“A scholarly, many-angled examination of what gratitude is and how it functions in our lives” from the bestselling author of The Rituals of Dinner (The New York Times).
Known as an “anthropologist of everyday life,” Margaret Visser has won numerous awards for illuminating the unexpected meanings of everyday objects and rituals. Now she turns her keen eye to another custom so ubiquitous that it often escapes notice: saying “Thank you.” What do we really mean by these two simple words?
This fascinating inquiry into all aspects of gratitude explores such topics as the unyielding determination of parents to teach their children to thank; the difference between speaking the words and feeling them; and the ways different cultures handle the complex matters of giving, receiving, and returning favors and presents. Visser elucidates the fundamental opposition in our own culture between gift-giving and commodity exchange, as well as the similarities between gratitude and its opposite, vengefulness.
The Gift of Thanks considers cultural history, including the modern battle of social scientists to pin down the notion of thankfulness and account for it, and the newly awakened scientific interest in the biological and evolutionary roots of emotions. With characteristic wit and erudition, Visser once again reveals the extraordinary in the everyday.
“An anthropological and philosophical account of how and why we give thanks. . . . All delivered in elegant, clear prose. A book to be thankful for—sympathetic to human foible, deeply learned and a pleasure to read.” —Kirkus Reviews
“A delightful and graceful gift of a book, for which any fortunate recipient will be thankful.” —Publishers Weekly