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Timekeepers is a book about our obession with time and our desire to measure it, control it, sell it, film it, perform it, immortalise it and make it meaningful....

Title : Timekeepers : How the World Became Obsessed With Time
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ISBN : 9781782113218
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 349 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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Timekeepers : How the World Became Obsessed With Time Reviews

  • Gill
    2019-04-27 23:24

    'Timekeepers' by Simon Garfield 4 stars/ 8 out of 10I have heard good things about other books by Simon Garfield, especially 'Mauve: How One Man Invented a Color That Changed the World', so was interested in reading his latest book 'Timekeepers'. In 'Timekeepers', Garfield is exploring our obsessions with time.Garfield has written an interesting book, looking at all sorts of aspects, both historical and current, relating to timekeeping. These range from the standardisation of national times, resulting from the development of train travel; through the connections between the composing and playing of music and the contemporary recording methods; to watchmaking and timekeeping. I was especially interested in the sections on Time and Motion, and on Movies. My favourite section was that on photography and what is termed the 'decisive moment'.This is a well thought out, well structured and well referenced book, which contains a lot of interesting information. I enjoyed Garfield's wry sense of humour.I look forward to reading further books by Simon Garfield.Thank you to Canongate Books and to NetGalley for an ARC.

  • Paul
    2019-04-28 02:26

    Time is one of those entities that we cannot buy nor store; it just grinds inexorably on; tick, tock; second by second, and once gone can never be had again. And yet we still never have enough of it. In the days before clocks, we timed our lives by the rising and setting of the sun, working and resting as the light came and went. Even your cheapest wristwatch is incredibly accurate when compared to the timepieces 100 years ago. But in this modern age we now have access to the some of the most accurate and precise measurements of time available; an atomic clock will only lose one second every 15 billion years. Drawing together all manner of subjects on the ticking clock he tells us why the CD is the length it is, how to make a watch, how the French messed up the calendar, how the trains changed time everywhere and tries to fathom out time management systems. He gazes at some frighteningly expensive watches in the home of time, Switzerland, and learns about taking your time to eat from the slow food movement. Garfield has a knack of getting to the very essence of a subject and has written another fascinating book, and this is no exception. Being an engineer, I particularly liked the chapters on the technology used to make a timepiece these days, just the way that they assemble these tiny mechanical marvels is particularly special. The whole book is full of curious facts, amusing anecdotes and subtle observations on the passage of time. Written in his usual entertaining style, is a delight to read as were his other books. Great stuff.

  • Ben Babcock
    2019-04-29 22:51

    I spend a lot of time (hah) thinking about how little we understand the way people in the past actually lived, day to day, simply because technology that we now take for granted has changed things we don’t even think about. I take it for granted that I can know the precise time, as we currently measure it, all the time. I take it for granted that I can flick a switch and have light even in the middle of the night. These things mould and shape my perception of our world, but they are artifacts of the present society, not inviolate states of being. Timekeepers looks at our fascination, or our obsession as the subtitle bills it, with time, and the way this obsession has evolved hand-in-hand with technologies.Simon Garfield’s name rang a bell when I saw this on NetGalley. Plus, it’s a book about time! How could that go wrong? I might have been more hesitant had I remembered the other Garfield book I’ve read is On the Map. Nevertheless, I’m a sucker for those free books, so I dove into Timekeepers hoping to learn some interesting things. And I did. But I was also bored. I do, however, appreciate Canongate Books and NetGalley for making this ARC available to me.I’m starting to hate reading non-fiction on my tablet. I have no idea, on my tablet, how far I am through a book. With a physical book, this is not a problem, obviously. Even with a novel in ebook form, the natural arc of the narrative means I can guess when we’re approaching the end. I know that ereader apps tend to tell you how far you are through the book (or how much is remaining), but that is just a number to me; it doesn’t give me a good sense of how much progress I’ve made. With non-fiction, this is a problem; I start feeling bogged down, and if the book is not really compelling me to read on, I drag my heels. This was my experience with Timekeepers.Some of the individual chapters here are fascinating. I genuinely enjoyed Garfield’s discourse on the reasons why movies have different frame-rates from television and, in the beginning, even variable frame-rates. That was a cool tidbit of knowledge. Similarly, Garfield discusses the way our ability to precisely measure time has contributed to such phenomena as world records (the “4-minute mile”) and mass production (the assembly line and scientific management). All of these are interesting phenomena that are worth (and have had books written about them) in their own rights.And that’s really where Timekeepers fails to deliver for me: the subject matter here is just too varied. It’s a smorgasboard of subjects that are all vaguely connected to time in some way, but they are not connected to each other. Some of the chapters are short, others quite long—or in the case of Garfield’s digression into watchmaking, he gives the subject two chapters. This is not a linear or chronological history, and while Garfield makes that quite clear in the preface, the subtitle of this book—How the World Became Obsessed With Time—suggests otherwise. I was all on board with his promise to jump around and look at the issue thematically, but now, at the end of the journey, I’m wishing there were some kind of chronological thread to tie everything together.I don’t want to be too hard on Timekeepers, because it is not a bad book. It is well-written, well-researched, and interesting. Yet it is also long. It could have benefited from some more rigorous (read: ruthless) editing to restrain some of Garfield’s more enthusiastic tangents. This is not the type of pop culture non-fiction book I enjoy, the kind that grabs me and makes me want to keep reading because there is just so much to learn from it. As with On the Map, I feel like this is partly because of an incompatibility of styles, and so you might enjoy this book just fine and find nothing wrong with it whatsoever.The anecdotes and history related in this book have given me some ideas for books I want to read next, for sure. But whatever good will or fascination Timekeepers fostered with each fact it squandered on the stamina required to simply get through it. Reading this kept reminding me of the six-part series from BBC, How We Got to Now, hosted by Steven Johnson. Each episode focused on a specific topic, which provided a good way to take a non-chronological look at history. Perhaps this book would fare better as a such a miniseries. Take it to Netflix, Garfield, and I’ll give it another go!

  • Penny
    2019-05-23 02:41

    3.5Simon Garfield has written some great books and I particularly love his editing of Mass Observation Diaries. He picks some really interesting subjects to write about, so I was excited to receive an ARC of this book courtesy of Net Galley.It's a bit curate's egg. I enjoyed the mix of personal anecdote and what was clearly extensive research The book starts off with Garfield having an accident on his bicycle and feeling that 'time stood still' as he flew over the handle bars onto the road - he then goes on to explain why certain traumatic events in our lives do feel as if everything has slowed down.However, I began to get thoroughly bogged down with learning about watches - although the chapters on how advertising manages to persuade us to part with huge sums of money for a fancy watch that we don't really need was very interesting.

  • Alex Sarll
    2019-05-11 03:53

    I'd always vaguely meant to get round to Garfield's previous book about typefaces, while at the same time suspecting that unlike some friends I'm not *quite* enough of a font fiend for it. But perhaps I would have been better off with that than this, precisely because I'd know less of the material. The progression from the railways via Greenwich (no, not Paris - sux2BU, France!) towards globally harmonised timekeeping, the horror of the French revolutionary calendar and the even shorter-lived ten hour day, the reason CDs have the capacity they do...these are trivia standards. Still, plenty of other stuff was new on me, whether that be the ingenious marketing approaches modern watchmakers use to keep profiting from a device which most people no longer need, the story surrounding Roger Bannister's four immortal minutes, or the debate over the speed at which classical music should be performed. And it's all interesting, but seldom quite interesting enough. The prose is fine, but only very occasionally more than that. It was the chapter on the popularity of quick-fix books about time management which enabled me to put my finger on the problem: this is the sort of stuff Oliver Burkeman does in the Guardian magazine, and does better at that. As a magazine column about things somehow connected to time (and what isn't?), Garfield's musings would be fine, but they never quite make the leap from magazine-interesting to book-interesting.Also, he uncritically repeats the idea that Thoreau was in splendid isolation for his time at Walden, which I thought was now commonly known to be an early example of self-help authors' mythmaking. Which inevitably then slightly shakes my trust in everything else here. And talks about 'the end of history' as if it were still a current idea, rather than a much-mocked one from two decades back. The book slowly winds down through hand-wringing chapters about slow food and the British Museum (which are both sort of relevant, but do serve to remind how baggy a topic this is), laced with generic Luddite moans such as "We used to have time to think, but now instant communication barely gives us time to react". All of which leaves a worse taste in the mouth than the book as a whole really deserves.(Netgalley ARC)Correspondences to Jerusalem, because they seem to arise in every book I finish while reading Jerusalem: come on, this one's easy - it's a book driven by an authorial fascination with time.

  • Jason
    2019-05-24 23:37

    A collection of essays on time, from hanging from the minute hand in a movie to the art of watchmaking. I found this a fascinating read and Simon's quirky humour really adds to the book. A sign of a good book is when I spend ages telling people about bits I've learnt, I had some great discussions about when we adopted modern time and the influence the railway had on that, living in this day it is really difficult to imagine the chaos of time in different cities around the UK. Time also seems to have been affected in this book, the start mentions a moment when the author fell off his bike and when the same scene is mentioned in the epilogue it felt really weird so much time seemed to have passed. The epilogue is the weakest part of the book, the last chapter ends perfectly, a long quote by the great Carl Sagan and some very moving words about death and that we don't have time to mourn properly these days, it was a fine ending and then the epilogue, a few pages about some bizarre watches, seemed a very odd way to end things, I don't really get it.This is a top book on a topic many would find boring, give it a go, you don't have to read the whole thing in one go, dip in and out reading a chapter now and then, you'll take plenty from giving it a go.

  • Ellie
    2019-05-13 22:28

    Rather than an in-depth study of time or a chronological history, Timekeepers is more like a collection of essays inspired by timekeeping in one way or another.I already knew a little about how the railways forced Britain to nationalise time and the chapter concerning them filled in some gaps for me. I wonder if the act stating that clocks on public buildings must be kept accurate is still in force? Elsewhere Simon explores how artists have portrayed time and used clocks in their work, branching off to tell us about some of the more unusual calendars people have tried to adopt in the past.I particularly liked the chapters regarding time in film and photography. There’s Muybridge (best known for his photographs of a horse galloping) and Nick Ut (famous for a single photo from Vietnam) and it talks about how photography manages to stop time. The early cinematographers could change the speed of time by their hand-cranking of the films…and then the projectionists could change it again when they showed the film. I had never realised that early film reel was turned by hand, no wonder it sometimes looks out of time.I didn’t know that the Doomsday Clock was actually the cover of Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, introduced in 1947 to symbolise how close we are to nuclear disaster. The minute hand has moved back and forward ever since, showing how at peace the world is. You can check out the current time on their website if you’re intrigued… Like many of these sort of books, there’s parts that appealed to me more than others. I skimmed over some of the bits describing Swiss watches, it was more about their appearance, materials and marketing than how they actually go about keeping time. The parts about modern time management just made me glad I wasn’t one of those kind of people (and some of the mantra’s seemed a bit too similar to puppy training to be taken seriously).Review copy provided by publisher.

  • Manchester Military History Society (MMHS)
    2019-04-27 21:37

    Patchy collection of essays inspired by timekeepingThis is a difficult one to review, as being a collection of essays, some I found fascinating, others I couldn’t wait to finish. It's a great subject and there’s some great “wow I didn’t know that!” moments, but also some that you feel could have been shorter.Overall some great facts, but did find it somewhat of a chore to finish.Thanks to netgalley for the review copy

  • Jill Elizabeth
    2019-05-17 20:30

    I admit it. I am obsessed with time. I am retired (sort of) and have been since my company was bought out in 2009 and I decided (at the ripe old age of 36) that I didn't want to undergo complete life upheaval to work for a vast behemoth in a vast city. Since then I've moved back to the area where I grew up, gotten married, gotten two bonus kids in the bargain, and had a child. I stay at home - which is to say I'm never home, I'm always driving someone somewhere or fetching something forgotten and delivering it or shopping for something we've run out of yet again. But in theory, my day is less regulated than it ever was - yet I'm more obsessed with time than I ever was at any point in my career in office buildings.Weird, to say the least. But apparently, I'm not the only one - as this delightful collection of stories, anecdotes, and life lessons couched as stories and anecdotes informed me. Through a series of exceedingly interesting and seemingly random tales about the relationship between people and time, Simon Garfield has managed to simultaneously make me more comfortable with my obsession and more worried about it - in the best possible way in both regards. This is an entertaining, well-written, collection of fun facts and thought-provoking ideas, and was an excellent find.My review copy was provided by NetGalley.

  • Hobart
    2019-05-17 04:49

    An expanded version of this originally appeared at The Irresponsible Reader.--- Time, once passive, is now aggressive. It dominates our lives in ways that the earliest clockmakers would have surely found unbearable. We believe that time is running away from us. Technology is making everything faster, and because we know that things will become faster in the future, it follows that nothing is fast enough now. . . But the strangest thing of all is this: if they were able, the earliest clockmakers would tell us that the pendulum swings at the same rate as it always has, and the calendars have been fixed for hundreds of years. We have brought this cauldron of rush upon ourselves. Time seems faster because we have made it so.When it comes to non-fiction reads, there are a number of ways I tend to judge them (rightly or wrongly) -- first (always first): Is it well-written? Does the writer know what he's doing? Even if I end up learning a lot from a book, if it's not well-written, I'm not going to like it. Secondly, is it informative? Do I actually learn something, or is it a re-hash of things that any number of books have said (do we really need that many biographies of Abraham Lincoln?)? Thirdly, does it make me think of something in a new way, or challenge my preconceptions (does this examination of Don DeLillo make me re-think White Noise? (I know of no book like this, but would love to read one)). Fourth, this is not essential -- but is the book entertaining? It gets bonus points for that.Simon Garfield's Timekeepers, clears the bar for every one of these standards. Since he does it more succinctly than I could, I'll let Garfield sum up the book:This is a book about our obsession with time and our desire to beat it. . . The book has but two simple intentions: to tell some illuminating stories, and to ask whether we have all gone completely nuts. He begins with telling the well-known (at least in brush strokes) story about the invention of time zones -- but man, did I not understand really how this came about. Then he covers the experiments with the calendar, the clock, etc. tried following the French Revolution (and how some of those experiments live on). We get a couple of chapters on time and the cinema. Music (Beethoven, The Beatles, recording and more), photography, filibustering, the work day, and other sundry topics are covered as well. You can't forget watch-making, watch-marketing, watch-design, watch-capabilities, watch-symbolism, and a few other watch-related notions that I can't think of at the moment. Let's get to the writing itself. Garfield has a way with words -- the number of sentences that I highlighted because of his use of the language is pretty high. If I quoted every one that I wanted to, this post would quickly move into the tl;dr range -- and into the copyright infringement range not long after that. It wasn't just his style, the book simply displays some well-crafted writing. It's not perfect -- but it's good. I'll freely admit that not every topic he covered really interested me, but his writing kept me reading -- and I was rewarded pretty frequently. Even when my interest waned, his writing would stand out here and there so I could appreciate the how he said it, even if the what didn't interest me. Rarely, the topics that did grab me would have a paragraph or so that didn't rise to that level, however. I'm not going to go into specifics on this point, though -- I didn't bother to note those, and I bet that comes down to taste and others won't think of those passages the same way, and they were brief moments, so they didn't detract from the whole.Did I learn something from the book? Much more than I expected to. The chapter on the French experiments alone probably taught me enough to justify the whole book. I didn't/couldn't stick with the details of watch-making (I have a hard time visualizing that kind of detail), but even that was fascinating and informative on the surface. Most topics broadened my understanding and taught me something. Also, the sheer amount of trivia that I picked up was great (the amount of time spent recording the first Beatles LP, why pop music tends to be about 3 minutes long, etc., etc. But it's not just about the information gained -- it's what that information means (both in terms of the book's argument(s), but in how the reader considers that information in the light of what they already know and personal experience. Every time that Garfield moves from the "here's what happened" or the "here's how this works" bits to the "because this happened" or "because this works" bits, it was something I don't know that I'd spent too much time thinking about previously. Sometimes those took the form of quick "huh," moments -- but occasionally he brushed against profundity, which I really appreciated.And yes, Garfield picked up bonus points for entertainment. After the first paragraph in Chapter 1, my notes read "Between the Introduction and this paragraph, I've laughed four times. Am going to dig this book." Later on, I wrote that I didn't care about the content, really, I was having too much fun reading it to worry about it being right.There's room for improvement, I think. If there's a design to the organization, I'm not sure I see it. He appears to hopscotch around between his topics. I'm honestly not sure how he could have arranged them to flow from one to another, but I do believe it could've been done. I think he could've lessened the detail occasionally (and increased it in a spot or two). But generally, this is me being nit-picky for the sake of not being a push over. There's really almost nothing to complain about.Garfield scores across the board with this one, however. I do think the survey hops around a bit too much without obvious connections between the ideas so that the cumulative punch is less than it could be. In his concluding thoughts, Garfield raises some issues and asks some pointed questions that could be more forceful, more pointed if the preceding chapters had been more clearly linked. Nevertheless, the points were made and I, like most readers (I suspect), had to give some serious thought about my relationship to time and what I actually value. I'll have to continue this thinking for a while, actually -- the fact that I have to -- and want to -- is because of this book forcing me to consider things I've taken for granted about time and how my life is governed. I suspect I am not alone in this. Thought-provoking, interesting, educating, well-written and generally entertaining -- Timekeepers really covers all the bases and covers them well. You'd do well to check it out.Disclaimer: I received this eARC from the swell folks at Canongate Books via NetGalley in exchange for this post -- thanks to both for this. I'm very sorry this posted after the release date, my notes had that in March.

  • Ian Brydon
    2019-05-06 23:28

    I really ought to know better by now. I made the fatal error, yet again, of allowing myself to be too gullible, and letting the publisher’s blurbs on the cover of the book sell me the dummy. I had read, and enjoyed, a couple of Simon Armitage’s books before. Indeed, I had found his ‘The last Journey of William Huskisson’, simply marvellous. That book successfully combined an account of the life, and tragically premature death, of that great politician (branded by many as the most talented and accomplished Prime Minister Britain never had) with the story of George Stephenson’s construction of the Liverpool-Manchester railway line. Similarly, his ‘On The Map’ gave an entertaining account of the history of cartography, with some diverting thoughts about the future of mapping now that everyone has the world of GPS plotting available to them wherever they venture through the medium of the smartphone. It didn’t quite match up to his book on Huskisson, however, and I should perhaps have spotted some warning signs. Garfield has established a reputation as an accomplished popular historian. He clearly conducts meticulous research and establishes a sound understanding of his subject matter. He does, however, have a tendency to try to be funny, and while he may be good at the history, he is not a comic. Unfortunately, in this book I found I had reached, and passed, my tolerance for his attempts to be laconic.That is not to say that the book was not interesting. He identifies some fascinating aspects about humans’ boundless preoccupation with measuring time. Along the way he gives the reader some well-crafted insights into the development of the calendar (including some developmental cul-de-sacs that, fortunately, were never brought to lasting fruition, such as the French Revolutionary Calendar). He also explains how it was only the dawn of the railway age that led to the adoption of nationally standardised time, to allow for the preparation of a viable timetable.Further apostrophes chronicle the development of the vinyl long player (LP), and then, in turn, of the compact disc, flagging up the unexpected consequence that the limitations of the medium had a marked impact on the evolution of the content. Until the introduction of the LP in 1948, records played at 78 revolutions per minute only really allowed for about four and a half minutes per side, severely constricting for any classical pieces.On balance, however, I found that the tone of the writing inhibited my enjoyment of the book. It still intrigued, and occasionally entertained me, but it struck me most forcibly as a missed opportunity. It could have been so much better than it was.

  • Diego González
    2019-05-17 22:32

    Si no tuviera unas expectativas previas este libro se habría llevado cuatro estrellas, pero como las tenía y fueron defraudadas pues sólo se lleva tres. Uno esperaba una historia del tiempo oficial y apenas hay un capítulo dedicado a ello, y es de un capítulo histórico muy reciente (la unificación de los horarios debido al nacimiento del ferrocarril). Por lo demás visitamos ferias de relojería y plantas de ensamblado de coches y le damos un buen repaso a la sección de autoayuda de la Barnes & Noble más cercana. Es entretenido, es interesante, es informativo, pero no es lo que yo esperaba. Aún así, muy recomendable. Garfield cuenta historias muy bien (aunque abusa de las anécdotas personales, que son tantas que uno tiende a pensar que se las inventa) y es capaz de mantener la atención del lector tratando temas tan abstrusos como la burocracia del Museo Británico. Léanlo, malditos sean.

  • Jennifer (JC-S)
    2019-05-11 01:35

    ‘We work all hours so that we may eventually work less. We have invented quality time to distinguish it from that other time.’Many of us are obsessed with time. People like me, for whom punctuality is a virtue of the first order, are continually dismayed and occasionally stressed by those for whom time is a relaxed, relative concept. We measure time, apportion it across the tasks we need to complete, try to allocate enough for human functions like eating and sleeping and, if there is any minute left unallocated, find some other activity with which to fill it. Or, perhaps that is just me?‘Timekeepers’ was a perfect read for me. It gave me some insight into how (and why) we’ve become fixated on increasingly accurate measures of time. I learned about the French Revolutionary Calendar (and having read about it, can understand why I’d never heard of it before), found out more about the art and science involved in watchmaking than I’ll ever need to know, and wondered about the timing that Beethoven really wanted for his 9th Symphony. Mr Garfield has included a lot of interesting information in this book. While I knew about US Senator Strom Thurmond’s 24 hour 18 minute speech in August 1957, I didn’t know that the Beatles recorded their first LP (excluding the singles) in less than one day in 1963. There is information as well about developments in recording music: those of us old enough to have heard recordings on the old 78 rpm records will know how much has changed!‘Time once passive is now aggressive. It dominates our lives in ways that the earliest clockmakers would have surely found unbearable.’As I read this book, I wondered about a few aspects of timekeeping. When did accuracy become so important? Was it necessary before the advent of train timetables? Has increasingly accurate measure of time driven timetabling, or is it the other way around? Is the level of accuracy in timekeeping required for (say) aircraft and train scheduling as important in other aspects of life?I was reminded, too, how time can feel different. If you’ve waited in an emergency ward, or waited for a telephone call, minutes can feel like hours. If you’ve been in an accident, it often feels like everything is happening in slow motion. On the other hand, if you’ve been to an enjoyable event, hours seem to pass like minutes. Yes, I guess that time can be relative as well as absolute.I really enjoyed this book, and would recommend it to anyone with an interest in time, and how we measure it.Note: My thanks to NetGalley and Canongate Books for providing me with a free electronic copy of this book for review purposes.Jennifer Cameron-Smith

  • Margaret Sankey
    2019-05-03 23:48

    Another good popular history, this one of the modern concept of time, with explorations of the French Revolutionary calendar, how printed timetables made trains be on time through adjusting public expectations, how trauma both speeds up time and makes waiting in the ER excruciatingly slow, filibustering speeches and how a time limit imposed by record singles and albums changed the musical form of songs (until CDs came along and changed them again).

  • R. Bonne
    2019-04-29 00:42

    The premise of Timekeepers was intriguing to me because I have always been interesting in perception of time. The segments were shorter than I liked, and sometimes I craved more elaboration and less dry humor. I enjoyed most of the book. The footnotes were sometimes disruptive of the rhythm of the author’s writing, but I found it easy enough to just review them at the end of a segment. Thanks to NetGalley for giving me the chance to read this book in exchange for an unbiased review.

  • Tiffany
    2019-05-17 02:49

    Simon Garfield's Timekeepers was very interesting most of the time. The collection of essays exploring how humans have "become obsessed with time" are clearly researched, often interjected with personal anecdotes, and a certain bit of humor. I admit I enjoyed some essays much more than others, but still found most to be informative and easy to read. Thank you, NetGalley and Canongate for the opportunity to provide an honest review in exchange for the ebook.

  • Jan
    2019-05-09 00:45

    Garfield's scattergun approach nearly left me to abandon this midway through, after a couple of chapters that were frankly boring. I stuck with it and was rewarded- the best bits are towards the end. In a word: random.

  • Keith
    2019-05-24 02:32

    I’ve read and enjoyed several books my Simon Garfield in the past and looked forward to this. However, I was, very dissapointed. I did not expect, nor pay for, a collection of biased and content-light vignettes, several of which were mainly reprints.Biased? Comments like “the French will protest about anything“ are unpleasant and racist. His opinions on music, books, authors etc. are expressed in similar language and detract greatly from the book.What about the content? Disappointing to say the least. I am not interested in name dropping, descriptions of marketing fairs, self congratulation etc. etc. Only one chapter looked at the calendar even though for the majority of history it was the main time construct. For many chapters their relationship to changes in time perception were tenuous at best.Why not one star? When on track I think he is an excellent writer and every now and then there were glimpes of his talent. Why did I finish it? Based on his prior works I had read I kept hoping it would get better. That improvement did not happen and I can’t recommend the book.

  • David
    2019-05-27 03:32

    The book does not actually address, no less answer, the question embedded in the title.I was disappointed because I thought this might be a micro-history of the idea of time, but instead was a series of loosely connected essays by the author. Some of them seemed only vaguely about the subject of time, like the long digression on the attempted rural planned village of Prince Charles. (Unsurprisingly, the author does not like the village or, apparently, Charles, who in his dotage has turned into a kind of human pinata for people of a wide variety of views and causes.)Your enjoyment of the book may depend on the extent you share the author's enthusiasm. For example, the author is very interested in the high-end wristwatch trade, whereas even contemplating the idea of a Rolex makes me want to search the Internet for best methods to construct a life-size guillotine in my own backyard. As a result, the chapter on fancy timepieces failed to hold my fascination.Although the author has visited, and writes about, many places outside the UK, he seems to have a very vague grasp of what the non-British might know about his native culture. I guess when he refers to the “[t]welve-year-old Margaret Roberts” (Kindle location 588), a many colonial readers will be able to puzzle out that this is future Margaret Thatcher, but perhaps only if they are over 30. They will also will probably be able to figure out from context that something “only a little more ordered than Portobello Market” (l. 4148) is probably pretty messy, even if they don't know where Portobello Market is. On the other hand, Hansard (l. 357), Michael Portillo (l. 833), Caractcus Pott (l. 950),the Potteries (l. 3437), and the slang word “dosh” (l. 2940) are only some examples of things largely unknown outside the Sceptred Isle. I received an egalley copy of this book free of charge. Thanks to Netgalley and Canongate Books for their generosity.

  • Sam Law
    2019-05-06 22:42

    In "Timekeepers" Simon Garfield takes us on a journey into the noun, Time. Read More Book Reviews at It's Good To ReadTime is defined in the dictionary as:1: the indefinite continued progress of existence and events in the past, present, and future regarded as a whole. "travel through space and time", or2: a point of time as measured in hours and minutes past midnight or noon.This is an interesting topic, dealing with an item with which we are all intimately familiar - Time. He hopes to address frenetic standstill, that feeling of hopelessness when faced with time. The premise is about the increasing aggressiveness of Time, at least how we in the modern world perceive Time. He wants to discuss our need to control, film, measure, immortalise and ultimately sell it. It co-incidentally happens that I finished reading this book, on the very day the EU (European Union) has ordered a review of Daylight Saving Time!The author begins by relating an anecdote about an Egyptian fisherman, and his differing perception of success to that of the author. He then relates the strange true story of William Strachey, the Englishman who, upon returning to England from1840's Calcutta, resolved to and did live his life on Calcutta time, as seemingly they had the most accurate clocks (5 1/2 hours ahead of everyone else in London, albeit!).Garfield continues with a bicycle accident he had on the way back from a Chelsea football (soccer) match, ruminating on the fact that a second or two either way could have meant it being avoided, then segues into a story about Seneca, the Roman philosopher and statesman.The book then progresses through what are clearly well-researched chapters - a modern artist trying to recreate how the French Revolution experimented in making the calendar conform to the new politics (it all ended under the guillotine - not for the current artist, the Revolutionaries!); the huge effect the railway barons had in creating the international time zones so familiar to us today, as well as the standardisation of time within each country, finishing with musical anecdotes about the geniuses that were Beethoven & the Beatles. And so on.For me, however, it's the "and so on" part that began to drag. I followed the author as he tried to make a car, helping out in a Swiss watch construction, and telling us of the two times he met the late great Roger Bannister. Interesting stories in and of themselves, but for me they did not really add to what I was expecting from this book. The auctioneering of Bannister's running shoes surely has only a tenuous relationship with the aggressiveness of Time? Does Poundbury, Prince Charles' model village, really impact the consciousness of the modern world?We get a whistle-stop tour of Taylorism, JIT manufacturing strategies in Japan, and how art becomes St Pancreas train station. We get to hear of watch brands that would be beyond the reach of most of us, financially-speaking (and morally I could not spend that amount of money on a watch!), and how the Swiss survived the Great Quartz Crisis of the 70's. There are some superb insights and illustrations of the work artists have done, and continue to do, to wrestle with the concept of time, and this parallels nicely with the emergence of the movie industry (e.g the 24-hour film).However, by the end I felt a bit like Roger Bannister approaching the finishing tape, - if only I could reach the tape without slackening my speed - because by the end it was hard to finish. Even the piece about the Doomsday Clock failed to lift the mood. The author is exemplary in his research, and the book is well put together. In relation to readability and flow, however, I think the author is not to blame here, rather the editorial team, who allowed many items through that seemed merely to pad out the book, as opposed to adding reader value to it.I learnt some interesting facts, and the book does regain my interest in the last chapter (stories about the speed of internet trading, billions won and lost in less than a blink, and finding out that Assam remans on Tea Garden Time), but as an exploration, Timekeepers' timing was off, and it fell short of my expectations.Acknowledgements:Thanks to NetGalley for the free copy, in return for the objective review.

  • Keen
    2019-05-14 04:47

    In the introduction Garfield tell us that, “This book has but two simple intentions: to tell some illuminating stories, and to ask whether we have all gone completely nuts.” Whilst also adding “We will track down the person responsible for the adverts that claim ‘You never actually own a Patek Philippe, you merely look after it for the next generation’, and try not to kill him.” What is the first thing most people do when they wake up in the morning?. (no apart from that) Check the time. We also learn that apparently the word “time” is the most commonly used noun in the English language.Garfield makes plenty of fair points, like, “Readers of high end magazines will be familiar with a process, a negotiation, which involves turning over forests of paper before reaching the contents page. Open the “New York Times” and the paper appears to be ticking. Along with a bit of perfumery, jewellery and cars, the selling of watches is keeping print journalism alive.” It appears that no display, watch or advertising campaign is too ridiculous, laughable or crass, there are always more than plenty of impressionable people out there more than happy to part with obscene amounts of money for a time piece less accurate than the one on your mobile phone. He speaks to many men within the industry where we learn plenty of interesting facts, like each major brand’s variation on the 10.10 setting (it apparently looks like a happy face and it doesn’t cover the name). But Garfield doesn’t just limit himself to watchmakers and the people in that industry, he expands his questioning, taking in a wide range of other time related subjects, such as filibustering in politics, a cycling accident, athletics, football, war photography, self help books, car manufacturing, slow food, and the bizarre story of a one second leap that resulted in airport chaos. We also learn about various art exhibitions and instalments. “The Clock” and “Night and Day” in particularly were fascinating to learn about.This book covers a lot of interesting and varied ground and reminded me a lot of Roman Krznaric’s excellent “The Wonderbox” in places. Garfield has the profound curiosity for the unorthodox and a constant quest to learn more about his subject, which always makes for absorbing and often fascinating reading.

  • Lena
    2019-05-19 03:46

    This book was really interesting to read. Time and timekeeping has always been fascinating to me, but I hadn't really considered how much time has an effect on everything. When one thinks about time and how it affects daily life, one tends to think about the daily routine, what day of the weekit is (is it Friday yet?), work deadlines, how long the bus is taking, things like that. This books goes beyond all of that and shows how time affects politics, arts, culture, science, history... Everything.Reading this book the reader will certainly learn something new and have lots to think about. There are tons of facts here that I didn't know before and found utterly interesting. I applaud the amount of research and work that went into writing this book. I've been talking about it with everyonearound me, which is a great sign that it's a book worth reading.This book wasn't always what I expected though. Some chapters were a bit too much for me, too many details about watchmaking for example. However, even in those chapters, there's enough interesting new information and humor.In a society obsessed with having it all and having it now, the reader would not be mad to think that we have all gone nuts after reading this and maybe we have. One thing is guaranteed, this book will make you think about it and, perhaps, it might even make you consider that it's better to appreciate the quality of time instead of running against the clock.

  • Michael
    2019-05-15 00:26

    I read about this book in the Australian book review section a few months ago and another find at the library. As you would surmise, this book is about time, and more to the point about how we measure time and how that measurement has changed over the centuries and changed the way we live our lives. There is mention of how the structure needed for the expanding railway systems in the UK required that the whole of the country be on a standardized time (in the 1800's the time in Bristol was several minutes different from the time in London and again in Glasgow. Another chapter deals with how Switzerland came to be known for it's watchmaking prowess. Another about how Mr Bannister broke the 4 minute mile and what it meant for his life. There is another about Frederick Winslow Taylor (who you may ask) who pioneered the streamlining of production lines, making them more efficient (the model for Charlie Chaplin's Modern Times). This caused John Maynard Keynes to predict that by 2030, the work week would be 15 hours a week and we wouldn't know what to do with ourselves (so much for predictions). I was really fascinated by this book. If you wonder how the modern world has became as speed obsessed as it is, this book is for you.

  • Debbie Young
    2019-05-09 00:41

    A fun meander through different aspects of timekeeping and time management, in a friendly, personal style familiar from other books I've enjoyed by Simon Garfield. The train of thought is often tangential, similar to following a line of enquiry when surfing the internet and following various links that take you to surprising places, but as the chapters are well sign-posted and the changes from one topic to another clear-cut, you never lose track of where he's going, although occasionally I did find myself thinking "how did he get here from there?" It's the sort of book you needn't read sequentially - you can dip in and out to self-contained sections and still enjoy it. My favourite sections were on watchmaking, on railway time, and on time management, with dozens of self-help books distilled into a few sentences - now there's a time-saver! I liked the way that he brought it all back together towards the end, when he remarked on the democracy of time - no matter how rich you are, you can't buy more than 24 hours in the day - with the inevitable message that the thing to do is to seize and enjoy every moment.

  • Jim Razinha
    2019-05-10 22:40

    Published in the UK in 2016, this is due to be published in the U.S> in 2019, and I got a review copy from NetGalley. Garfield writes a easy read, smoothly transitioning between his explorations of how we observe, mark, display, portray, are influenced by, and bound to time. From faster ways of getting to one place from another (speed records of trains in the 19th century), timing of Beethoven's symphonies, breaking a four minute "barrier" (I detest that term in its colloquial context, but whether sensational or lazy on the part of writers, it's a common fallback) for a human mile-runner, time management, movie-making, historically long speeches...there's something here that should interest just about anyone. Of course, there are elements that are not of interest to everyone (which some readers/reviewers lazily identify themselves as "bored") - details of watchmaking probably don't hold as much fascination for others as they do for me.I think there is a good deal more exploration and Garfield did a very good job with his.

  • Alisha
    2019-05-11 22:30

    I enjoyed the concept of this book, though the execution at times felt a little distracting.Time affects every human on the planet, but the ways in which it does so have changed over the centuries. Keeping time to the minute? It's a relatively recent innovation. The invention of trains and time tables had a lot to do with it. That discussion I found fascinating, as well as contemporary descriptions of how people felt about the hurrying up of their lives after trains became mainstream. I also enjoyed the segments on watchmaking. Had the book stayed in the vein in which it started--the changing view of time relative to human activity, and the technological innovations that keep altering that--I would have stayed focused and on board. But some chapters wandered quite a bit and brought in lengthy extraneous information and stories that failed to keep my attention.***Thanks to NetGalley for providing me with a digital copy to review.

  • Cat
    2019-05-21 04:52

    This looked cover made the book so intriguing I had to take a peek! And I am glad I did. I am still reading the book, but have been bouncing around between stories that have caught my eye. I loved the Revolver chapter on the Beatles! Lennon and McCartney were brilliant songwriters (imo) , but this chapter just blew me away! The Life is Short chapter was a fun read as was Slowing Down the World and White People Are Crazy. Just too entertaining with lots of food for thought. BTW check out John cages 4'33 on Youtube- it's a hoot!I received a free Kindle copy from Netgalley in exchange for a fair review.

  • April
    2019-05-03 04:32

    This one is a nope. I was hoping it would be a more linear insight into the many ways that time and our concept of it has evolved over...time. But; as the author indicates right off the top; that is NOT what this book is about. I tried to stick it out but the rambling essays cobbled together here in no order run from "Okay if you're stuck in the bathroom, I guess" to "Interesting but completely randomly organized and the neat tidbits are buried in long-winded moments that made me realize I felt like I was wasting my time reading it."Not for me.

  • Suzanne
    2019-05-06 02:51

    TIMEKEEPERS is a collection of essays that all touch, somehow, on the topic of time. The author is witty, knowledgeable and wide-ranging in his choice of topics, and perhaps that is part of the problem. There is a lack of cohesiveness to the book; there is no overall obsessiveness as the title suggests. Rather the anecdotes and stories are mildly humorous and engaging rather like NPR radio tales suitable for car rides. The book is fine to read over time but difficult all at once. I received my copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

  • Tess
    2019-05-06 20:38

    Loved It! So many fun historical facts. He takes you on a humorous journey of time in a non linear way. Many facets to his story. Thought provoking. Although I liked the credibility of the tale being backed up by references, I found it hard to get back into it when he tended to go On about book titles and the names of people who although relevant weren't necessary to the line of thought.But that's just me.