I'm not sure if it's because textiles are literally lightweight, at least in comparison to say steel or lumber, but fabric is sometimes perceived to be a foofy subject. The reality, of course, is that textiles have sparked revolutions. Cotton cloth, in particular, has completely reshaped the world economy. With international textile trade being such a hot topic today (Cambridge University Press reports the business is valued at $425 billion), Giorgio Riello is taking a look back at cotton's pivotal role during the past thousand years. His soon-to-be-released book, Cotton: The Fabric that Made the Modern World, delves into older forms of globalization.
Emile de Bruijn recommended the book to me because Riello explores exoticism too (think aesthetic exchange and design mash-ups between East, West, and points in between). A professor at the University of Warwick, Riello has been widely published on many material-culture-related topics including shoes, design history, and again the cotton trade. He's also done a series of podcasts; in this one he and Rosemary Crill discuss chintz. Check it out while we wait for the latest book to hit store shelves.