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Review - 1001 Inventions that Changed the World - Jack Challoner (Ed.)


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It is hard to envisage how to do better at making a book that has clearly involved a lot of work, and that contains lots of interesting information, yet at the same time is quite so useless.

This book derives from the series that started as things like 1001 Places to Visit before you Die or some such. That kind of application has a clear use - dip in, find somewhere to visit, visit it. But when you start applying it to inventions, it's a bit different.

It's all nicely laid out with some interesting illustrations, but if you try to sit down and read through it, you will very soon give up. It's just so dull. It doesn't help that the inventions are in date order, so by page 100 you have only reached the pulley (750 BC).

There are lots of wonderful inventions in here, everything from the stone axe to the Large Hadron Collider. And some pretty barmy things too. But why would you possibly want to read it? It's impossible to read end to end (apart from anything else, it weighs a tonne), dipping in feels rather pointless, and if you want a reference it's much easier to go online.

In fact that's the answer really. This is the book equivalent of bringing out Coldplay's latest track on a 78 rpm record. This is a website on paper, with none of the advantages of the online medium.

It's frustrating. There really is lots of good material here that people have sweated over producing. But there's no point to it.

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Review by Jo Reed

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Last update 16 April 2011