The subtitle for this compact guide to the history of household items calls them “everyday.” Though most of the 63 alphabetical entries — like napkins, forks and even picnic baskets — are common enough, there’s also a more arcane jib door, Louis XIV chair and flokati rug. Many items have evolved from ancient or Medieval days; the author’s descriptions are trivia-packed. Take chopsticks, for example: While most people know they came about because of Chinese dining, some will be surprised to learn that disposable pairs date back to 18th century Japan, where they were named waribashi. Moreover, strict Japanese chopstick etiquette notes that sauce dripping from the ends, called “crying chopsticks,” is unacceptable.
“The Elements of a Home: Curious Histories Behind Everyday Household Objects, From Pillows to Forks” by Amy Azzarito (Chronicle Books, $19.95).