12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
What can you say about the great man? I have been listening to "Life on Air" in the car throughout the Christmas period on a variety of long journeys and having Sir David Attenborough as your travelling companion is frankly as good as it gets since the world is a better place with this man around. Some reviewers have pointed out that with 16 CDs this is somewhat of a labour of love and could be viewed as a bit of a slog, that said I have found myself rationing this wonderful set of audio memoirs and trying to savour its narrative by treating it as a guilty pleasure.
On reflection the the part of the audio book I enjoyed the most was Attenborough's account of the early days of the BBC, how he stumbled into a job in the "Talks dept of Auntie". Its difficult now to visualise those early days of TV and quite how haphazard and prone to breakdown it was. The early deals at Alexander Palace would see programmes massively over run, a diet of home economics programmes shown in the afternoon "for women" and cameras so primitive that the heat from them would give you a suntan. Attenborough arrived at the right time in this embryo organisation despite his early failure as an interviewer when it was concluded by the feisty BBC executive Mary Adams that "his teeth were to big for television" but he was soon producing the programmes and I loved his hilarious reminiscences about the Sir Mortimer Wheeler and one of the first BBC quizes "Animal, Vegetable, Mineral"?. Indeed what this book reveals fully is that Attenborough is not only the BBCs greatest asset and a national treasure but someone who in addition is a brilliant raconteur and also has a very masterful line in dry and jocular humour. The anecdotes littered throughout this book are too numerous to quote here and would spoil Attenborough's telling if put into a review. Suffice it to say that "Life on Air" does contain real laugh out loud moments so be careful if listening in the car since you should of course should be concentrating on the road and avoiding the potholes!
Inevitably as the world's leading Natural History programme maker a fair old slice of the book deals with the establishment of the BBC Natural history unit in Bristol during 1957 and of course those sprawling and magisterial trilogy and landmark series namely 1979's "Life on earth", 1984's The Living Planet" and 1990's "The Trials of Life". They have been preceded by even greater glories in subsequent years with the epic "Blue Planet" and other great works of TV. They have also been accompanied by Attenborough becoming more outspoken on issues like climate change, vigorous championing of Darwin's evolutionary theory and of course linking back to one of his primary sources for programmes openly supporting the WWF's campaign to have 22 million hectares of Borneo's rainforest designated a protected area. He also described former President George W Bush as the worlds foremost "environmental villain" proving again another skill in political judgement.
I wrote a review in 2009 of Attenborough's series "Life" which I recently re-watched in stunning Blu Ray quality. At the end of that review I concluded that "this is the only programme that my children will actively leave various X Boxes and Play stations to sit down and watch. They will also not complain if it clashes with some celebrity nonsense or trivia on another channel. Attenborough's programmes challenge, stimulate, provoke and most importantly make you think. They are also populist, intelligent, hugely watchable and thus viewed by millions across the the world. He has done broadcasting a massive service and we all owe him the most profound debt". After listening to the wonderful "Life on air" it gives me great pleasure to restate this judgement.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 6 September 2011
Attenborough writes, unsurprisingly, just as enthusiastically as he presents. Wonderful anecdotes, not only, of his extensive travels but also behind the scenes - literally - at the BBC. A real insight into why and how his epic series were made and the enormous team efforts required to get those magnificent programmes to the armchair viewer. Comic moments pop up with a dry humour which illustrate the modesty of a giant of natural history. Leaves you wanting more!
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 18 July 2011
I am a huge fan of Sir David so chose to purchase his book to learn a bit more about his life before he became the well-known naturalist I am familiar with.
What a wonderful book! he has such a great way of telling a story, so descriptive, full of anecdotes and very funny! You can hear his voice in your head as you are reading, it pulls you in and keeps you reading for hours!
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
I have never listened to an audio book before so I found it more than a little daunting when 16 CD's arrived covering 20 hours of narration. I decided to play these whilst driving and was amazed at the quality of the sound. I found the first few chapters a little slow; they were an introduction to his early career. Given the unique quality of David's voice it's ironic he was turned down for radio, and started his career in television.
He became a pioneer of this media and given the constraints of early television it is amazing that he and his team managed to produce the documentaries that they did, the patience, tenacity and sometimes daring is described in wonderful and engaging detail.
Despite this slow start I soon found myself dragged into his world as he took me on his adventures, the people he met, the places he visited and the animals he discovered, there are times when he encountered real danger, but also some very funny moments.
David makes no attempt to preach, which is admirable given some of his experiences, he just tells it as it is. I felt that he was truly enjoying telling me his story and sharing his experiences.
His distinctive voice, humour and gentlemanly charm, made for compulsive listening.
I think I would, after listening to this masterpeice,consider myself a bit of an audio book convert, reading made easy. It is a veritable recreation of the televisual career of a true british icon who demonstrates his gift not just as a presenter but now as a narrator,his lush warm tones giving an even more vivid evocation of his subject matter than any tv programme ever could.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
I doubt I would have read the book of this title but the chance to have it read by the author himself was too good an offer to miss. It certainly didn't disappoint, and the fact that it was unabridged was a huge bonus.
Attenborough eloquently recounts his broadcasting career from his first entry into the BBC as a junior trainee, through high level jobs as a director on the BBC and back, full circle, to writing and narrating on the wonderful series, Planet Earth and The Private Life of Plants. Attenborough has had a fascinating life and if I couldn't join him on his travels then listening to him retelling his adventures was the next best thing.
I particularly enjoyed the details of early filming, all done live and without high tech equipment; in the days of black-and-white.
There are also telling comments about the generally held opinion of the time that animals were available in plentiful supply and specimen collecting trips just took what they wanted without heed for population numbers.
So, not only an intersting listen for lovers of natural history but also an informative window into a place and time that sadly, is no more.
I haven't seen the printed book, but I would imagine that it contains photographs and, for me, it was the lack of photographic detail that marred this audiobook.
I have already Wish Listed his other books on Audible and will be listening to them over the coming months.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 13 January 2010
I sometimes have problems reading biographies/autobiographies as I get bored half way through once the book goes off the bits that I am interested in, especially if it is a long book. This did not happen with Life on Air.
In David Attenborough's usual style this book is well written, intelligent and really interesting. It tells his life from when he came to work for the BBC all the way through to presenting the programmes that we know and love him for. Although it is a long book it is immediately accessible and so varied that it holds your interest all the way through.
I would recommend this book to anyone who loves Attenborough and his programmes, anyone interested in natural history or anyone interested in travel.
A fabulous read! I will be buying David's other books.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Both myself and my partner are huge fans of David Attenborough. We are slowly collecting the DVDs of his Life collection and regularly plonk down in front of the TV to watch one of his shows. So when I had the opportunity to get Life on Air through the Vine programme, I jumped at the chance. As the title indicates, this is the story of Attenborough's career rather than his personal life (though this is touched upon now and again) and as such provides a fascinating insight into the world (and the origins) of natural history programming. The great thing about it being an audio book is that we can both listen together.
This is a truly wonderful, in depth account of his quite incredible career. What surprised me was how amusing it is, I laughed aloud on occasion. I particularly enjoyed Sir David's impressions of various people he met over the years. I never thought I'd hear his German accent! This really is a riveting listen even though there is a vast amount of ground covered it never gets boring. One very helpful feature is the fact that each CD is divided into tracks of 2 or 3 minutes making it very easy to get back to where you were after switching off for the night.
I'd also like to point out the great packaging. I have a lot of audio books and these unabridged readings often come in oversized plastic CD boxes with extra sections inside for the additional CDs. These are prone to breakages. This set however looks like a mini VHS box and has all the CD's on a thick spindle. It's a great idea and I have high hopes that this set will stand the test of time... in more ways than one.
I really can't recommend this set highly enough. Sir David has a wonderful voice and this is as close as we'll get to sitting down over dinner and listening to his anecdotes and tales of his Life on Air.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 16 November 2010
I bought 'Life on Air' when it was first published in 2002 and have read it many times. Sir David, a larger-than-life personality is also an obvious 'celebrity', I think he would cringe at such a description but the word is properly used here not as when it is employed to described some self absorbed, barely literate bozo propelled into the limelight by some money-grabbing fop.
Listening to the author reading his work made me take down the volume again and flip through the plates the more vividly to enhance my listening pleasure.
I always preferred watching the then David Attenborough to the equally sagacious and no less involved and concerned Desmond Morris, and infinitely more than Johnny Morris' 'Zoo Time', I think it may have been the perceived anthropormorphism which seemed aimed at much younger children which put me off it certainly wasn't Johnny's fault, you could feel his love of animals palpably.
Twenty hours is, admittedly, a long stretch, but it's worth every second, congratulations Sir David and Auntie Beeb you have certainly brought an already wonderful work to sparkling life and I wholeheartedly endorse Michael Palin's comment on the box.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 1 October 2012
Thank you David.. for telling us about your lifelong adventures... and for making the rest of us feel like couch-potatoes!
If ever the travel industry needed a ploy, to get people into visiting far-off exotic places, they need only hand out copies of this book..
I guarantee that they will get droves of bookings!
I grew up watching Sir David's wildlife programmes and I have to admit, I never realised, until I read this book, just how much involvement and influence he had when working for the Beeb.
Overseeing the introduction of Colour, producing the first wildlife programmes - that actually showed previously unknown animals, right up to his unenviable task of choosing which dress the queen should wear (yes really!)
To read this book, is like being a bit-part onlooker in one of his many wildlife programmes.. you can almost feel the tropical heat, the annoying mosquitoes and hear the wild animals noises. as you read line by line.
Although the book is a mainly serious look at Sir David's career.. it rarely delves into anything too dark and when it does, Sir David's knack of explaining in a light and sometimes jocular manner, keeps you from feeling that he was ever in any danger at all (though I'm sure he must have feared the worst at some points!!)
There are some laugh out loud moments in the book..
explaining to a Beeb accountant what he had done with two horses he bought.
hiding a piece of grubby paper that was supposed to have been signed by the Prime Minister..
and having to tell the Queen that her dress was the wrong colour!
I recommend the audio book version.. it is read by.. who else, Sir David and is a real joy to listen to.
Again, thank you David..
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
David Attenborough's account of his life in broadcasting from the 1950's when he broke through into television broadcasting, his time spent as controller of BBC2 and his personal accounts of his travels and experiences whilst filming his superlative natural history programmes as read by the man himself.
I think this item pretty much sells itself as regards anyone with any knowledge of Atenborough or anyone who has marvelled at the output of the BBC's Natural History unit over the decades. Attenborough adds a real mischevious humour and charm to his vocal account. It is an incredibly well structured and fascinating account of the workings of the bbc, filming processes and history of the beeb complimented with lots of delightful anecdotes.
This is only the second audio book I have listened to and the first autobiography and obviously relaying your own personal account as Attenborough does really fleshes the stories out, Attenborough has a very subtle and dry humour which translates very well to this format. What you lose via not having the book (pictures mainly) you gain in a more immersive and emotional connection to the story teller. Maybe I have just struck lucky with having David Atenborough as the first audio autobiography I have listened to but I would choose this format first over a book version.
A really recommended purchase if you admire his work, are interested in natural history or just have an interest in interesting people. Attenboroughs narration will even have the nice side effect of sending you off to sleep (in the nicest possible meaning) as its gentle tone and exotic landscapes wash over you. Attenboroughs contribution to the human knowledge base is too great to quantify but his account, in a very modest and understated way, provides a nice indicator.