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The Calendar

3.85  ·  Rating Details ·  680 Ratings  ·  58 Reviews
Measuring the daily and yearly cycle of the cosmos has never been entirely straightforward. The year 2000 is alternatively the year 2544 (Buddhist), 6236 (Ancient Egyptian), 5761 (Jewish) or simply the Year of the Dragon (Chinese). The story of the creation of the Western calendar, which is related in this book, is a story of emperors and popes, mathematicians and monks, a ...more
Paperback, 384 pages
Published April 8th 2011 by Fourth Estate (GB) (first published January 1st 1998)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,767)
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Michael
Jan 29, 2016 Michael rated it really liked it
ერთ-ერთ ინტერნეტ მიმში, ძველ საბერძნეთში, ერთი ფილოსოფოსი ეკითხება მეორეს: - "რომელი წელია ახლა?" მეორე პასუხობს: "ქრისტესშობამდე 380 (არ მახსოვს) " "ქრისტე ვინღა ჯანდაბაა?" უკვირს პირველს. "წარმოდგენა არ მაქვს" პასუხობს მეორე.
სკოლაში ისტორიის სწავლა რომ დავიწყე და პირველად გავიგე რომ ძველი წელთაღრიცხვა უკუთვლით მიდიოდა, ძალიან გამიკვირდა და არაბუნებრივად ჩავთვალე. არავის აუხსნია რატომ იყო ასე. რატომ ითვლიდნენ ასე უკუღმა, ვინმემ იცოდა რომ ქრისტე დაიბადებოდა? ისტორიის მასწავლებელმა თქვა რომ ეს უბ
...more
Frank Roberts
May 30, 2013 Frank Roberts rated it it was ok
One gets the sense that the author felt the material on the actual calendar wasn't quite long enough for a book, and had to bulk the text out. Half of the book doesn't deal with the calendar at all, but rather digresses into lengthy exposition on how barbaric and benighted the middle ages were. There are also digressions into the history of our number system and into various other sorta-kinda related topics. I would have much preferred the author stuck to the topic.

Also, minor errors that were
...more
N.J. Ramsden
If popular science is your bag, this will go some way to filling up a corner - plenty of interesting material here about various aspects of the calendar as it is and has been, in various periods and cultures, and the science, numbers and reasoning behind it all.

My major gripe with this book is the sheer quantity of errors it contains - figures are bungled, names are wrong, facts incorrectly reported - anybody who has read other books on the matter will spot these a mile off. Sometimes Duncan get
...more
Deborah Pickstone
Interesting examination of the concept of time, how the calendar (linear time) evolved and how human-made time doesn't reconcile with time as it happened and the confusion sown along the way by various interferences and the intersection of several different calendars. And all you asked was 'what time is it?' :)
Acquafortis
Jul 18, 2012 Acquafortis rated it really liked it
A appealing fact-jammed book about something we use everyday - the calendar.
I never thought there were so many events and people involved in its story dating back to time immemorial. Facts at times amusing, others outright dramatic.
It's fascinating the interplay between time and who dictates it. Control over time and its deployment gives boundless power to the beholder that usually one can't even ponder.
Last one on the list is the Roman Catholic Church, who's reform on the calendar is the one
...more
Josette
Jun 30, 2008 Josette rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adult
This is a really interesting book. It's a little hard to get through in parts, but I gave it 5 stars because it's just so darn fascinating. Did you know about the 10 days that were removed from the calendar by Pope Gregory in 1582 (but not until 1752 in the American colonies?) Read this book and you'll know!
Tracy Black
Mar 08, 2009 Tracy Black rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: history lovers
At first I was disappointed that this was a history of only the western calendar. All others got, at best, a brief mention. But this was a THOROUGH history, of not only the calendar, but of the science and politics that influenced it. This is a well-written, worthy read.
Jane Elliot
Jan 14, 2011 Jane Elliot rated it it was amazing
one of my all time favourite books
Sue
Jul 02, 2015 Sue rated it really liked it
Shelves: science, history, culture
This is a 5-star book up through about the year 1100. That's when most of the groundwork was done on our calendar. You get the story behind the naming of the months and the days and why and to whom having a calendar was important. Who would have guessed how complicated Easter would make things? There's even bonus coverage on how Europeans moved from Roman numerals to Arabic numerals and the positional notation that can come with such a system.

It becomes a 2-star book for the next 500 years (abo
...more
Carolyn
Sep 24, 2014 Carolyn rated it really liked it
There is no year zero. Have you thought about that? Once up a time--here is the word-- the subject of this thought-provoking book: time. Go back a mere five hundred years and people would rise with the sun, perhaps here a newfangled church bell rang at a nearby monastery, toil until the sun set, and then go to bed in order to repeat the same events the next day. Time had not been divided into hours and who needed a calendar to record a day that would be the same as its predecessors. Time has eve ...more
Stephanie
Apr 24, 2013 Stephanie rated it it was amazing
A deliciously scholarly book on the history and difficulties of creating accurate calendars across the centuries. If you think this sounds boring as hell, let me quote from the cover, "David Duncan takes his place in the ranks of the best explainers in print" (Hugh Downs).

I had a dim notion that politics likely had a bearing on the adoption of our current calendar (which it did and does), what I did not realize was how much religion was a factor. Duncan emphasizes the conceptual differences betw
...more
Paul
Feb 14, 2013 Paul rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Day to day, our time is marked by weeks, months and years. We take it for granted that no matter where you are on earth, you always know where you are in time. The calendar is such a routine concept that it takes excellent and most engaging book by David Ewing Duncan to make you stop and think.

This book traces the origins, offshoots and upsets of the epic tale of the calendar. In doing so, Duncan finds a thread through all peoples over all time.

Which is really the genius of David Duncan's work.
...more
Jareed
May 07, 2013 Jareed rated it really liked it
There are things we take for granted either because of sheer ignorance of the history of development involved in their genesis or either they have been condemed to suffer a lackluster disposition compared to modern conveniences that have definitely occupied our questionable preferences. The calender suffers in both aspects, which is giddily overturned courtesy of this book.
It is an objective post-modern work, which I may add, is relative to the author's background. The book does not contain aut
...more
Adarsh Mishra
Sep 19, 2014 Adarsh Mishra rated it liked it
Well- this book would have earned a 4 star easily for me had it been titled "The Western Calendar". as while it goes in depth about the rise/development of Gregorian calendar; there is hardly any justice done to the likes of Hindu Panchang, or the Chinese calendars. The problem offcourse is that not much written material of excellence exist about them anyways.
also as is the case is with most western authors, there are a few gaffe of history most of which could be attributed to the fact that the
...more
Brigitte
May 10, 2010 Brigitte rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Do you know what the 31 days of August has to do with the Emperor Augustus? Or why there are seven days in a week and not some other random number? Have you ever sat in a pot induced stupor and wondered why humans decided to start keeping time in the first place? If you've answered yes to any of these questions, then this is the book for you!

Overall, very, very entertaining read which probably deserves five stars, but the heady mathematics involved knocked it down a peg for me. Would definitely
...more
Tim
May 13, 2012 Tim rated it it was amazing
A triumph of history. Not only does it spell out the origins of our system of months, years, weeks, hours and so on, but it also contains a lengthy digression on the origins of our base-10 positional numbering system, which gives a great insight into why it was so difficult to be mathematically accurate for people who only used roman numerals or cuneiform script. It also cuts across a huge amount of social history, telling us en passant about the decline of the Roman Empire and the huge movement ...more
Natasha
Feb 15, 2014 Natasha rated it really liked it
Read it, re read it, read it again, re read it again. Brilliant.
Tanya
Apr 28, 2013 Tanya rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love books that are the history of a concept or thing (salt, tea, E=MC2) so this book was right up my alley. I especially liked that the author included some substantial bits of history while still sticking to the calendar theme. It would have been easy to get sidetracked by some of the famous personalities that were involved with the creation of present-day timekeeping. But Duncan did not do this - he'd fill out details that were important to the development of accurate timekeeping but then m ...more
Kim Thomas
I loved it.
Leslie
May 26, 2013 Leslie rated it really liked it
Very interesting and unusual look at history from the viewpoint of the development of the calendar and keeping time. Not a fast read as there are a lot of historical details and people involved in the equation of what is the best way to keep track of time in a world with a complicating set of circumstances that make making a calendar difficult. I learned a lot about some people that I had no idea existed and about some famous people and their attitudes toward time. Good read!
Laura
Sep 24, 2007 Laura rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone!
Shelves: non-fiction
This book focuses mainly on the calendar of that the Western world uses, and how it came into being. It does touch on various other calendars (Hebrew, Mayan, etc.) but does not explore these in depth. There is a good amount of math, which I found myself either going over several times to try and understand or skimming over in order to maintain focused on the story. Don't let this stop you though, because the book is really very interesting and quite well written.
Rachel Kopel
May 28, 2008 Rachel Kopel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It is going to take me a very long time to remember all of the wonderful books I have read, but I am really enjoying making this record of them.

Dividing time into day and night, and even the sequence of the moon, both make sense as measurements of time. But where did the week come from?? And what about the hours. And eventually time zones, etc. This book is a fascinating account of the process and the way people lived while it was all being sorted out.
Joan
May 13, 2016 Joan rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I found this a struggle to read. The information is interesting but somehow did not hold my attention.
Stephen
Jan 28, 2008 Stephen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a well written account of the long struggle to create an accurate ongoing calendar of days. This task was much more difficult than I ever imagined. consider: do you use the moon as your base? The Sun? All the obvious ways of calculating the number of days in a year are inaccurate. A great irony is that the latest nuclear clocks are actually too precise because they fail to take into account the declining speed of the earth's rotation.
Dottie
I thoroughly enjoyed this little book on the concept of calendars, time and mankind's involvement in putting into place something which we take so for granted that it seems odd when we realize how arbitrary the process sometimes was.
Fascinating if one is interested in the quirky mundane bits of life. And while I called it little -- it was certainly not small in its concept nor execution. Wonderful reading.
booklady
May 19, 2008 booklady rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who likes trivial and/or time study(s)
Shelves: 2001, history, 2002
Was combing my history shelves -- for something else -- and pulled this down. Remembered what a fascinating read it was. Tells all about how the modern calendar developed. This was a 'reading room' (AKA powder room) read which is why it took almost a year to finish, but still I did read the entire book. Never knew what a complicated thing Time and its tracking is.
Marlobo
Sep 20, 2014 Marlobo rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ognf-history
2.5 stars
April
Sep 07, 2013 April rated it liked it
One of my favorite types of book are those that make you realize you know absolutely nothing about something you use everyday. This book succeeds brilliantly at that, although it does wade a little deep into higher mathematics for my taste. Do we really need a whole chapter on positional notation? A good, solid, highly educational book.
Racheal
Jun 12, 2013 Racheal rated it it was ok
Interesting topic, mediocre book. Too many errors (Samarkand is in modern-day Uzbekistan NOT Afghanistan), too much conjecture and lots of information that only very loosely tied back to the original subject. And, it was boring. I love micro-histories but this was was a real disappointment.
Eudora
Jun 21, 2012 Eudora rated it it was amazing
Shelves: re-read
A history of the increasing interconnectedness of the world as well as the hubris of men, to say nothing of the calendar. Unbelievable as it may be, the world didn't agree on "today's date until about 60 years ago! And it explains what those "ides of March" are...
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David Ewing Duncan is the author of seven books including the worldwide bestseller Calendar. He is Chief Correspondent of public radio's Biotech Nation, a commentator on NPR's Morning Edition, and a contributing editor and a columnist for Conde Nast Portfolio. He has been a contributing editor to Wired, Discover and Technology Review, and has written for Harper s, The Atlantic, Fortune, and many o ...more
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