First of all, Happy Thanksgiving to all of those celebrating in the US. The holiday season is officially upon us and I expect it to zoom by very quickly.
I ordered The Gift of Thanks: The Roots and Rituals of Gratitude by Margaret Visser earlier this week and it is down to an even lower price today at $1.58 for the ebook. For that matter, the hardcover it $1.76. Apparently not enough people like to read about the history of expressing gratitude! Or this was warranted as a great doorbuster.
The book discusses the rituals of gratitude and is rather interesting although I've only had the chance to browse through it so far and peruse the introduction which emphasizes the author's premise that gifts and gratitude are freely given. I was reminded of the great Big Bang Theory Christmas episode, "The Bath Item Gift Hypothesis," in which Sheldon exclaims, "Oh, Penny. I know you think you are being generous, but the foundation of gift giving is reciprocity. You haven't given me a gift. You've given me an obligation." With the holidays in process now, this theory certainly will be considered more than once as gifts are given and received. (And, yes, that episode is one of my favorite Christmas episodes of a tv series ever. Look, no rehashing of It's a Wonderful Life or Christmas Carol, either!)
So anyway, the book is definitely worth the price and as I looked through it, I realized it may be of interest to readers here, too.
Book description from the publisher:
An inquiry into what we mean when we say "thank you." Visser examines all aspects of gratitude ranging from cultural histories to modern customs including mythology, folklore and fiction.
A review from Publishers Weekly:
Starred Review. Like a modern Ruth Benedict immersed in classical literature, Visser (Much Depends on Dinner) examines what it really means, in the course of human interaction, to be thankful. Her kindly book turns on itself in an exhaustive but continually engrossing fashion. Beginning with the assumption that [g]ratitude must be freely given; otherwise, it might be a polite show, but it is not gratitude, Visser asks many questions of cultures East and West and provides a plethora of answers. The obscured and deeper meaning of giving thanks is probed through such divergent cultural markers as the work of Georg Simmel and Dickens; the Bible and Proust; Japanese sumimasen, which is both a thanking and an apologizing, and C.C. Baxter in Bill Wilder's The Apartment; Plato's Laws and Seneca's massive treatise on gift giving and the slipperiness of saying you're welcome in today's U.K. What is tipping all about? What is the etymological relationship between votive, vow, favors, grace and gratitude? What might the gestures of courtesy—the curtsy for example—be? Overall, this is a delightful and graceful gift of a book, for which any fortunate recipient will be thankful.