at. There's one in particular of a larg
Aug 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2012
Something about the lace-like fragility of that leaf on the cover and its raw sienna backdrop, that varied but strangely unified target audience: I saw this at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia and barely glanced at the contents before deciding to take it home, a gift for my husband that I couldn't resist reading first.

Wabi-sabi suggests that beauty is a dynamic event that occurs between you and something else. Beauty can spontaneously occur at any moment given the proper circumstances, c
Dec 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Those interested in Arts and philosophy, especially the eastern ones
Recommended to Ardalan by: Saw it by chance at a bookstore!
Shelves: philosophy
...Something's "interestingness", the quality that compels us to look at that something over, and over, and over again.
That's the final sentence in which the book ended and as I started reading the book again right after finishing it, I can conclude this book has had enough of that "Interestingness" to it that can compel me even to a 3rd reading! and I'm sure I'll come back to it in future.
This was my first introduction to the concept of Wabi-Sabi and Koren wrote in such Wabi-Sabic simplicity an
Jul 21, 2012 rated it liked it
The concept of Wabi-Sabi is profound, if you are a follower of Zen. It's beauty in the imperfect, nature's design.

The book has it's moments, particularly the chapter on spiritual values of Wabi-Sabi, page 48.

All things are Impermanent. Everything wears down, even the planets and the stars. So too does reputation, status, memories, and art.
All things are Imperfect. Every artist knows the flaws of his work.
All things are incomplete. The universe, and ourselves, are in a constant state of becoming
Jan 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: real-book
I expected a book about the beauty of wabi-sabi, hoping to be immersed in a deep spiritual appreciation of the imperfect and impermanent. And Koren does eventually describe the spiritual and moral values of wabi-sabi. However, this is by no means a spiritual book. Instead, this is a primer, a technical manual about aesthetic guidelines. This short book would have been a fine article in an architecture magazine. But the title is misleading: this is not a book for artists and poets, unless they're ...more
Feb 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I have read this twice, first time it was just simple enjoyment of word orders and ideas, second time creating my own map of mind, making sense in all of this, still loving it the same way. It's a book for basically anyone who is trying to make sense in this world in general, mentally and maybe metaphysically. Finding beauty in uglyness, living simple life, knowing what is imporant. Go and read for yourself.
May 25, 2016 rated it it was ok
This book is short (less than 100 pages), but even those words are too many. It can be summed up by this sentence on the back cover: "[Wabi-sabi] is a beauty of things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete." I was looking for a detailed cultural description, but this is an essay on its aesthetic application.
Johnny Cordova
Jun 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A slim book and quick read on the Japanese aesthetic principle of wabi-sabi. An eye-opener for me, as I've long heard the term tossed around in conversation, but never really knew what it meant. Helped me understand why I've always been drawn to things that are raw, worn, or otherwise imperfect. Contains interesting commentary on the evolution of Japanese tea ceremony.
Ana Casanova
Jan 27, 2018 rated it it was ok
The book felt too pretentious which is the opposite of the wabi-sabi meaning.

Jul 09, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: art, japan, philosophy
I find the concept of Wabi-Sabi really interesting, a Japanese aesthetic finding the beauty in things imperfect, impermanent and incomplete’. From what I can see, this book is one of the main English texts on it, along with Andrew Juniper's Wabi Sabi: The Japanese Art of Impermanence, and one of the earliest.

In terms of content it is a fairly lightweight, with 96 pages in a large font interspersed with full page black-and-white photos. There are some good quality parts but some felt a bit page f
Apr 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book explores the Japanese concept of wabi-sabi which is somewhat of an aesthetic philosophy. The book demonstrates how difficult it is to accurately describe wabi-sabi or to ascribe the characteristic of wabi-sabi to something, but broadly describes it as "a beauty of things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete. It is a beauty of things modest and humble. It is a beauty of things unconventional."

I would recommend this book to anyone interested in examining the finer points in lif
Sep 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
How to define Wabi-Sabi? It's difficult, everyone says - but then so is explaining Logical Positivism or Existentialism. Coaxing beauty from the broken, the irregular, the rustic and simple? That the inconspicuous and overlooked details contain their own greatness? Or is it simply appreciating nature and the cosmic order? I have no idea. But sometimes I stumble over a bit of Wabi-Sabi and it stops me in my tracks. Koren gives us clarity on what Wabi-Sabi is and is not, but defining the ineffable ...more
Feb 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
Wabi-Sabi is the Japanese concept of beauty in the imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete. This was refined in the tea ceremony but can also be applied to the whole of life. This is a very slim volume, but leaves the reader with a great deal to think about.
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Goodreads Librari...: Combine Two Editions 2 15 Dec 17, 2017 01:03AM  

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“Beauty can be coaxed out of ugliness. Wabi-sabi is ambivalent about separating beauty from non-beauty or ugliness. The beauty of wabi-sabi is in one respect, the condition of coming to terms with what you consider ugly. Wabi-sabi suggests that beauty is a dynamic event that occurs between you and something else. Beauty can spontaneously occur at any moment given the proper circumstances, context, or point of view. Beauty is thus an altered state of consciousness, an extraordinary moment of poetry and grace.” 39 likes
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