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4.8 out of 5 stars
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Format: Audio CD|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
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.
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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!
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VINE VOICEon 18 November 2010
Format: Audio CD|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
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.
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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!
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VINE VOICEon 12 November 2010
Format: Audio CD|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
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.
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on 25 September 2015
I have started reading this book and it is a joy to read. It's like Sir David is talking to you himself. There is plenty of action on his exploits looking for creatures around the world as well as the background to his television career that started it all.
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on 12 July 2011
an excellent read about Sir Attenborough's life - and I read this even before I had seen any of his masterpieces of television! His insights into the BBC are interesting - I did not know how much he did for " The Beeb" and he manages to convey some of the world's most breathtaking sights to paper. It is a book that is hard to put down, and you can imagine him reading these words aloud to you (I later found there is an audiobook version), and despite being informative, charming, and quite simply brilliant, it is funny - not laugh out loud funny, but funny enough for such a book.
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on 17 August 2014
One of my first memories of early television is of David Attenborough's knees, in black and white in those days. This collection of his memoirs is a real treasure, with the added bonus of being read by that immediately recognisable voice. It's full of self-deprecating humour and interesting facts, and the story of early radio and television is as fascinating as his animal-viewing trips. I had the CDs in my car and found my journeys getting ever longer so that I could listen to just one more anecdote.
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VINE VOICEon 26 November 2010
Format: Audio CD|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
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.
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VINE VOICEon 15 May 2011
Format: Audio CD|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
David Attenborough is one of the most famous scientists who has ever lived, but he also THE greatest broadcaster ever. He has not made any amazing breakthroughs in science, but he has communicated science to billions and has inspired millions. In the twentyfirst century when we are living in the age of information, arguably, there is no point to science unless you can communicate effectively, otherwise science will get left behind in the wake of reality tv and talent shows...

David tells the story of his journey from his first job behind a desk in a fairly dull publishers, to an assistant producer at the BBC, to becoming an international icon of television science. All the way through this book he maintains his trademarks - humility, clarity and accuracy. This is NOT an autobiography, it is an important (almost scientifically impartial) memoir of his development as a broadcaster in a developing broadcast industry, and of course the programmes he broadcast. All the way through he sticks to the key points in his career as a broadcaster, explaining how he developed his skils, the mistakes he made, how opportunities arose, and the challenges he faced. There are no idle, pointless celebrity incidents, and no personal incidents unconnected to his professional work (i.e. no births deaths and marriages, unless they are part of the story). There are stories from the world of TV, but they are there as part of the story of David the broadcaster. And for his natural history fans there is a good amount of background information about how he made some of his most famous programmes (including the gorillas incident!). Everything is pieced together to tell a story in the same careful way that David put together his "Life" programmes.

One of the most charming things about this book is David's humility - everything seems to happen to him by accident or by hard work, or with the help of other talented people he worked with. There is no claim to genius.

It is also fascinating to read about David's career as an administrator at the BBC, which took him to the role of Director General at BBC2. It's easy to take for granted that we have BBC2 as a "serious" channel making excellent documentaries, but this book shows how BBC2 was a bit of an aimless disaster in its first year, until David took over and steered it to what it is now. David commissioned for BBC2 Kenneth Clark's "Civilisation" which was the first serious documentary series, and at the time the most ambitious documentary series ever made, and it set the mould for every single documentary series since (down to the current acclaimed "Wonders" series with Professor Brian Cox). And from that grew the idea for David's "Life on Earth" series, which changed the world of the natural history documentary forever in 1979.

Throughout the book David carefully explains how the technology slowly changed from the very basic black and white studio equipment (which could be transmitted but couldn't be recorded) down to the advanced stuff he used in his most recent "life in cold blood", and explains about how the camera and sound engineers struggled to bring us the fantastic images on our screens.

As a fan of David as a natural history broadcaster I enjoyed this book immensely, but for those expecting cover to cover natural history broadcaster stories, be warned - about a tenth of this book focuses on the job of making non-natural history TV programmes - but as I have already said, those sections are interesting in building up the complete picture of the how David honed his skill as the world's best natural history broadcaster, and ultimately, at the end of the book you realise that the reason he is the world's best natural history broadcaster is because he worked his way up through the BBC and came to understand ALL areas of serious TV programme making in a way that he would never have done if he had just started and finished his career as a natural history programme maker. Or as Kipling might have asked - what would David of natural history programming know if he only natural history programming knew?
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