• Land

  • How the Hunger for Ownership Shaped the Modern World
  • By: Simon Winchester
  • Narrated by: Simon Winchester
  • Length: 13 hrs and 46 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History, World
  • 4.4 out of 5 stars (248 ratings)
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Publisher's Summary

“In many ways, Land combines bits and pieces of many of Winchester’s previous books into a satisfying, globe-trotting whole.... Winchester is, once again, a consummate guide.” (Boston Globe)

The author of The Professor and the Madman, The Map That Changed the World, and The Perfectionists explores the notion of property - bought, earned, or received; in Europe, Africa, North America, or the South Pacific - through human history, how it has shaped us and what it will mean for our future.

Land - whether meadow or mountainside, desert or peat bog, parkland or pasture, suburb or city - is central to our existence. It quite literally underlies and underpins everything. Employing the keen intellect, insatiable curiosity, and narrative verve that are the foundations of his previous bestselling works, Simon Winchester examines what we human beings are doing - and have done - with the billions of acres that together make up the solid surface of our planet.

Land: How the Hunger for Ownership Shaped the Modern World examines in depth how we acquire land, how we steward it, how and why we fight over it, and finally, how we can, and on occasion do, come to share it. Ultimately, Winchester confronts the essential question: who actually owns the world’s land - and why does it matter? 

Supplemental enhancement PDF accompanies the audiobook.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.  

©2021 Simon Winchester (P)2021 HarperCollins Publishers

What listeners say about Land

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Audiobook Version is the Best!

The only thing better to me than a Simon Winchester book is a Simon Winchester audiobook. This man's voice soothes me, like being read to by a treasured grandfather figure. There's nothing worse than an author who sounds like he is going through a tedious task of reading his own book. Not here. Simon is thrilled to be reading his book, one can tell, and I was thrilled to be listening to him do it.

Admission: I'm an attorney by trade. Before particularly tense hearings I often pull out my cell phone and my earbuds and listen to Simon read to me. True. He helps me concentrate in the way some people listen to music to help them feel motivated. It's quite remarkable really.

I buy everything this man does. He's my favorite nonfiction author. He's as interesting as all get out, he writes beautifully phrased narrative, he's fun(!) he has a subtle sense of humor I adore, he's curious, it seems, about the same things you're curious about, uncanny — this wonderful man has it in spades.

Simon Winchester's writing keeps getting better. I highly recommend this book! Mr. Winchester's voice is one huge cherry on top!

I hope I've helped.

26 people found this helpful

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Very disappointing

As a big fan of Winchester's earlier books, I was really let down by this one. There is no real story, no central core. It's merely a series of anecdotes related to land and issues surrounding ownership. A few are interesting, others simply mundane. He takes a very favorable view of cultures which did not believe in personal ownership of land, deplores the Western belief in personal ownership, and yet never reconciles this with his own purchase of over a hundred acres of woodland in upstate NY, something upon which he dwells in detail but never really explores. There are real questions here: how should a culture that believes in land ownership interact with another that doesn't? What are the rights and wrongs of that clash? How might things have gone more equitably? But he doesn't deal with any of this. He spends a whole chapter talking about modern experiments in communal ownership of land without ever really explaining what that means in practical terms. Overall, the worst Winchester book I have ever read (and I've read half a dozen).

8 people found this helpful

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A long and relentless polemic

I confess I could not make it through all of the book. The third that I did listen to was not so much about the history of “land” and concepts and social and legal norms surrounding it. Rather it was a series of tales of how whites in America dispossessed the Indians and how the British screwed up partition. There is nothing positive except the peaceful, happy, socially advanced pre-colonization Indians —- perhaps as biased as view as that about evil white men.

This book will appeal to those who like to read how bad western civilization is, without thinking through any alternatives.

6 people found this helpful

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Fascinating book .... with one large disappointmen

I am a Simon Winchester fan of many years' standing. I found Land, his recent far-reaching look at land ownership and import, from ancient times until now, to be excellently researched and presented with Winchester's usual flair. However, I was hugely disappointed in his discussion of the Wilkes brothers of Idaho. Mr. Winchester's attribution of so much of their stance to their Evangelical beliefs was truly below his standards. Please note: I am NOT Evangelical at all....just someone who remembers her mother's counsel to never berate another's religion. I think the actions of the Wilkes duo could have been presented very clearly without the snarky remarks about Evangelicals. I daresay this would NOT have happened had the brothers been Jewish, or Catholic, or Muslim. VERY disappointing to see a brilliant writer take out after someone else's religion. He should have known my mother.

6 people found this helpful

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not one of his best

Winchester's books are always interesting, but this was not one of his best. He sometimes repeats the same idea, in different words, for a page, and sometimes his preaching verges on the insufferable, but still an enjoyable ride.

2 people found this helpful

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One sided presentation of a complicated issue

I loved Winchester’s “The Men Who United The States” and it is hard to believe this is the same author. That book extolled the benefits of the engineering triumphs of railroads, bridges, roads, canals, telephone communication and other great endeavors to reshape the world. But, in “Land” he seems to suggest that mankind is a blight that ruins everything he touches and that hunter gatherers were the last of our species who deserved the earth they live on. He excoriates those countries that have at least tried to deal fairly with the indigenous peoples they found on the land while hardly mentioning how previous peoples of all kinds came to occupy that land to begin with. For millennia “Right of Conquest” was the way of things around the globe (see “Guns, Germs & Steel”, a Pulitzer Prize winning and fascinating book) and the conquered ended up dead or enslaved. England, Canada, USA, Australia and New Zealand garner much derision from the “Land” author for their often unsuccessful attempts to at least try to do better than the conquerors of the past. Winchester also makes almost no effort to acknowledge the positive benefits of modern land use and farming methods. All we get from him is a steady stream of examples of the horrors man has inflicted on the earth and his fellow man . . . Radiation, global warming, resettlement of indigenous peoples, mining scars, animal slaughter, pollution, habitat destruction, barbed wire fences, etc. Private Ownership of land (unless at subsistence farming levels) is pretty much vilified with hardly any redeeming values mentioned.

I found the whole presentation to be extremely one sided. Cannot recommend this book and very disappointed to have to say so.

2 people found this helpful

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winchester brings land to life

Simon Winchester does it again. He brings life and perspective to land. How we see it, how we use it, how we own it and the many ways it affects our lives. The combination of history, facts, language and his wonderful narration made this book a pleasure to listen to.

2 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars

Strongly researched, good overview of the issues

As with all the books by Simon Winchester that I have read, the breadth of his interests, the elegance of his writing, and the depth of his research is on impressive display here.

The book started out strongly, with an in-depth explanation of how the first maps were developed of the world's surface. After that, chapters on the struggles between the early colonists in America/New Zealand and the indigenous peoples there cover familiar ground, but do a decent job of showing the shameful way in which westerners encroached on, took advantage of, and generally mistreated the indigenous peoples who hindered their lust to own the land they "discovered."

I lost interest in the middle sections of the book, covering land struggles in Scotland and the Middle East, seemingly from a very British point-of-view. Even the chapter on Africa, which was gorgeously written, felt to me to be a bit too much from a European's viewpoint. It's not that the author is apologizing for what colonizers did in these places, but these chapters smacked of lots of research but little local voice.

The chapter on the Maori in Arcady was much more interesting, especially given that this nation is doing some innovative things to return land to the aboriginal peoples who first inhabited it, and would seem to have some lessons we could learn in the United States. And I really loved his final chapter, where he covers land trusts, and the epilogue, dealing with global warming.

This is a good book to read to get an overview of the many issues surrounding land and land ownership. For a more personalized, Native American view of many of the issues explored here, I highly recommend the book "Braiding Sweetgrass" by Robin Wall Kimmerer.

[I listened to this as an audio book read by Simon Winchester. He always does a fantastic job of narrating his own books.]

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  • KK
  • 11-11-21

Brilliant as always

Simon Winchester weaves history, psychology, and humanity and its hubris into a beautiful work. Enjoyable read that ends with hope.

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  • HW
  • 10-21-21

Less a history; more a manifesto

This guy strings together some of the most popular leftwing historical tropes and called it a history book.