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The Mansion of Happiness: A History of Life and Death (Vintage)

by

The Mansion of Happiness: A History of Life and Death (Vintage) Cover

 

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Renowned Harvard scholar and New Yorker staff writer Jill Lepore has written a strikingly original, ingeniously conceived, and beautifully crafted history of American ideas about life and death from before the cradle to beyond the grave.

How does life begin? What does it mean? What happens when we die? “All anyone can do is ask,” Lepore writes. “That’s why any history of ideas about life and death has to be, like this book, a history of curiosity.” Lepore starts that history with the story of a seventeenth-century Englishman who had the idea that all life begins with an egg, and ends it with an American who, in the 1970s, began freezing the dead. In between, life got longer, the stages of life multiplied, and matters of life and death moved from the library to the laboratory, from the humanities to the sciences. Lately, debates about life and death have determined the course of American politics. Each of these debates has a history. Investigating the surprising origins of the stuff of everyday life — from board games to breast pumps — Lepore argues that the age of discovery, Darwin, and the Space Age turned ideas about life on earth topsy-turvy. “New worlds were found,” she writes, and “old paradises were lost.” As much a meditation on the present as an excavation of the past, The Mansion of Happiness is delightful, learned, and altogether beguiling.

Review:

"A sharp, illuminating history of ideas....Brilliantly written and engaging throughout...superb." Kirkus, starred review

Review:

"Equip a profound scholar with H. L. Mencken's instinct for running down charlatans and chuckleheads, and you get this book. It will amuse and embarrass those of us ever befuddled by the rogues in her gallery." Garry Wills, author of Lincoln at Gettysburg

Review:

"Written with sardonic wit and penetrating intelligence, The Mansion of Happiness is a fascinating and startlingly original guide to the ways in which the human life-cycle has been imagined, manipulated, managed, marketed, and debased in modern times. Lepore weaves her way brilliantly along the mazy track that leads from the egg in which life's game begins to the giant freezers in which certain crack-brained visionaries hope to defeat death itself. A fast-paced, hilarious, angry, poignant, and richly illuminating book." Stephen Greenblatt, author of The Swerve: How The World Became Modern

Review:

"This is why Jill Lepore is becoming my favorite historian: wise, witty, wide in scope and deep in spirit." James Gleick, author of The Information

Review:

"A series of engaging and wonderfully perceptive essays on how individuals caught in time made sense of life and death. Jill Lepore is one of America's most accomplished and imaginative historians." Linda Colley, author of The Ordeal of Elizabeth Marsh

Review:

"With wit and erudition, Lepore demonstrates that nothing is more mutable and time-bound than our most cherished notions about the supposedly eternal verities of life and death." Susan Jacoby, author of The Age of American Unreason

Review:

"Each sentence brims, each paragraph delights. Taken together these essays are more than the sum of their parts. They are an inquiry into how we think about being alive." Smithsonian

Review:

"A stunning meditation on three questions that have dominated serious reflection about human nature and cultures for centuries: How does life begin? What does it mean? What happens when we die?...Lepore's refreshing and often humorous insights breathe fresh air into these everlasting matters." Bookpage

Review:

"A breezy, informative, wide-ranging book...singular, always stimulating." The American Scholar

Review:

"Lepore's prose is thoroughly engaging and witty...covers enough of mankind's earnest curiosity about life and death to both entertain and provoke thought." Booklist

Review:

"Lepore chooses quirky, though always revealing, lenses through which is examine the changing definitions of conception, infancy, childhood, puberty, marriage, middle age, parenthood, old age, death, and immortality....Through sheer force of charisma, Lepore keeps her readers on track: this book, with all its detours and winding turns, is a journey worth taking." Library Journal

Review:

"Engaging...Lepore writes about our striving to understand our existence. The Mansion of Happiness is an important addition to the effort." San Francisco Chronicle

Review:

"Lepore has a brilliant way of selecting just the right historical detail to illuminate a larger point....The most valuable lesson here is that of impermanence. Everything changes. And although, as Lepore writes, 'it's best to have a plan,' as her multifaceted, sometimes dizzying joyride of a book reveals, the next roll of dice could, in fact, change everything." Boston Sunday Globe

Review:

"This fascinating book explores a few centuries' worth of ideas about life and death — you know, just a light beach read. But for all its analysis of Darwin and Aristotle, The Mansion of Happiness is a lot of fun...[Lepore] is always engaging, even surprising." Entertainment Weekly

Review:

"A great ride...Lepore writes with a clear feminist perspective, and it's a relief to read someone, for example, who personally knows her way around breast pumps and reproductive rights, and can write about them with humor and affection." Bust

About the Author

Jill Lepore is the David Woods Kemper '41 Professor of American History at Harvard University and a staff writer at The New Yorker. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts. 

Product Details

ISBN:
9780307476456
Subtitle:
A History of Life and Death (Vintage)
Author:
Lepore, Jill
Publisher:
Vintage
Subject:
United States - General
Subject:
Sociology - General
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Series:
Vintage
Publication Date:
20130326
Binding:
Paperback
Language:
English
Pages:
320
Dimensions:
8 x 5.13 x 0.63 in 0.5 lb

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Related Subjects

Featured Titles » History and Social Science
History and Social Science » American Studies » General
History and Social Science » Sociology » General
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Reference » Science Reference » Philosophy of Science
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Science and Mathematics » History of Science » General

The Mansion of Happiness: A History of Life and Death (Vintage) New Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$16.00 In Stock
Product details 320 pages Vintage - English 9780307476456 Reviews:
"Review" by , "A sharp, illuminating history of ideas....Brilliantly written and engaging throughout...superb."
"Review" by , "Equip a profound scholar with H. L. Mencken's instinct for running down charlatans and chuckleheads, and you get this book. It will amuse and embarrass those of us ever befuddled by the rogues in her gallery."
"Review" by , "Written with sardonic wit and penetrating intelligence, The Mansion of Happiness is a fascinating and startlingly original guide to the ways in which the human life-cycle has been imagined, manipulated, managed, marketed, and debased in modern times. Lepore weaves her way brilliantly along the mazy track that leads from the egg in which life's game begins to the giant freezers in which certain crack-brained visionaries hope to defeat death itself. A fast-paced, hilarious, angry, poignant, and richly illuminating book."
"Review" by , "This is why Jill Lepore is becoming my favorite historian: wise, witty, wide in scope and deep in spirit."
"Review" by , "A series of engaging and wonderfully perceptive essays on how individuals caught in time made sense of life and death. Jill Lepore is one of America's most accomplished and imaginative historians."
"Review" by , "With wit and erudition, Lepore demonstrates that nothing is more mutable and time-bound than our most cherished notions about the supposedly eternal verities of life and death."
"Review" by , "Each sentence brims, each paragraph delights. Taken together these essays are more than the sum of their parts. They are an inquiry into how we think about being alive."
"Review" by , "A stunning meditation on three questions that have dominated serious reflection about human nature and cultures for centuries: How does life begin? What does it mean? What happens when we die?...Lepore's refreshing and often humorous insights breathe fresh air into these everlasting matters."
"Review" by , "A breezy, informative, wide-ranging book...singular, always stimulating."
"Review" by , "Lepore's prose is thoroughly engaging and witty...covers enough of mankind's earnest curiosity about life and death to both entertain and provoke thought."
"Review" by , "Lepore chooses quirky, though always revealing, lenses through which is examine the changing definitions of conception, infancy, childhood, puberty, marriage, middle age, parenthood, old age, death, and immortality....Through sheer force of charisma, Lepore keeps her readers on track: this book, with all its detours and winding turns, is a journey worth taking."
"Review" by , "Engaging...Lepore writes about our striving to understand our existence. The Mansion of Happiness is an important addition to the effort."
"Review" by , "Lepore has a brilliant way of selecting just the right historical detail to illuminate a larger point....The most valuable lesson here is that of impermanence. Everything changes. And although, as Lepore writes, 'it's best to have a plan,' as her multifaceted, sometimes dizzying joyride of a book reveals, the next roll of dice could, in fact, change everything."
"Review" by , "This fascinating book explores a few centuries' worth of ideas about life and death — you know, just a light beach read. But for all its analysis of Darwin and Aristotle, The Mansion of Happiness is a lot of fun...[Lepore] is always engaging, even surprising."
"Review" by , "A great ride...Lepore writes with a clear feminist perspective, and it's a relief to read someone, for example, who personally knows her way around breast pumps and reproductive rights, and can write about them with humor and affection."
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