Monday, March 6, 2017

All the dirt: A history of getting clean by Katherine Ashenburg

This is an interesting take on the history of bathing and getting clean. It opens with a discussion of the different "myths" surrounding cleanliness, emphasizing the cultural aspects of different modes of bathing (or not as the case may be).

Nine chapters take the reader from ancient Greece and other countries to the rise of saints and religious aspects of cleanliness, Medieval times, the resurgence of bathing, the marketing of soap and other bathroom products at the turn of the century, and modern thoughts on bathing.

While there are plenty of books delighting in the grime of our ancestors, with occasional cursory mention of non-Western cultures, this is a shift in perspective. While it includes plenty of gross facts and history, it also talks about the wider context and the way cleanliness and how it was viewed and used affected various cultures and civilizations.

The book ends with contemporary arguments about cleanliness, including antibacterials and other issues. Back matter includes image credits, selected sources, and an index.

Verdict: Beside the diversity of cultures and viewpoints represented, this will grab readers with its vigorous blend of colorful stories, intriguing photographs, and an excellent layout. Recommended.

ISBN: 9781554517909; Published 2016 by Annick; Borrowed from another library in my consortium; Purchased for the library

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