Art and Beauty in the Middle Ages, by Umberto Eco

35183445In this authoritative, lively book, the celebrated Italian novelist and philosopher Umberto Eco presents a learned summary of medieval aesthetic ideas. Juxtaposing theology and science, poetry and mysticism, Eco explores the relationship that existed between the aesthetic theories and the artistic experience and practice of medieval culture. (from Goodreads)

I really liked this book. I’m always “afraid” before reading a non-fiction book by Eco because I always fear I won’t understand a word (I had a tough experience during my first year of college with one of his semiotics works). I was really thrilled to discover, page after page, that this book was either easier to comprehend or I’m getting better with Eco xD Everything made sense and I was actually enjoying reading about medieval philosophy. Of course I wouldn’t recommend it blindly to anyone, unless they might have an interest in the matter, but it’s a very good introductory work to the subject and great reference material.


Les Superstitions au Moyen Âge, by Jean Verdon

33290126English title: Superstitions in the Middle Ages

I couldn’t find an English translation of this book, nor an abstract in Goodreads…

I fucking love the Middle Ages. There’s no other way to say it. Would I like to live there? Definitely not, but damn it’s an interesting subject. Probably my favorite subject for history books.
What’s a thousand years in the history of mankind? Absolutely nothing, and however it’s so mind blowing to read about these times, just a millennium ago. Sometimes it feels like I’m not reading history, that it’s more like any other fantasy novel, all the otherworldly experiences this people had back then, in apparently a daily basis. It probably wasn’t like that at all, most people sure had plain lives, but when one is reading about it, it feels as if things were like “oh well, that neighbor was killed by a demon last week and a guy in that other village saw a witch flying in her broom the other night” etc.
I really liked this book. I especially loved the way in how these subjects were treated, like they were real. Because they were totally real, as long as people believed they were. There were documents, treaties, essays from those times, proving the existence of all this stuff. And, at the same time, it was also very clear when things weren’t real at all and were used for political, social or economic reasons. Like witch hunts and such.
Great great great reading!

Quidditch Through the Ages, by Kennilworthy Whisp

424020Did you know that: there are 700 ways of committing a foul in Quidditch? The game first began to evolve on Queerditch Marsh – What Bumphing is? That Puddlemere United is oldest team in the Britain and Ireland league (founded 1163). All this information and much more could be yours once you have read this book: this is all you could ever need to know about the history, the rules – and the breaking of the rules – of the noble wizarding sport of Quidditch. (from Goodreads)

Just like with Fantastic Beasts, here is another of Hogwarts’ textbooks that I’ve read uncountable times in the past, and I decided to re-read, for those good times. But, unlike FB, this one is more like a history book, as you could imagine for its self-explanatory title, and this one didn’t belong to Harry Potter, it was property of Hogwarts’ Library, so there aren’t any funny notes through the pages, or else the writer would have suffered an awful hex.
This wasn’t my favorite when I was a kid, but in all these years I’ve grown fond of history and I actually read history books for pleasure, so I actually enjoyed this book so much more than before. Even when it’s made-up history. Or isn’t?

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, by Newt Scamander

2490849A copy of Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them resides in almost every wizarding household in the country. Now Muggles too have the chance to discover where the Quintaped lives, what the Puffskein eats and why it is best not to leave milk out for a Knarl. (from Goodreads)

It was a long time since I last read this, but my perception of it didn’t change much after this last re-reading, probably because it’s pretty straightforward (I mean, what enlightening difference could I note in an encyclopedia-like book?) and because I read this book like a gazillion times before. There was even a time when I tried to draw these beasts, following the descriptions given. Anyway…
I mostly wanted to re-read it before watching the movie, not because I wanted to refresh the story (there’s no story: like I said, it’s a textbook), but because I wanted to refresh the descriptions of theses beasts and spotted them before someone in the movie had to explain it to me (or to a clueless character). It worked, kind of… Those things in the movie were a lot more shinier and flamboyant that I could ever imagine, but ok…

Of all the satellite books written about the wizarding world, this has always been my favorite, mostly because all those little handwritten notes in the margins (after all, this book is a copy of the original own by Harry Potter himself) and because it allows to imagine all these fantastic creatures and gives us the hope that dodos aren’t actually extinct, which is such a relief.

The Russian Journal, by Lewis Carroll

27877037This cute little book is lovely. Returning to the subject of reading other people’s mail and stuff, reading other people’s journals is probably the same: one shouldn’t, but is so damn interesting.

I love anything the Carroll has written, ever, I can’t have enough of it. And although his correspondence is much more entertaining, probably because he tries to amuse the reader, this journal, written for himself, still has his charm and wit all over it. It’s mostly an account of visits to churches (in Germany and Russia) and descriptions of religious rites, but there are as well a lot of interesting and funny comments on mores, architecture and communication’s troubles.

History of Costume, by Rachel H. Kemper

2966116“Fashion is identity. It tells us at a glance the nationality, occupation, and social station of the wearer—and often something about his or her religion, education, and sexual proclivities as well. From wedding band to old school tie, from hardhat to sensible shoes, every item of apparel helps to establish its owner’s place in society. There is no readier index to an individual’s wealth, power, taste, and influence than what he or she wears.

The notion of costume is as old as man, for it is the wearing of clothes, rather than the opposable thumb, that separates man from the lesser primates. The initial function of clothing was largely practical: it protected primitive man from the elements and from predators—including other men. The knight’s armor, the hockey player’s shin pads, the astronaut’s spacesuit— all were designed for utility, not elegance. But at least since the invention of modesty, costume has served another, equally important function: it has played a principal role in courtship, seduction, mating, and marriage (…) The concept of what constitutes beauty has varied greatly from culture to culture and continent to continent (…) but the pursuit of beauty has remained a universal constant.”

I read this book while I was studying this subject for the final I mentioned some posts ago. After reading a large part of Boucher’s overwhelming 20000 Years of Fashion, I found this one to be a very interesting and relaxed reading, and I believe it’s a great approach into the subject. It’s entertaining, well written and gives a great general sight of western history and its effects on costumes.  It concentrates a great amount of information in not so many pages, without leaving you exhausted and without being shallow and leaving you with the feeling that you didn’t learn much.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, by Mindy Kaling

10335308Same as with Lena, I admire Mindy’s work (and I call them by their first name because we are so close, BFF!!!), so I wanted to read her book. Aaaand, just like the other one, it was kind of a deception. I don’t know what I expected, really, but… I guess I pictured myself laughing uncontrollably to the point of almost dying for lack of breathing. It was entertaining, it was funny most of the time, but… As Lena’s, it has its biographical parts, which I enjoyed, and then it has total random chapters as “Types of Women in Romantic Comedies Who Are Not Real” or “Franchises I Would Like to Reboot”, which I also enjoyed. What is really wrong with this book? I have no idea. Maybe it just wasn’t my moment.