A Million Years in a Day
A Curious History of Everyday Life From the Stone Age to the Phone Age
Author Greg Jenner
Narrated by Matthew Lloyd Davies
Publication date Jun 21, 2016
Running time 11 hrs 26 min
Audiobook provided by publisher for review. No remuneration was exchanged and all opinions presented herein are my own except as noted.
Who invented beds? When did we start cleaning our teeth? How old are wine and beer? Which came first: the toilet seat or toilet paper? What was the first clock? Every day, from the moment our alarm clock wakes us in the morning until our head hits our pillow at night, we all take part in rituals that are millennia old.
Structured around one ordinary day, A Million Years in a Day reveals the astonishing origins and development of the daily practices we take for granted. In this gloriously entertaining romp through human history, Greg Jenner explores the gradual and often unexpected evolution of our daily routines. This is not a story of politics, wars, or great events. Instead, Jenner has scoured Roman rubbish bins, Egyptian tombs, and Victorian sewers to bring us the most intriguing, surprising, and sometimes downright silly nuggets from our past.
Drawn from across the world, spanning a million years of humanity, this book is a smorgasbord of historical delights. It is a history of all those things you always wondered—and many you have never considered. It is the story of your life, one million years in the making. https://tantor.com/a-million-years-in-a-day-greg-jenner.html
Listening to this book with it’s wry commentary is like having a funny younger brother tell you the history if the world. Sometimes that little brother is going to be stuck in the realm of that bathroom humor wherein it seems young males, in particular, seem to dwell well into their twenties. Other times it will seem like the truth being uttered “out of the mouths of babes.” But the droll narration from Matthew Lloyd Davies is excellent and spot on.
While I found the analogy of history being related in terms of the actions we are likely to perform at different times of day, and with the idea the same rituals of waking up, using the loo, bathing, getting dress, etc., feels a little forced, it is a good way to look into the past as relevant, and linked, to contemporary society.
It did drag on, what felt like forever, and I found myself wishing that the guy would go to bed early, as I made an assumption that it would be the end of the day and the book. But, for sure the man did his research and seems to know his stuff. He also has a lot of those stupid questions that we all really think about when someone talks about history (Yes, the castle is huge, but what did they do with their poo?).
I have to say that occasionally it reminded me of a time when a professor walked into an Introduction to Rhetoric and Communication class one day, and after introduccing himself as a substitute for the day delivered the following with great enthusiasm, “Today’s lecture is about hawks.” This was, of course a joke, and the professor said he had always wanted to do that.
It had the effect of engaging the lecture hall and getting out attention. Since that and one other idea is all I recall from the class, I think it was an effective strategy. I also think this would make a great mini-series on PBS along the lines of Neil deGrasse Tyson’s COSMOS, and would be a great (teens and up) family listen for a car trip.
I enjoyed the book, and wish I had the opportunity to listen to it in smaller doses over a longer stretch of time (the reviewer’s curse ). It started to become too many facts to absorb at once. But it was also fun, and funny and felt like a lot of stories.