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Life on Air

4.42  ·  Rating details ·  2,939 ratings  ·  295 reviews
David Attenborough hardly needs any introduction; his voice has accompanied so many of the best natural history programs that have graced our televisions over several decades. Life On Air, his autobiography, tells the story of how he has managed to professionalise his schoolboy interests in such a remarkably successful way.

Attenborough's Life On Air began in 1950, having

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Hardcover, 416 pages
Published May 7th 2009 by BBC Books (first published 2002)
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Average rating 4.42  · 
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B Schrodinger
David Attenborough is a hero of mine. I guess that I was lucky in that I was introduced to his documentaries as a young boy. I remember my father watched a variety of documentaries and always encouraged me to watch them too, but David's were the only ones I watched. And while I was an avid watcher as a young person, it was only until i was studying science in my late youth and early adulthood that I truly become a huge fan. Last time he visited Australia I went to see him give a talk in Canberra ...more
Sophie Crane
Sep 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: film-tv
With any biography the early historical references can sometimes seem distant from what you know of the subject. However, it is vital ti appreciate what drove David to do what he has done . When remembering some of his work, it makes you wonder just how it is done and this is where the technical details come in. Davis is truly a master of his craft and this helps you to appreciate him all the more.
Emma
Mar 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've read the book twice, yet when I saw the man himself was the narrator of the audiobook, I couldn't resist the experience of hearing him relate it all over again.

Attenborough's contribution to natural history broadcasting in the UK is without equal, and, in my opinion, unlikely ever to be matched. His autobiography is an incredible mix of stories on animal behaviour, technological advancement, the BBC, travel and exploration, people, places, the Queen...and more. His unceasing enthusiasm
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Trish
Mar 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
There are some people on this planet that have accomplished great things and are wonderfully intelligent and kind people and talking to them is as easy as talking to an old friend. This book, in fact, reads as if you were meeting Sir David Attenborough himself, at a dinner party say, and he indulged you by telling you anecdotes of his career while you listen with rapt attention to his unique narration since you both don't enjoy such formal occasions.

Sir David Attenborough is a man many know.
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Kinga
Feb 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: pub-2002
I will let you in on a secret. I knew I would give this book 4 or 5 stars before even starting it. David Attenborough was the hero of my childhood and a set of his VHS tapes sold by TV shopping was the object of my deepest desire. They were so expensive, and I could never convince my mum to buy them (or, seeing the price, didn’t dare to try even) but I did passionately watch those ads.
I was absolutely obsessed with all things animals - I memorised Latin names of countless of species, I read all
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Nat
Mar 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019, favorites
Remarkable man.
Remarkable life.
Paul E. Morph
This is one of the very best audiobooks I've read. David Attenborough reads his own memoir in his own measured, professional, passionate style that anybody familiar with any of his documentaries will be entirely familiar with. He also injects his own brand of slightly sly yet twinkling good natured sense of humour fairly regularly.

Anybody who is a fan of his work should read this book; it's like having the man himself over to stay for a week or so, and spending several sessions out on the porch
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Holly Kench
Feb 24, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
"Life on Air" was a truly beautiful read.

As a fan of David Attenborough (who isn't?!), I particularly enjoyed the audiobook version, which really captures the true Attenborough spirit through his own reading.

Having already known quite a bit about David Attenborough and the development of his views regarding the environment, I was intrigued to see how he would treat some of his earlier television adventures. Unsurprisingly as honest as ever, Attenborough is highly critical of the driving forces
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Katie
Aug 15, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
One of the people I most admire, listening to Attenborough's biography on audiobook was a true delight.
Chris
First off, I love David Attenborough. I have seen most of his nature programs and find them thoroughly fascinating. However, I found this book thoroughly boring. Talking about the BBC and what types of cameras were used in filming is not my idea of enjoyment and I felt it both unnecessary and uncontributary. Another bug bear was his constant use of 'for there are', or 'for there is', which was, in my opinion far too dramatic. I couldn't even put this down to the fact that he is of an older ...more
Donald
Mar 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As a long time Attenborough aficionado I had to read this once I stumbled across its existence. Chock full of anecdotes from his half century or more in the field, it was a very easy read even though I'd heard a few of them before in various TV programs or live appearances.

I would've been interested to hear a bit more about his personal life but he kept it very focused on his public and professional career. Regardless of that I greatly enjoyed this and powered through it.
Justin Walshaw
Fascinating and extraordinary tale of how a chimpanzee became the program manager of the BBC, ultimately influencing British politicians to solve the banana crisis of 1976.
Kam Yung Soh
Jul 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nature, reference
Fascinating look at Attenborough's life at the BBC as a producer, controller (of BBC2) and finally as a world famous presenter and narrator of some of the best loved nature documentaries I have ever seen.

Don't expect to discover much about his private life, apart from small but loving mentions of his family and his late wife. But do expect to discover a lot of fascinating details about early British television history and the art of producing documentaries.

This book has been updated to include
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Annabel
Mar 24, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2013
First of all, don't expect to be able to read this book without hearing his voice in your head narrating as you go along!

It's fascinating to realise how much has changed in the world of tv/film production. His first expedition shot on black and white 16mm film with the sound recorded separately! And he used to be able to bring home a lemur or cockatoo as a gift for his kids. The technology available has changed so much, in part thanks to him and his team pushing boundaries, and our awareness of
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Allie
What a life!

I really enjoyed this. Who doesn't know and love David Attenborough? Jerks, that's who.

I listened to this. It's always nice when authors narrate their own books; David's voice is easy and, strangely, comforting to listen to. I usually listen to all of my audiobooks at at least 1.4speed, but I could easily have listened to this at normal speed. Mr. Attenborough is a sufficiently speedy reader!

Life on Air is just that, it deals mostly with his career. I would have liked to hear more
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Jan
Mar 09, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've listened to the audiobook. The book goes through the author's journey of being a broadcaster who mostly specialised in natural history. Most of it is behind-the-scenes stories for each of the 'quests' that David Attenborough embarked on. I recommend watching all the programmes first (I had not) in order to understand the book well. Lot of the chapters went on about very specific details that required quite a lot of imagination, thus making it hard to keep up with the audio track.
Emily Shepley
Nov 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What can I say... I love this man.
Richard
Sep 19, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a big old book, or at least it felt it to me.

The book is a series of tales spent fighting through jungle or conquering some unknown frontier, for a television crew at least. It tracks a huge swathe of his career, from a tedious office job, which as an aspiring film maker with a tedious office job struck a chord, through documentaries, broadcasts, several iterations of the BBC and breaking free to his freelance career. I wasn’t counting, but i reckon there were almost an even split
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Elisabeth Bibbings
As you would expect, a fascinating story from a living legend.
Sir David's memoir is an updated account from an earlier autobiography, taking us up to the first Blue Planet series. It takes us through the early years of television, when nothing was archived and you could see the strings pulling the puppets on children's TV (Woodentops, anyone?) Sensibly, he walked away from a career controlling BBC 2, to make the superb wildlife series that have become his trademark. Along the way, we learn a
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Jessica
Nov 06, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dnf
DNF. 3/5 way through.

I "read" this book through its audiobook format because I thought it would be silly not to, when the book was narrated by David Attenborough himself. It is quite an enjoyable book. It's a book of memorable stories and events throughout Attenborough's broadcasting career. Most of them showcase the backstage actions to what viewers see on the television. Many of which can either be seen as grandiose or reckless.

I DNF-ed this book because as witty as the writing is, the
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Romana
Aug 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: autobiography
Wonderfully written and immensely inspiring. We travel with sir David through his adventures of making natural history documentaries, gaining a different perspective on such films, understanding how they were made and how they look like from the other side of the screen.
The style of writing is such that you can vividly imagine every animal, person and event described, and truly enjoy distant areas of Earth you are not very likely to visit in your life time.
I recommend this autobiography to
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Giles Burrows
May 28, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I listened to the audio book which, when you have a narrator as good as Attenborough himself, can't be beat. It's an account of his broadcasting career. There is little of his personal life here (his brother gets one mention). It starts with him joining the BBC and goes on from there. I found it to be very interesting and, surprisingly to me, very funny in places. The best stories are from his Zoo Quest days in the 50's. I started to lose interest towards the end. But overall enjoyed it a lot.
Brahm
Sep 03, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook
4.5 stars

A superb audiobook experience due to the fact Attenborough is the narrator.

An incredible career from the dawn of television in Britain until present day - lots of history and great stories. I was surprised (when the audiobook ended) to discover it was published in 2002! He's had nearly 2 decades of accomplishments, projects and content since then.
Tracey
A very interesting read about a man I admire greatly .
Larry
May 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Brilliant story of a pioneering giant of television and conservation.
Charlotte Howard
Jan 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020
Not a single typo ...more
Penny
Jun 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
(Audible)

Read by the author, this is a fascinating compilation of the history of television, documentaries and the understanding of natural history all in the guise of the memoirs of one of the most famous and recognizable voices today.

Peppered with anecdotes about adventures in filming, the early days of BBC2 and color broadcasting, and stunning adventures that are just incomprehensible that they happened to one man--this is a collection not only of fond memories and career high points, it's a
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Adam Wiggins
May 12, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adventure-story
David Attenborough is one of my personal heroes. He has an unquenchable curiosity about the natural world and anthropology of tribal cultures; a quiet passion for public service; a talent for applying new technologies as they become relevant to his work; and an incredibly dry sense of humor that weaves throughout every story he tells. And he is a born story-teller.

He virtually invented the modern nature documentary with "Zoo Quest" in the 1950s, and continued to push the envelope in this field
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Renee
Dec 12, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Attenborough fans and doco lovers
Recommended to Renee by: Manual
Reading Life on Air is like visiting your cool granddad for a rendition of his life story - but in a good way. In Life on Air Attenborough shares his extensive and varied professional experience as a documentary maker for the BBC, from the 1950s to the 90s. Transversing almost half a century, Attenborough tells us firsthand how he created his pioneering documentaries and brought the masses the world’s most wonderful plants, animals and cultures. Attenborough’s writing is consistently charming, ...more
Alan Wightman
Feb 09, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Alan by: Jonathan Campbell
David Attenborough appears to have led something close to the perfect life. For three months, every two years, he would head off with a cameraman and/or a sound recordist to film animals that no-one had filmed before in places that few white men had visited. And then he make television programs about the animals he had filmed. He was so good at this, that, as so often happens, he got promoted to manager, and hence had significantly less time to do the adventuring and filming he so loved. So he ...more
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Sir David Frederick Attenborough is a naturalist and broadcaster, who is most well-known for writing and presenting the nine "Life" series, produced in conjunction with BBC's Natural History Unit. The series includes Life on Earth (1979), The Living Planet (1984), The Trials of Life (1990), Life in the Freezer (about Antarctica; 1993), The Private Life of Plants (1995), The Life of Birds (1998), ...more