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A Short History of Rudeness: 01/17/11

cover art

I put A Short History of Rudeness by Mark Caldwell on my wishlist shortly after it came out. It's been on the list so long that I can't remember the reason behind adding the book or even what my initial impression of it was. When I spotted the book, a reissue, at my library I snatched it up.

A Short History of Rudeness from the outset looks like it will be a slightly off color romp through a history of Americans acting poorly. While that's certainly there, it's mostly a scholarly look at the evolution of manners and morals in western society with an emphasis on recent American history.

The book's chapters focus on a specific taboo or point of etiquette with examples from points of history with citations of historical commentary along with modern day analysis of the same event across a broader social rubric. In other words, it's a very academic book. Had I not been in the middle of a small mountain of other reading commitments I would have read it very carefully and taken copious notes. As it was, I scanned through for names I recognized and focused my attention on those choice bits.

So go into the book expecting to spend some time with it if you really want it to soak in. Or scan the index and look for your favorite famous names from history and go from there.

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