A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters

Narrated by: Alex Jennings
Length: 10 hrs and 54 mins
4 out of 5 stars (236 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

This is one of the defining novels of English writer Julian Barnes. An entertaining melange of stories, starting with a contemporary account of the launch of Noah's Ark, takes us into unexpected areas of human foibles, activities, and tendencies.

After success with the main novels of Haruki Murakami, Naxos AudioBooks turns its attention to other major literary works of recent times.

©1989 Julian Barnes (P)2007 Naxos Rights International

Critic Reviews

“Barnes's witty and sometimes acerbic retelling of the history of the world. The stories are connected, if only tangentially, which is precisely Barnes's point: historians may tell us that "there was a pattern," but history is "just voices echoing in the dark . . . strange links, impertinent connections." Fascinating reading from the author of Flaubert's Parrot.” (Library Journal)
"Frequently brilliant, funny, thoughtful, iconoclastic and a delight to read." (Salman Rushdie)

What listeners say about A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters

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More Great Julian Barnes

Where does A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

HISTORY OF THE WORLD is one of the best books I have yet to listen to, and I have listened to hundreds. Barnes is brilliant with his wide ranging intelligence and splendid writing style. Alex Jennings is one of my favorite narrators and has done equally well with other of Julian Barnes' books.

What did you like best about this story?

These are stories that are linked in the most subtle (and not so subtle) way.

Have you listened to any of Alex Jennings’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

Alex Jennings' narrations of other Julian Barnes books are truly wonderful.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

Some of these stories are quite funny, and others serious and philosophical.

7 people found this helpful

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Top drawer!

Would you consider the audio edition of A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters to be better than the print version?

Because of Alex Jennings, yes. Though, of course, Julian Barnes is to blame. What a combination!

What was one of the most memorable moments of A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters?

Hard to say, when I was laughing so hard

Have you listened to any of Alex Jennings’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

He's always wonderful

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

Laugh

Any additional comments?

I would listen to Alex Jennings read the phone book!

2 people found this helpful

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An uneven collection of smart short stories

You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

The stories were "smart" as contrasted with "interesting" or insightful, though some were better than others. It seemed like more of an intellectual exercise by a clever man rather than the kind of literature Barnes has written before, and the stories are tied together very loosely, if at all. Not close to his best work and not as good a style as his novels.

4 people found this helpful

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short stories: satirical and devastating

If you could sum up A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters in three words, what would they be?

Satirical, Devastating, short-stories

What other book might you compare A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters to and why?

Mark Twain's satirical lectures. Using the Bible as a source for satirical stories, the author writes creatively about why we believe.

Have you listened to any of Alex Jennings’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

Nope. Stupid question.

If you could take any character from A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters out to dinner, who would it be and why?

None of the characters are likeable, but I would like to see what they have seen.

Any additional comments?

I choose to be a follower of Christ but I did not find the book offensive, it helped me think about faith from a new perspective. The author speaks not "against" Christianity, but the Church's inability to understand and act according to what they believe. Some chapters are hilarious and some are painfully violent and abrupt.

2 people found this helpful

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A Look at our Place in History

What made the experience of listening to A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters the most enjoyable?

Good stories and a few great ones read by a talented narrator.

What did you like best about this story?

That's difficult to say but I think that the stories being so different from one another but having unifying themes was one of the collection's strengths.

Which character – as performed by Alex Jennings – was your favorite?

The character in the last story 'The Dream.' Somehow reminded me of Ricky Gervais...

If you could take any character from A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters out to dinner, who would it be and why?

I'm not sure. That's a bit of a strange question...

Any additional comments?

Overall Review: ‘A History of the World in 10 ½ Chapters’ contains one of what I believe to be the best short stories I have ever listened to, the last story in the collection, titled ‘The Dream.’ For my money this story alone is worth the price of admission. I also thought the collection’s opener ‘The Stowaway’ was a standout.

I felt that the audiobook was a challenging one. The stories at first glance appear to be unrelated but are connected though the themes of voyage, discovery, and the interpretation of history. Barnes is deftly able to handle these subjects with a sense of good humor and the seemingly unconnected stories make for a unified piece once viewed together.

If you are familiar with Julian Barnes work then you should be pleased with this collection. If you are new to Julian Barnes it’s best to know that he’s a contemporary English writer who writes literary fiction. If you’re a fan of literary fiction and you like short stories then you can’t really go wrong here.

2 people found this helpful

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Fantastic

Best I’ve read in a long time! Perfection. (I don’t want to be forced to write long reviews.)

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Definitely Not for me

I expected irreverent but funny. I got irreverent and silly almost to the point of stupid. I forced myself to read a couple of hours, but it got worse and not better. I am definitely not suited to this type of "literature."

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bizarre and disturbing

I found these stories disturbing. Some are fictional, though referring to historical events, others are directly related to historical (or biblical) events. All focus on the ugliness of humanity. not my idea of entertainment.

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8 1/2 out of 10 1/2

This was not as humorous as I was expecting it to be. I enjoyed eight of the 10 chapters, and those two chapters I didn't enjoy I really didn't enjoy. my opinion the first chapter was the best chapter. Overall, I would say, I was entertained and that's not a bad thing.

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Unusual book

Don’t get me wrong I like the book very much it’s just terribly odd. Not at what I was expecting! Since it say’s it

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Martin
  • 05-13-09

Entertaining, often funny

This is like a collection of short stories that have an overlap with characters and themes, without quite making it seem like it is just one whole story. I found it was a very pleasant listen and quite enlightening, a few laugh out loud moments too. I really liked the style of the stories all being so different but having a common thread linking them all in some way. There were a couple of parts I found went a little bit off what I would normally expect to listen to but I was quite suprised to find I was happily engaged by them and neither went on long enough that I lost interest, just enough to be interesting. Well narrated, well written and entertaining. Will give some of the other titles by this author a listen.

8 people found this helpful

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  • Alison
  • 10-14-13

Odd - but enjoyable

I like short stories and so this was perfect, for that is what the book is, basically. A series of short, often very different stories. Some are sad, some savage, some dry, witty and wry.

The narration was perfect.

I have given it 4 stars overall partly because of the reader; the story (such as it is, there isn't one, really) gets only 3. So if a book that has a beginning, middle and end is your cup of tea, this might not be. It's not a novel, it's a series of (very lightly) linked tales.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Alternative Perspective
  • 01-11-19

A Foxes fan, a rant, a ramble

A mixed bag of thoughts, observations and emotions.... No regrets, just shallow and deep recollections in equal measure, scribblings and narrative too .... Brilliant. - a Filbert Street intellectual, not many of those around!

1 person found this helpful

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  • Leonid B.
  • 09-30-16

Curious choice of the title

Found the book relaxing but title of the book being misleading. Random loosely related stories seems like a better fit.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Michael Champion
  • 06-09-16

Wonderful audio book

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Yes - I would absolutely recommend this book to anyone with an interest in literature and good listening. It is a brilliant book which has been excellently narrated by Alex Jennings.

What other book might you compare A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters to, and why?

This book is unlike anything else. It is a true one-off. Julian Barnes looks at the world with a unique perspective.

Which scene did you most enjoy?

I loved the first and final chapters. The final is very thought-provoking but that is no surprise as the whole book makes the listener think about the various themes.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

It is too long for that. But I did skip through it quite quickly.

Any additional comments?

This is an exceptional book and one that can be listened to many times over. Recommended.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 05-16-20

Brilliant writer

The first brilliant chapter and chapter 8 in particular will stay with me. Very direct conversational style of story telling which ranges far and wide and delivered by a perfectly pitched narrator. Brilliant writer.