Sunday, July 8, 2012

Life: An Unauthorised Biography by Richard Fortey.

Life: An Unauthorised Biography: A Natural History of the First Four Thousand Million Years of Life on Earth by Richard Fortey.  Hardcover book published by Harper Collins 1997, 399 pages with a few black and white photographs. 

“What do any of us know about the history of our planet before the arrival of man? Most of us have a dim impression of a swirling mass of dust solidifying to form a volcanic globe, briefly populated by dinosaurs, then by woolly mammoths and finally by our own hairy ancestors. This book, aimed at the curious and intelligent but perhaps mildly uninformed reader, brilliantly dispels any such lingering notions forever.”  Publishers blurb.

So this book is obviously written for a reader like myself.  That is, the “mildly uninformed reader” with "lingering notions".  I like these popular science type of books and have read a few such titles over the years as I am someone who whilst being mildly uninformed, is interested in becoming a little more informed… or uninformed, depending on the book.  I do understand that I won’t become a rocket scientist after reading a book such as this, but it is of interest and I’m interested.  I guess what I’m trying to say, is that this book is my kind of book.

There are 399 pages covering 4,000,000,000 years, which is about 10,000,000 years per page.  That’s a lot of information per page.  I’ve got a feeling the author may have concentrated on the important bits… which is possibly a good thing as I’m sure there were long periods of Life on earth that were a little dull and probably don’t make for interesting reading.  I’d hate to think how many years per page Readers Digest could condense a book like this down to.

I love the whole “unauthorized” thingy in the title.  Arnold Schwarzenegger or Tom Cruise have unauthorized biographies.  “Life” shouldn’t.  This is possibly a clever marketing tool by the author and/or the publisher to catch the attention of us “mildly uninformed reader”s.  In this instance, it worked.

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