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57 of 58 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Truly Inspirational Read
There are essentially two sides to David Attenborough's autobiography. Firstly it is a superb collection of anecdotes concerning a career that saw the author trek across most of the globe to film some of the greatest natural history series ever produced, as well as work with all manner of people from animal collectors, to conservationists, to the queen. The...
Published on 22 Mar 2004 by mattandabbi

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Sadly broken!
Sadly, the first 2 CDs in our box were broken. I bought this as a present, which went unopened for over a year so Amazon will not refund or reimburse. The other CDs of course are MARVELLOUS! He is a national treasure!
Published 13 months ago by Sharon E


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57 of 58 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Truly Inspirational Read, 22 Mar 2004
This review is from: Life on Air (Paperback)
There are essentially two sides to David Attenborough's autobiography. Firstly it is a superb collection of anecdotes concerning a career that saw the author trek across most of the globe to film some of the greatest natural history series ever produced, as well as work with all manner of people from animal collectors, to conservationists, to the queen. The juxtaposition chapters devoted to natural history, with those describing life at the BBC and David Attenborough's various duties, help keep the pages turning and add many wonderful comic moments, as well as giving a rare insight into the early days of the BBC.
The book is quite simply, a hugely enjoyable read, there are no prolonged accounts of rocky relationships, or attempts to qualify controversial decisions, as is the case in so many biographies. Travel and the production of quality wildlife programs, have been David Attenborough's goals, and their achievement has given him many wonderful experiences that he simply wants to share with his readers.
There is however, a second side to the book. Though David Attenborough's manner is gentle, jovial and indeed very humble, there are serious issues discussed in the book. Descriptions of cults that retaliate against, or subvert western intervention, as well as tales of meeting people from places such as the Falklands, are just a couple of examples where the reader is introduced to emotional situations. What is key is that David Attenborough tells events as he sees them, and clearly endeavours to give an open and fair account of peoples opinions.
The fact that David Attenborough was probably one of the last westerners to see many cultures almost untouched, or, equally, one of the first to see the results of western intervention, puts the book almost beyond value. The book is truly global in scope and offers a unique and inspiring view of the world as it was, and as it is.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Refreshing, An interesting life, 19 Feb 2003
It's remarkable to think that Sir David has spent 50 years in Television. It was also refreshing to read an autobiography with no swear words or obscenities. I think many so-called celebrities would learn that you don't need to criticise or publicly offend others to sell a book.
Sir David's an ambassador not only to the Wildlife he so excellently narrates but also to his pioneering behind the scenes work at the BBC.
Overall I found this book a must read for all those David Attenborough fans and for those interested in how programmes are made and how the technology has changed over the years.
The question we all want answering is.... What will Sir David do next?
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A true horn of plenty, 17 Mar 2004
This review is from: Life on Air (Paperback)
I have just read Life on Air, and I think I have developed more than a little crush on a man more than 40 years my senior... Until I saw the portrait-programme with Michael Palin, I never knew what charming and witty raconteur David Attenborough is. Being Norwegian I knew him only as an enthusiastic oddball from wildlife programmes, with wind in his hair and mud on his shirt.
This book is brimful not only of anecdotal charm and witty perceptions, but also offers interesting insights into the development of the BBC as an organisation, and of television broadcasting as a medium, with both technical and editorial challenges. I only wish he had chosen to tell more of his personal life, but as the title indicates, it focusses on the bit of his life that has been on air. Fair enough. Modest without being coy, he readily acknowledges the talents, skills and hard work of those around him, but is nevertheless beaming with pride over his own accomplishments as well. It's refreshing! The book is seeping with both boyish curiosity as well as respect and awe for his subjects, be they animal, mineral or vegetable. Or human, for that matter. But throughout it all, the most remarkable aspect of the book is the radiating narrator. Yes, I am infatuated. A truly, warmly, deeply recommended read!
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33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Life on Air - an insight into the Beeb, 25 Oct 2002
By 
C. Murray "cmurray84" (Fecamp, France) - See all my reviews
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As well as giving us an idea of what happens inside the Beeb, David Attenborough also takes us on a time travel in the development of technology used to film wildlife. His story telling skills are able to keep us interested in all his anecdotes - some are really brilliant !! Like the April fool's one or the change over from black and white to colour television, and so on... You can even hear him telling the stories since he wrote the book in his own words.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly absorbing, 13 Oct 2004
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This review is from: Life on Air (Paperback)
I don't normally go in for celebrity (auto)biographies, but I picked this up on holiday as it was the best thing on offer, and found it was surprisingly absorbing! There may've been a more recent edition than the one I read, which terminated just after his wife's death, and so misses some of Attenborough's more recent work, such as the Blue Planet series, but covers all of his television career up to that point.
Despite being an autobiography, Attenborough does his best not just to describe what many people will have seen of his work on television. There are many amusing anecdotes to be found, and the tales of his adventurers around the world really are quite special, since so much his changed in the intervening years (indeed his experience of Komodo Island before and after is one perfect example). There's also quite an insight to be had into the workings of the BBC, and Attenborough's supporting stance is quite plain (one particular encounter he had with the chairman of ITV springs to mind).
All in all, a mixed bag. It suffers all the pitfalls common to autobiographical works, in my opinion, but his travels and experiences have been interesting enough to warrant it worth the read.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sir David Attenborough - A wonderful story, well told., 9 Jan 2011
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Red on Black - See all my reviews
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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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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Totally Absorbing, 7 Feb 2003
By 
Paul Ashby (Surbiton, Surrey United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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David Attenborough's book takes us back to the very beginning of picture broadcasting at the BBC, and what he describes is, at the same time, both ground-breaking and charming. Scratching together production teams, equipment, money!! - David and his associates began to set the standard by whicg natural history programmes would be measured for decades.
He describes the production of all his series, from Zoo Quest to Life of Plants, and although the technology and techniques improve, you always get the feeling that Lord Attenborough is simply a jolly clever and jovial chap, doing what he loves doing.
His enthusiam pours from the pages (well, maybe less so when he describes his time as Director of Programmes of BBC2, but for the reader this provides an interesting insight into the workings of Auntie Beeb). The picture collection is fascinating too.
It's always a pleasure to read an autobiography of someone who you admire, Life On Air exceeds all expectations.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Marvelous, witty reminiscences of an action-packed life, 6 Sep 2011
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This review is from: Life on Air (Paperback)
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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33 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating...., 18 Oct 2002
Sir David Attenborough and his captivating programmes about the natural world, for many people - myself included, have always been there. My first recollections of his work are Sunday evenings in front of the television watching The Living Planet - the accompanying book still sits on my book-shelves. Life On Air provides an insight on the 30 years experience that were used to make that programme, and all the others that I have watched since, so great. What is lovely about the narration is that you get the impression that Sir David not only wants to make the programmes, he almost "has too". His desire to capture on film as many aspects of the planet earth is all consuming, and this is probably why his programmes remain so popular today.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I shouldn't have been surprised, 13 Aug 2003
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I was actually surprised at how absorbing 'Life on Air' was. I suppose I shouldn't have been but, through 50 years of television appearances, David Attenborough has always seemed happy to play a supporting role to the wonders of nature. It was fascinating therefore to be taken on a guided tour of his life by the man himself and to discover how genuine, interesting and charming he is off, as well as on, air. His recounting of his early days in television, with the technical challenges it presented both in the studio and on location, is absorbing and, at times, hilarious and his achievements as a BBC executive are a revelation to those of us who only know him on screen. The heart of the book though is his passion and deep respect for the natural world - again illustrated with captivating anecdotes - and a reminder of how many wonders of the world were first revealed to us, so enthusiastically, by David Attenborough. Some readers might pine for some more personal insights into Sir David's life but such sentiments overlook how personal his life's work really is.
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Life on Air
Life on Air by David Attenborough (Paperback - 20 May 2010)
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