Summary and book reviews of Timekeepers by Simon Garfield

Timekeepers

How the World Became Obsessed With Time

by Simon Garfield

Timekeepers by Simon Garfield X
Timekeepers by Simon Garfield
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  • Published:
    Jan 2018, 368 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Rory L. Aronsky

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About this Book

Book Summary

As managing time becomes the greatest challenge we face in our lives, this multi-layered history helps us tackle it in a sparkling new light.

Not so long ago we timed our lives by the movement of the sun. These days our time arrives atomically and insistently, and our lives are propelled by the notion that we will never have enough of the one thing we crave the most. How have we come to be dominated by something so arbitrary?

The compelling stories in this book explore our obsessions with time. An Englishman arrives back from Calcutta but refuses to adjust his watch. Beethoven has his symphonic wishes ignored. A moment of war is frozen forever. The timetable arrives by steam train. A woman designs a ten-hour clock and reinvents the calendar. Roger Bannister becomes stuck in the same four minutes forever. A British watchmaker competes with mighty Switzerland. And a prince attempts to stop time in its tracks.

Timekeepers is a vivid exploration of the ways we have perceived, contained and saved time over the last 250 years, narrated in the highly inventive and entertaining style that bestselling author Simon Garfield is fast making his own.

Chapter 3: The Invention of the Timetable
i) The Fastest Thing You Ever Did See

Do you plan on being alive for the next two-and-a-half years? If the answer is Yes, you may begin building Mallard. This magnificent British steam locomotive, streamlined and Garter Blue, is available for construction each week from your newsagent, and if you keep the faith for 130 weeks, and buy all the bits required and assemble them, you will end up with a 500mm-length engine and tender (almost 20 inches), weighing about 2 kilos.

Mallard was originally built in Doncaster in 1938, but in 2013 the publishers Hachette offered the amateur modeler the chance to build a highly detailed replica as a part-work, a precision-tooled miniature of the 'O' gauge variety, designed to run on 32mm track ('track not included'). The model is made from brass, white metal, etched metal and an intricate metallic casting process called 'lost wax', and requires not only considerable patience ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

This lively tour through the "practical rather than ethereal applications of time" is full of many amazing delights...Garfield inspires a new way of looking at time with Timekeepers; a deeper, more curious look, and in that way he helps us make our worldviews wider.   (Reviewed by Rory L. Aronsky).

Full Review (596 words).

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Media Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Exhibiting dry wit and fizzing with insatiable curiosity, Garfield collects enough eccentric characters, places, and ideas to entertain every reader

Saga (UK)

Garfield's anecdotal, science-friendly book explores the tyranny of time and our desire to control it.

The Times (UK)

An eclectic collection of explorations of our relationships with time ... Very readable.

The Sunday Telegraph (UK)

Delightful.

Financial Times (UK)

Time well spent ... Simon Garfield has made his name as an author who can spin fascinating narratives out of subjects that seem, on the face of it, narrow to the point of being dull.

Mail on Sunday (UK)

Engaging ... Engrossing.

Daily Telegraph (UK)

Entertaining... jaunty... Scholarly but jokey, with a magpie's appetite for glittering trivia, Garfield is as eager to amuse as to inform, and achieves both.

Elle (UK)

In this book, brilliant cultural historian Simon Garfield assembles a host of intriguing characters who have tried to bend time to their own rules, and questions how we came to be ruled by something so arbitrary.

The Daily Express (UK)

Delightful ... Gloriously funny ... Garfield has an astonishing capacity for meticulous research and a wonderful ability to select the best stories to entertain us.

The Observer (UK)

Thoroughly enjoyable and illuminating ... Stuffed with fascinating material.

The Sunday Express (UK)

A sort of museum between hard covers. Timekeepers is as good as pop history gets.

The Sunday Times (UK)

Digressive, gossipy, thoughtful and thoroughly entertaining ... Simon Garfield is an exuberant truffle-hound of the recondite and delightful factoid.

Author Blurb Daniel Pink, author of Drive
here could be no better guide than Simon Garfield for this journey into time and its meaning for our lives. From the assembly line to the French Revolution, he covers the quirks of the clock with insight and wry enthusiasm. A riveting, educational read.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

Tidbits from Timekeepers

Simon Garfield's Timekeepers, is a book about our obsession with time. It is chock filled with the ways our lives revolve around it, the instruments we use to manage it, and some people's odd perspectives on it. Here are five quirky, fun facts from the book:

Providence Railroad1. The Oxford English Dictionary keeps a list of frequently used nouns. The word life comes in at #9, year at #3, month is all the way down at #40. Time comes in at #1.

2. A paragraph from Timekeepers that must be seen to be believed:

A set of timekeeping instructions issued in August 1853 by W. Raymond Lee, the superintendent on the Boston and Providence Railroad, laid bare the complexities, and the propensity for human error. In part, it reads like a Marx Brothers script:...

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