Like pleasure itself, books on pleasure seem to come and go, briefly blossoming in the small upland meadows of literature before being tenderly dried, pressed, and stashed away by connoisseurs of belles-lettres in choice nooks of their libraries. Off the top of my head (no doubt many more exist), there’s Rose Macaulay’s Personal Pleasures, Jan Morris’s Pleasures of a Tangled Life, and Barbara Holland’s Endangered Pleasures. The keynote of these books is a kind of capering lightness; each dedicates some of its short chapters to universal pleasures—food, travel, and so forth—and some to pleasures more offbeat or perverse, such as “Taking Umbrage” (Macaulay), “Jewish Friends” (Morris), or “Using People” (Holland).

Willard Spiegelman’s excellent Seven Pleasures represents both a continuation of and a divergence from this nice little...


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