Object Lessons is a series of short, beautifully designed books about the hidden lives of ordinary things.
It may be responsible for a greater improvement in human diet and longevity than any other technology of the last two thousand years-but have you ever thought seriously about your refrigerator? That box humming in the background displays more than you might expect, even who you are and the society in which you live. Jonathan Rees examines the past, present, and future of the household refrigerator with the aim of preventing its users from ever taking it for granted again. No mere container for cold Cokes and celery stalks, the refrigerator acts as a mirror-and what it reflects is chilling indeed.
Object Lessons is published in partnership with an essay series in The Atlantic.
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What Reviewers Are Saying
Does life exist without refrigerators? For most of us, the answer is no. How this common kitchen appliance achieved its indispensable status in less than a century is an amazing tale filled with surprising twists and unexpected connections. Refrigerator is a delight to read. Bravo! * Andrew F. Smith, Editor-in-Chief of The Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America * Allow Jonathan Rees to re-introduce you to the most underappreciated appliance in your kitchen: the refrigerator. Despite its recent and as yet patchy arrival on the world stage, the humble fridge has transformed how and what we eat, for better and for worse. This concise overview should be required reading for the 99.5 percent of Americans who own a refrigerator. * Nicola Twilley, author of Edible Geography and contributing writer at The New Yorker * Jonathan Rees's Refrigerator offers a meticulously observed history of the `cold chain' of industrialized food webs, explains how refrigeration works; and goes so far as to imagine life with and without it. Beyond this mini-historical account, the real heft to this title lies in the implied ecological impact of what doing without refrigeration might mean for those in the West for whom it has become taken for granted. -- Julian Yates * Los Angeles Review of Books * Object Lessons' describes themselves as `short, beautiful books,' and to that, I'll say, amen. ... [I]t is in this simplicity that we find insight and even beauty. ... In Refrigerator, historian Jonathan Rees asks us to look again at an object many of us take for granted as it hums away in our kitchens. When's the last time you looked at that thing? Did you contemplate how the refrigerator may have done more to extend the human lifespan than any other piece of technology? ... If you read enough `Object Lessons' books, you'll fill your head with plenty of trivia to amaze and annoy your friends and loved ones - caution recommended on pontificating on the objects surrounding you. More importantly, though, in the tradition of McPhee's Oranges, they inspire us to take a second look at parts of the everyday that we've taken for granted. These are not so much lessons about the objects themselves, but opportunities for self-reflection and storytelling. They remind us that we are surrounded by a wondrous world, as long as we care to look. * Chicago Tribune *