"Most objects exert their holding power because of the particular moment and circumstance in which they come into the author's life. Some, however, seem intrinsically evocative — for example, those with a quality we might call uncanny. Freud said we experience as uncanny those things that are 'known of old yet unfamiliar.' The uncanny is not what is most frightening and strange. It is what seems close, but 'off,' distorted enough to be creepy. It marks a complex boundary that both draws us in and repels, as when, in this collection, a museum mummy becomes an author's uncanny 'double.' Other objects are naturally evocative because they remind us of the blurry childhood line between self and other — think of the stuffed bunny whose owner believes it can read her mind — or because they are associated with times of transition. Transitional times (called 'liminal,' or threshold, periods by the anthropologist Victor Turner) are rich with creative possibility. . . .

"Evocative objects bring philosophy down to earth. When we focus on objects, physicians and philosophers, psychologists and designers, artists and engineers are able to find common ground in everyday experience.

"Each narrative in this collection is paired with a short excerpt drawn from philosophy, history, literature, or social theory. The authors of these excerpts range from Lewis Thomas to Umberto Eco, from William James to Susan Sontag. These texts begin to describe the kinds of connections that help us investigate the richness of objects as thought companions, as life companions."