Why do we measure time in the way that we do? Why is a week seven days long? At what point did minutes and seconds come into being? Why are some calendars lunar and some solar? The organization of time into hours, days, months, and years seems immutable and universal, but is actually far more artificial than most people realize. For example, the French Revolution resulted in a restructuring of the French calendar, and the Soviet Union experimented with five and then six-day weeks.
Leofranc Holford-Strevens brings us this fascinating study of time using a range of examples from Ancient Rome and Julius Caesar's imposition of the Leap Year to the 1920s project for a fixed Easter. Those interested in time, history, and the development of the calendar will enjoy this absorbing exploration of an aspect of our lives that we all take for granted.
In a hurry? Listen to more Very Short Introductions.
©2005 Leofranc Holford-Strevens (P)2011 Audible, Inc.
This is a perfectly good, useful, interesting book, and the reading is fine. Unfortunately, that does not add up to a good audio book. A more accurate title would be The Etymology of Time. It is primarily a cultural history of the various calendars and terms used to designate days, months, years, and so on in different societies. As the author clearly states, it is not about the physics or philosophy of time, nor about the technology of timekeeping. In its printed form, it would make a good small reference book where one can readily find the Babylonian equivalent of January or Greek Orthodox variations on the solar calendar. The cultural relativity of time calculations comes through loud and clear. Otherwise, I regret to say that in audio form the book's lack of any narrative or conceptual theme and the long parade of arcane terminology makes for rather tedious listening. If you are looking for a book on the cultural history and vocabulary of calendars, fine. But don't expect more.
People who buy this book are probably familiar with terms like "sidereal". The narrator is not, and pronounces this word SIDE-reel (about one hundred times). Later, in a discussion of Easter and its reckoning, he pronounces Paschal as PASH-uhl numerous times.
I am always irritated that the "talent" won't take the time to learn words that are obviously new to them. I know they don't get paid a lot for their work, but you would think that pride would compel them to learn the material, at least well enough to speak it correctly.
One must listen closely to the material due to its terse prose style and information density. This job is made more difficult by the narration.
As to content, I was somewhat satisfied. I expected more information on the ancient origin of seconds and weeks, but you get more of the usual about Julian and Gregorian calendars.
"University paper not a book"
Sadly I had to abandon listening to this after just 5 minutes into chapter one.
The preface sounds like it was written to impress a university tutor and the first chapter is no easier to listen to.
If you need a textbook on time this may be the one for you but it does not work as an audiobook.
Report Inappropriate Content
If you find this review inappropriate and think it should be removed from our site, let us know. This report will be reviewed by Audible and we will take appropriate action.