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VINE VOICEon 18 February 2010
`Queuing for Beginners' deals with the minutiae of everyday life: from sending emails to the history of packaged sandwiches; from the impact of IKEA stores opening and bed buying to how we select sofas; from the behaviour of smokers to the departure of the tea trolley. The book offers answers to questions you might not even have thought of asking. It's original and fascinating (although I could have done without the section on the introduction of Pelican crossings which seemed to go on forever!)

One to buy for the nerd in your life! Very enjoyable.
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on 6 April 2009
I saw this in a book shop and the title totally pulled me in so i bought it on Amazon; it makes it sound like queueing is a skill to be learned!

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!
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on 7 September 2008
I love quirky books like this, that take simple and relatable ideas and open the reader's eyes to their history and complexity in an accessible and amusing way.

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.
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on 31 May 2007
An original book. Contents organised around people's typical days, but I find the chapters are great fun to dip into - and are the right length for that. They are in effect essays. I've learnt plenty of stuff from this book in terms of social history, sociology - but that makes it sound dry and academic, which it isn't. It's a whimsical, diverting, read.
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on 23 June 2007
I really enjoyed this book. It literally had me laughing out loud on the tube. It's insightful and well written. It's also an easy read and great for dipping in and out of.

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.
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on 1 January 2010
The aim of this book is to record the everyday life of someone commuting to an office, simply recording some of their experiences and reflecting on how these have become part of everyday life. A simple example is the rise of the `ready meal' - the chicken kiev, shepherds pie or whatever you had for dinner - from an American devising a way to get rid of 270 tons of leftover turkey through to the present day sophistication. Apparently we (the public) are divided in to `hopeless addicts', `never in a million years' and `like the convenience but not the implied laziness'. For this last category supermarkets now sell `food assembly' packages where everything is laid out and all you have to do is `assemble' the meal in the kitchen. But recording the nostalgia along the way - the sophistication of first pizza you could cook at home direct from your freezer! - is fascinating.
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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on 22 June 2010
how often do we stop to consider the mundane routines and rituals of everyday life??? that is the premise of this work, which takes us through a day in the life of the average working briton exploring parts of the day which are often ignored or overlooked. Taking into account historical developments in social behaviour with a witty twist, the easy to read style engages without feeling like a lecture. If you want to think about your daily life and how you came to do what you do now this is the book for you.
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on 7 September 2007
This wonderful book should be compulsory reading for all UK citizens and those wishing to become one - or indeed those visiting and wondering why we are like we are.

Well written, well researched - a gem.

Rob Sawyer
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on 23 February 2009
It's a great book, very interesting, funny read. I've thoroughly enjoyed it and it's full of useless information, which is always great!
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on 21 February 2008
Joe Moran's book is a masterpiece of brilliant observation. "Queuing for Beginners" is a history of everyday life in Britian since the 1940s and looks at the imperceptible changes - mainly as a result of technology or political policy - that have taken place in such daily activities as commuting, going to the bank, business meetings, watching the weather forecast or going to bed.

It's a fascinating read, particularly if you work in a field such as market research and it is very well-written with humour and humanity.

I'm pleased to see that it's coming out in paperback so it should reach an even wider audience - it certainly deserves to.
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