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VINE VOICEon 27 September 2012
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I loved the Radio programme when it was first aired, although I didn't hear every episode. I am sure like a lot of people I would delay leaving the car, just to listen to the daily edition.
The podcasts are still available, together with images of the objects themselves on the BBC website. Hopefully they will remain accessible for a very long time.
So why do I need this book? Firstly, I certainly find it easier to take in detail by reading, rather than just hearing. The original Radio shows painted a general impression of the objects, the book gives you a chance to read about them or study them in a far more leisured way, and gives small pictures of each object by each written exploration. I often listened to the radio shows and wished I could see a picture.
This leads on to the second reason for the book, despite having easy access to the internet (even on my phone). It is not always there, maybe I'm out of coverage or on holiday. So it is not always easy to see the images from the internet. Neither do I always have access to podcasts or the radio.
Thirdly it is so much easier to share, which leads on to my last reason, serendipity. Today my teenage daughter just picked up the book, dipped in and found something of interest, she probably wouldn't have bothered to go to the website, but books are so easy just to dip into.
I would highly recommend this as a book to dip into, and find out something new. To leave lying around for others to encounter; and most crucially for us all to learn about the richness of human history from all around the world, recorded in our objects.
The only thing to do next is maybe visit the British Museum to see the objects themselves.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 24 October 2010
If I had to choose only one medium in which to explore these 100 objects then I'd choose the radio series over this book - all 100 podcasts are still available for free at the time of writing - this may not last. They are superb! Of course we are now in the fortunate position of having access to those and this beautifully produced book as well and it certainly compliments the series. Some criticisms have been raised that the book has pictures of the 100 objects, on the basis that radio listeners preferred to imagine what they look like, but as they have always been available on the BBC website if you cared to look, I think this is a positive addition and they definitely add to the overall experience of this book.

There is no doubt that this is going to be a succesful book and any popularity granted to such an erudite work is to be welcomed but I have to say that some of the writing appears a bit dry and, well the only word I can think of is, worthy. Without the narration of the various experts on the radio series I think the life goes out of some of these stories.

That is a minor quibble though and will prove a matter of taste but otherwise this is still a fine book and destined to become a "classic", especially if the BBC have their way. If you only had one history book to choose this Christmas, I'd go for Map of a Nation: A Biography of the Ordnance Survey but why not splash out and get this one as well, especially at the bargain Amazon price.
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Let me shout it as loudly as I can "I LOVE RADIO 4". Apologies for this show of blatant and raw emotion but it is the one Radio channel which makes life more bearable, it challenges, it provokes and gets as near to that much sought after but rarely achieved quality "the heart of the matter" as is humanly possible (the probing questions of presenters on the Today programme makes me think that democracy still has a fighting chance). The channel also carries brilliant series of which "A History of the World in 100 Objects" by Neil MacGregor is a prime example, even the trailers leading up to its broadcast in January this year were great. What a pleasure therefore to have copy in the written word of this weighty book (738 pages) to accompany the series and to revisit the passion and authority of Neil MacGregor, director of the British Museum and cultivator of fabulous facts.

The whole premise underpinning this epic journey was predicated on a wicked idea conceived by Mark Damazer, then head of Radio 4 to challenge our hugely knowledgeable bods at the British Museum to undertake a somewhat mischievous and loaded exercise. Indeed on the surface any attempt to tell a rather large tale like the history of the world over a modest 2 million years in this manner seems like a piece of First Class honours inspired lunacy. "Baby and bathwater" is the phrase that comes to mind and even if the radio series and the following book were outright bilge you would at least have to give Neil MacGregor three stars for accepting the challenge and embracing with gusto the humongous concept. Yet he succeeds triumphantly and as the BBC blurb states he sets out in copious detail the sheer importance of "A chipped stone that was one of the first things ever made by human hands; a clay tablet telling the story of the great flood centuries before the Bible; a broken hunter's spear dropped by one of the earliest settlers in America; a hoard of gold abandoned in the Wars of the Roses ... every object tells a story" The use of this quote shows just how bloody difficult it is to summarize the sheer diversity of the subject matter and scale of the challenge that the author faced. I frankly remain in awe of his herculean task not least of all for his chapter on the English pepper pot dating from 350 BC which should be required reading for every child of school age. Most of all he understands the true value of encyclopaedic knowledge, in short the ability to illuminate through a fine selection of the facts while at the same time employing the skills of the story teller and then re-connecting his narratives with the present.

Certainly it is true that the hugely hyped and momentous unveiling of THE one object that defines the modern age was somewhat of a disappointment (I will not spoil it - read the book). That said you suspect that MacGregor probably faced the same horrific challenge as Douglas Adams encountered in "The Hitch-hikers guide to the galaxy" coming up with something simple but clever enough to answer the Ultimate Question. Anyway give him a break since he was probably in need of a rest by this time.

To his eternal credit it is understood that as a result of the radio series and now this book, citizens of our curious nation have been flocking to Bloomsbury to seek out the hereto unknown treasures/pleasures of the British Museum and examine for themselves the Mexican ceremonial ballgame belt (AD100-500) and yes the good old pepperpot. Satisfying the other key factor of the whole exercise is that some of more obvious choices that he could have gone for are ignored at the expense of the more quirky but equally illustrative. This then is a wonderful book, full of lavish illustrations and crystal clear maps. And yes I know that times are hard and deep cuts stalk the land but "A History of the World in 100 Objects" by Neil MacGregor is a fairly priced volume full of unparalleled treasure and should be included on all lists heading up the chimney to Santa in the next few months.
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VINE VOICEon 26 September 2012
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Neil McGregor's original radio series (from which this book derives) must have been a tough pitch: a 100-part documentary series about *objects* that the audience won't be able to see. Doesn't sound that promising! And yet it was a fantastic achievement. But it was crying out for a book. Of course, hardback was the obvious medium for such a treasure trove - but having it in paperback now makes it much more useful for any wanting to make good use of the British Museum itself (for the initial parameter of the concept was that everything had to be in the archives or on display).

Inevitably, the quality of the b/w images for each item is not going to be as high as in the hardback version - but there are still a number of colour plates which do their job well. For better quality images, it is worth checking out the BBC/BritishMuseum website for images and the original programmes (with their great music by Steven Faux).

But the greatest value in having this book is Neil McGregor's prose. It is informative, witty and full of insight. It is a perfect book to dip into in idle moments, or to work systematically through. But however it is read, it is nothing less than a pure joy and delight.
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on 2 November 2010
A wonderfully produced version of the brilliant radio series. Works every bit as well in book form where the erudition shines through on almost every page. My only gripe is that the book is over-chunky and a bit too heavy to hold in bed - where the short chapters are perfect for reading before sleep.
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on 22 November 2011
This book weighs a ton, so thank you Amazon for saving me from having to carry it all the way home from Bloomsbury, and for charging me half of what I'd have paid for it in the British Museum shop!
This isn't one of those coffee table books that you flip through once to look at the pictures, then leave to gather dust on a shelf.
You could dip in and out of it over the course of a lifetime and never get tired of it.
It's genuinely interesting and beautifully written, being both informative and erudite yet totally accessible.
A rare treat and an incredible bargain, and thus a great investment.
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on 26 December 2010
I give this book a 3-star rating solely because of Neil MacGregor's commentaries. The type design and setting is good and makes a dense text easier to read. Unfortunately, the words are not matched by the dismal quality of the pictures being way below what readers might expect for the cover price(who thought to set so many objects against a matt black background?). I am puzzled that such a prominent title bypassed the British Museum Press itself, which generally has much higher production values. Altogether disappointing and only worth purchasing at a heavy discount.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 29 October 2010
This is a first .... after ordering the book I discovered that Amazon had withdrawn it because someone had complained that it was not as advertised - so I deleted my Amazon order, shopped online elsewhere and found it CHEAPER!

In my experience, the book IS exactly as described and IS a fascinating read. Other reviewers (and the product description) say it all.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED - but also shop around!
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on 30 October 2010
I thought that the series on Radio 4 was excellent and an inspiring way to look at history. The book is great and provides a more permanent record.
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on 2 December 2010
Bought this as a gift after hearing the series on the radio. The narrative is good as I expected, think it is probably the script from the radio series. But I am very disappointed by the pictures. The finish is matt and the pictures taken with a black background which seems a bit indistinct and blends with the objects a bit too much making the detail difficult to see. Shame about this as the objects are fascinating and photographed differently this could have been a really sumptuous volume.
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