Queuing for Beginners: The Story of Daily Life From Breakfast to Bedtime Hardcover – 24 May 2007
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An original idea that's well-executed and of interest to anyone who's enjoyed a fry-up, stood by a water-cooler and slept under a duvet. By interrogating the history of everyday objects and routines, Moran reveals the contingent, often extraordinary, nature of daily life in Britain, and the material culture that dominates it in the early 21st century. I thoroughly enjoyed it. (Richard Weight)
A thoroughly novel and refreshing way of looking at our recent history. This is "mundane" as a good thing. It is a daybreak to bedtime story told further from "them", and nearer to "us". Almost every page has its "yes!..I'd forgotten" moment. I loved his book enormously. (Andrew Marr)
Queuing for Beginners is a splendidly entertaining book. Joe Moran take a simple but wonderfully imaginative idea, following an ordinary working day from breakfast to bedtime, and uncovers the twentieth-century history of the mundane rituals through which we structure our lives. Nothing escapes his gaze, from cereal packets to chain pubs, and the result is a deft, clever and endlessly fascinating example of social history at its best. (Dominic Sandbrook)
A wonderfully insightful probe into the habits and rituals that have made up daily life in Britain since the Second World War. Almost nothing escapes Joe Moran's penetrating gaze; an inspired anthropologist of the ordinary, and often very funny, he turns his readers into informed observers, and gives an enhanced understanding of what we do every day without a second thought and why we do it. You'll never eat a slice of toast, join a queue or send an e mail in the same way again. (Juliet Gardiner)
wonderfully entertaining...every page pulses with humour, ephemeral research and irresistible nuggets of useless information...His book is your life, examined by a post-modern academic in fluent and breezy style, social history at its most accessible. (Val Hennessy Daily Mail)
One of those rare books written with academic rigour which has mass market appeal. As a snapshot of how life used to be and what it has become this book can't be beaten. (bookbag.co.uk)
Perfect summer reading. (Sunday Express)
Fascinating stuff, and Moran delivers it in a relaxed and often hilarious style. (Daily Telegraph)
I've just read Queuing for Beginners by Joe Moran, an affectionate tribute to British life that's very funny and bang up to date with chapters on email etiquette and the seven-minute lunch break. It made me want to take the author to the pub, where I'd ask him why we drink beer in pints. (Sam West Independent)
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Top customer reviews
One to buy for the nerd in your life! Very enjoyable.
the book is cleverly structured into a typical working day from breakfast (why do we eat toast?), commute (what was a train commute like post WWII?), to the office, and finally, bedtime.
If you are interested in popular sociology or anthropolgy you will enjoy this; it is not academic and has little analysis of what occurs and more description about how tiems have changed in britain since World War II...I particularly enjoyed the section about pubs and the tactics they used to get more punters in!
Moran takes us on a gentle journey through a day in the life of an average modern human, picking out sixteen mundane and overlooked elements to explore. 'Bacon and eggs to go', for example, takes breakfast from its rich beginnings, through the preference for cereals and toast during the meat rationing of the war, to today's rushed coffee and the rise of the cereal bar. Moran then proceeds to explore the daily rituals of commuting, office gossip, lunchtime errands, checking emails, the rushed sandwich eaten at the office desk, cigarette breaks, post-work drinks, ready meals and watching the evening weather (amongst other things) before finally signing off with a history of the bed and attitudes towards sleep and the bedroom, and a gentle reminder to look around us and recognise our daily routines as a part of our collective social consciousness.
All in all this is a good idea done well. Generally Moran traces his social history in each section back as far as World War II, though he doesn't shy away from placing our habits in their extended historical contexts where relevant. This proves to be a good strategy as it narrows down the focus of the book to a manageable level without leaving it feeling incomplete. It is the kind of book that has the potential to be heavy, serious and deadly dull - but Moran manages to combine thorough research and a questing mind with a lightness and humour, and a knowledge of modern popular culture, that makes it interesting, compelling and accessible from beginning to end. Highly recommended.
I'm buying a copy for my dad as I know he'd like it. I'd say it's an ideal book for people interested in history, sociology or just British culture. It's also an easy read and not at all academic or dry.
The appeal of this book is that it's describing behaviour many of us see as so commonplace we don't even really think about it (e.g. commuting to work) but it will (presumably) be of interest to social historians in fifty years time. Reading the book is a bit like observational comedy but without so many punchlines. (One of the other Amazon reviewers says the book made him laugh out loud - I have to say it didn't do that for me but it is certainly easy, enjoyable reading.)
The best chapters are those where you share the experience (in my case examples would be the chapters on watching TV or dealing with e-mails at work). Some of the chapters would work less well if you don't work in an office and don't have, frankly, quite middle class tastes. Other reviewers have praised the book for fitting into the structure of a day but this is also limiting as the author has had to pick `9 to 5 commuter office life' as his typical day. That's a fair bet for his target audience but if you're retired, self-employed or work from home there might be large sections that are a bit alien to you. It also means the book does not really cover weekeneds in general andleaisure time in particular (maybe a follow-up book?)
Other reviewers have pointed out that the book is pacey because most chapters are confined to around 12-15 pages so you can read one fairly easily in around 20 minutes. I do prefer this but one downside is that a chapter can pick one view or interpretation and assume that generalises to everyone. The chapter on smoking is an example. Most of it is taken up with the `smoking break' at work topped off with a single view of why smoking is pleasurable (covering various arguments, the camaraderie of smoking, the image portrayed, the paraphernalia of smoking, etc.) I read this out to my wife, who smokes and doesn't work in an office and it bore no relation at all to her experience of smoking or reasons for not quitting. This made me question the simplicity of the writing to some extent and I wondered if other cultural historians, sociologists or anthropologists would take issue with other observations and interpretations contained here.
I wouldn't want the style to be any different, having said that. As a fan of the 1940s Mass Observation archive, I do enjoy being reminded about things we take for granted. There are some excellent and absorbing chapters in here. However, beware that the style can also be limiting and if you don't fit the `9-5 office commuter` photofit or if you don't fit the interpretation offered you might find some dud chapters in here.
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First thing - I will never look at Andrew Marr with quite the same degree of awe following his remarks on the front cover.Read more
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