Everyone knows that taste has two definitions. What this book presupposes is, maybe it doesn’t.

Katy Perry. Wes Anderson. Coldplay. Star Wars. Hamilton. Gilmore Girls. We all have our most and least favorite things. But why?

In this smart, funny, and well-researched book, Benjamin Errett brings together the latest findings from the worlds of psychology, criticism, neuroscience, market research, and more to examine what taste really means—and what it can teach us about ourselves.

Covering kitsch, nostalgia, snobbery, bad taste, George Michael, and what it means to be “basic,” this is the ultimate read for anyone who devours popular and not-so-popular culture.

The Elements of Taste work by bringing all taste back to the tongue. This means scoring all of culture — every movie, book, play, opera, painting, sculpture, song, and poem — as a unique combination of the five basic tastes. To do so, we draw upon psychological research, cultural criticism, elbow grease, and intuition to elaborate on what the tastes actually mean.

  • Sweet: The comforting, reassuring, and non-threatening entertainments that offer easy laughs and group hugs. Think Friends, Coldplay, and My Little Pony.
  • Sour: The unabashedly thrilling works that aim to blow you away. Horror movies, heavy metal, and Sour Patch Kids.
  • Salty: The coarse, ribald, risqué, and provocative. South Park and Miley Cyrus, together at last.
  • Bitter: If it’s initially off-putting but ultimately rewarding, it’s probably bitter. Cultural vegetables include art films, opera, and literary fiction.
  • Umami: A deep savouriness that can’t easily be described. Slow TV and Karl Ove Knausgaard qualify, as do many non-Norwegian phenomena.

After consuming the Elements of Taste, you’ll be able to chart your particular appreciation of just about anything on the book’s DIY Tasting Note, which looks like this:

To create something that looks like the following excerpts from the @ElementsofTaste Instagram account: