This is one of the bestest books I’ve read this year!!! And I can think of tons of people who would love it!
Stoned isn’t really about the history of jewelry, as I first assumed. It really hinges on that “How Desire Shapes the World” and delves into this odd and embarrassing psychology of what makes something desirable, what we’ll do to obtain it, and how what we want says quite a lot about us as humans.
Some memorable examples: Queen Elizabeth I’s desire for a famed pearl (and what it represented) motivated her to move entire armies against Spain. A necklace that didn’t even have anything to do with Marie Antoinette was more fuel for the fire that eventually became the French Revolution. And lastly, before World War I, men would have “rather worn skirts” than wristwatches (which were seen as strictly feminine). After experiencing how useful they were for synchronized attacks during the war, they became the most desirable way to advertise one’s masculinity. (So dumb.)
There’s so so many interesting bits of world history in here that I never knew were so intertwined with gems, jewelry and ornamentation. It’s like the little hidden histories behind the summarized version you received in school.
Also, non-ficiton books with a sense of humor are just so much more engaging than those without. Aja Raden is hilarious and often makes ironic and cheeky connections that often made me chuckle. She also uses colloquial language to state universal truths, such as “Spain was up to its intolerant eyeballs in debt (…)” or when Louis XVI became king and said “Protect us, Lord, for we are too young to reign.” Aja says “No shit.” HAAAAAA!!! (Another funny non-fiction author is Mary Roach. If you’ve read and enjoyed her books, you’ll probably love this too, and vice versa.)
I’d recommend this book to ANYONE because it is very enlightening, quite fun, and it’s about world history (mostly western if I’m being honest, it includes: Spain, England, France, the Americas, Japan, Russia, The Netherlands, and South Africa). It’s also very straightforward about the ugly historical truths that were sugarcoated for us in school, like with Columbus.