A book review I wrote about a lovely nonfiction book: Souvenir (Object Lessons) by Rolf Potts.
In French, “ se souvenir de quelque chose” means “to remember something”. Potts takes us on a meditative sojourn across several millennia as he describes the evolution of travel from the early nomadic migrations to religious pilgrimages to modern tourism. Along the way, he analyzes how this evolution has changed the way travelers and tourists have identified with and collected souvenirs to preserve memories and pass on stories. Further, he describes how these psychological shifts have, in turn, transformed the souvenir from a rare/magical treasure to a mass-produced commodity.
With a natural fluency, Potts also weaves in personal stories and epiphanic moments related to his own souvenir hunting and gathering during his many, varied quests around the globe. Through it all, he shows us how, far from the superficial and mindless consumerism it may seem, the souvenir ritual is closely connected to our core sense of self even as the souvenir itself is no longer as fully rooted in its actual place.