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On Roads: A Hidden History Paperback – 27 May 2010

4.3 out of 5 stars 35 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Profile Books (27 May 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846680603
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846680601
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 61,532 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

Every page contains something enthralling or bizarre or funny or perceptive ... Moran has the poet's ability to finds the remarkable in the commonplace ... a beautiful little book: an argument, if ever there was one, for staying home this summer, finding the nearest traffic jam and enjoying it. (Craig Brown Mail on Sunday, *****)

A beauftifully-written, quiet masterpiece ... Moran's genius is to show us what was right in front of us all along' (Bee Wilson Sunday Times)

Terrific ... he takes numerous diversions into subjects that really shouldn't be interesting, but which he makes fascinating. (Robert Macfarlane Guardian)

In this book Joe Moran maps the fascinating history of British roads... (Charlotte Vowden Daily Express 2010-05-28)

A stylish and witty analysis of Britain's maze-like road system. They are cultural artefacts as much as a means of transport; they are too a kind of parallel universe. (Philip Womack Sunday Telegraph 2010-05-30)

Anyone who likes Bill Bryson will love Joe Moran -- I think he may even be eclipsing him...it's a terrific book. (Joel Morris BBC 6 Music 2010-06-01)

Quiet, considered and oddly gripping. (Chris Moss Time Out 2010-07-22)

Review

`Wonderful. Whoever could have known that roads were so fascinating?'
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a wonderful, engrossing book which needed to be written and deserves to be read. Funny, engaging, incredibly well-researched and impressively broad in its scope, On Roads tells the fascinating - and it is, truly - postwar history of British roads and the British motorist and is peppered with the sort of extraordinary facts and trivia I can't resist. Bob Geldof working on a roadgang on the M25, a quarter of a million fish being rescued before they started building Spaghetti Junction, and why migrating birds love the A34. Fantastic.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a great read, an almost obsessional homage to Britain's road network. However, I did finish it with a small sense of disappointment. Despite his authoratative writings on roads, Moran seems to have got sucked into "bigger is better". As the book goes on, it becomes more about motorways and motorists. I was disappointed that he missed out entirely on the back roads and byways of the country, despite what the front cover design would have you believe. There's lots of historical routes out there that he only tangentially refers to, the kind of routes better known to cyclists and walkers that are still part of the modern social fabric of the country. Perhaps this is an opportunity for a second volume?
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As someone living on Teesside a big irony is that the one single thing that put us well and truly on the world map - the opening of the world's first proper passenger railway from Darlington to Stockton - has been honored by Stockton Council in such a positively perverse fashion. Where others would have built a replica station or set up a new railway museum, the civic elders of Stockton decided to name a new piece of very boring urban dual tarmac running along the alignment of that old railway `1825 Way'.

This sums up the contradiction in British culture when it comes to transport. We all love our railways, but not to the extent of using them all that often. You can see this in any good public library where there will be racks full of erudite volumes about past and present railways, but (apart from highway atlases) nothing on the roads we use every day.

This oddity has now been redressed. Joe Moran's book `On Roads' celebrating what Moran calls "the most commonly viewed and least contemplated landscape in Britain" is now out

The job he sets in this book is a new one. It is to make us look afresh at modern life on our roads, and to appreciate their hidden history and their oddities.

I need to say immediately that Moran steers clear of both highway pre-history and our residential and town centre roads, which he sees as owing more to the surrounding urban surroundings, instead preferring to concentrate on the development of our main inter-urban roads over the last century or so.

He also digs deeper than just looking at the development of the tarmac forming a waffle iron pattern across our land.
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Format: Hardcover
What a delightful book! If at first at first sight you are tempted to think that it just serves to feed the inner nerd you are mightily mistaken. Take the trivial example of road-numbering. Even a brief discussion may tempt some into a detailed perusal of the nearest wall, but that would entail missing out on the crucial revelation that we can blame our road numbers on none other than Napoleon. If that is not interesting then I don't know what is! This instance illustrates one of the aspects which I feel have been missed by other reviewers - the extraordinary range of reference which Moran brings to his subject. While there is no bibliography, just look at the works mentioned in the notes. Virtually all of these are apposite and not there for the purpose of showing off and show that the book is effectively a social and cultural history of roads.

A second feature of the book which seems to have gone unnoticed is the felicity and wit of the author's style which make it a surprisingly entertaining read. He occasionally soars to the lyrical level which driving certain stretches of road can elevate one. He is also capable of coining some very exact phrases.

Having driven along so many roads I thought I knew a great deal about them. Now I know a great deal more. I won't bore anyone with examples - entertain yourselves!
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Format: Hardcover
The reviews I read elsewhere for this book were right-it is a well-researched, topical and absorbing record of all things road-related, with some fantastic observations on our habits on the road, both good and bad. The attention to detail belies the author's age...I think I managed to work it out from an early passage in the book! A must for anyone that travels on the road a lot (that'd be a "motorist" then?!) and especially the motorway network; those boring stretches of landscaped tarmac and concrete will never seem quite as dull again-who'd have thought that motorway services have a social history all of their own?! Amazon take Pole Position for offering the hard-back edition of this book on one of its promotions; I only wish I'd ordered the soft-back as well-that way I could have kept it in the glovebox of the car to read next time I'm in those roadworks on the M1!
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