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A Million Years in a Day: A Curious History of Daily Life

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3.72  ·  Rating details ·  1,611 ratings  ·  180 reviews
"One of my all time favourite books about history: erudite, witty and packed with things you've never thought about" (DR PETER FRANKOPAN, author of The Silk Roads: A New History of the World
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Structured around one ordinary modern Saturday, A MILLION YEARS IN A DAY reveals the astonishing origins and development of the daily practices we take for granted. I
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Kindle Edition, 369 pages
Published January 29th 2015 by Weidenfeld & Nicolson
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Average rating 3.72  · 
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 ·  1,611 ratings  ·  180 reviews


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Petra-X
I haven't got anything to add to what I wrote whilst reading the book. Except it's very forgettable. Not a substantial tome but for someone interested in a light and entertaining presentation of history by a light and entertaining author, you might really enjoy this book. It's not a bad book just one where the style was at odds with the content and I found that very disconcerting. In other words, it drove me mad.

This is my car book. It's kind of giving me car rage. The author is obviously tremen
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Trish
Jul 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Since it's still August and therefore still History Month for me, I spiced things up with this hilarious non-fiction book. Basically, it goes into detail about our daily routine and where many things come from by looking at one day (a Saturday, thank goodness, or we'd have had to talk about work - URGH!).

The chapters are divided into hours of the day, starting at 9:30am and ending at midnight. We look at getting up, the concept of time, bathrooms and bowel movements, clothing (sadly, nothing abo
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Bradley
Aug 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
For what this is, (a witty accounting of technological progress through recorded history,) it's quite excellent.

Of course, you must be naturally curious and willing to put up with a lot of excrement jokes, too, but hey! That's what history is all about! A never-ending avalanche of shit.

Well, maybe I'm mostly talking about the Medievals, but the Renaissance and even the Romans were pretty gross.

Oh my. Don't get me wrong, it's not all about social advancement without soap or where to put your fece
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Emma
Sep 25, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audible
Coming at you hard and fast with silly jokes and more than you ever wanted to know about the history of various human bodily functions, this (audio)book proves that history doesn't have to be gravely serious to be valuable. While it's not breaking new ground, it does provide a humorous examination of the lens of familiarity/difference through which we view the past. After all, isn't that where the interesting questions sit? But even accounting for the limitations of the historical record, can we ...more
K.J. Charles
Oct 05, 2018 added it
Shelves: dnf, comic
A clever idea for giving historical refs to our daily lives, so that the subject of breakfast touches on the history of domesticated chickens, bread, meal traditions etc. Very much in the "amusing overview that gives you funny facts" school of Horrible Histories for adults . Unfortunately it falls between two stools: it just isn't very funny to my mind, and I am unconvinced how reliable the history is (e.g. the old "spend a penny cones from the toilets at the Great Exhibition" story has been com ...more
Thom
Jun 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Historical tidbits, humorously collected and compellingly presented. How do the ordinary things done in a single day compare to those of 100, 1000, or 10,000 years ago? Topics include Time, Toilets, Food, Pets, Communication, Clothes, Beds, Alcohol and Dental Hygiene. Recommended!

Not intended to be a complete history of everything and anything, this still has a lot of information while also being quite a bit of fun. I listened to the audiobook version, read by the author, and the wit is perfectl
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Sud666
Jun 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, favorites
The wonderful thing about history is that no matter how much you know, you can never truly know it all. The scope is just too vast. This brilliant book looks at a 24 hour cycle in our modern life and asks the question "why do we do that?" and "where did it come from?". Starting with getting up in the morning, it follows a person doing normal things..but looks at it from the perspective of "Why are we so fascinated with keeping time?" (blame the monks and their different calls to prayer) to "why ...more
Mark Hartzer
Jul 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
A fun book. For example, I was unaware that the Tower Bridge in London used to have 'facilities' that emptied out directly over the Thames, (and the passing boats below). Gross, but pretty funny when you think about it. A good book for teens.
Beth
Jun 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
Immensely entertaining and educational! The author walks us through a typical day, and discusses the history of the key parts of the day from keeping time to brushing teeth to breakfast to food to going to sleep. I really enjoyed this!
Penny
Feb 23, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: social-history
I was drawn to the idea of a book describing a 'day in the life' and using this as the structure for investigations into how and why we do the things we do.

So many aspects of our 'ordinary day' are completely taken for granted - sleeping through the night, waking up at dawn or when the alarm goes etc. Jenner goes through the evolution of our daily rituals.

We get mini histories of topics as diverse as toilets, champagne, manners and dental hygiene.

Humorous, clever, always interesting and never p
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Charlene
Apr 11, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: innovation, history
3.5 stars.
I feel as if the title put me in the wrong mindset for this book. was devoted to the how humans learned how to use private bathrooms. That is actually a subject I was extremely curious about. I even looked for books that addressed the origin of private bathrooms, private bedrooms, private houses. It wasn't easy to find information on that; so, I should have been happy to find this. But, I was mostly annoyed by the writing. The author thought he was funnier than I thought he was.

Aside
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Reader
Jun 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A brilliant, informative, funny book with a very clever structure taking you through a modern day whilst explaining how the individual components, such as beds or alarm clocks, have evolved through history. Great for interesting little facts to start conversations / annoy people with, such as that up until 2011 women were legally banned from wearing trousers in Paris except when on a bike or horse! Crazy. The day I finished this I had went to a talk by the author about the book which was excelle ...more
Nancy
This book sounded fascinating in the review I read. I should have liked it. However, I am not the reader Jenner is targeting. I think that audience is middle school boys. The language is way too cutesy and full of current cultural references to appeal to this retirement age woman. I did not finish the book but did get about half way through before the library wanted it back. It has short vignettes about the historical development of the items we use in every day life. The concept is definitely 4 ...more
Mac
Aug 02, 2019 rated it did not like it
I had been very looking forward to this based off of reviews from other authors I enjoy. I found this to be a combination of an amateur historian and an amateur comedian.

The book is targeted directly at an exclusively British slapstick humour audience and I struggled to complete it.

In the end, I am not sure who this book was supposed to be for. It is too advanced for children, too amateurish for adults. Perhaps it targets a small group of teenagers just starting to get interested in history or c
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Zoe
Jul 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Loved this book. I found it fascinating, insightful and funny with a clever format. Lots of delicious factual nuggets that I attempt to wheel out whenever I can. The section on cornflakes alone was a revaluation! Fascinating to find out the roots of our daily tasks. Would and have recommended it.
Ken Rideout
Nov 13, 2016 rated it did not like it
The writing style is breezy and bit too hyper for me. Many of the items are along the lines of "I wonder when we started to... or how we came to use...." which can be answered in one google search. Without buying into the theme of "a day in the life", I quickly lost interest in the nonstop, rapid fire series of quick answers to these questions.
Crispina Kemp
Oct 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
I don't review every book read. The fact I'm reviewing this should let you know it's worth a read.

Greg sets out to trace the origins and development of the myriad items (and customs) encountered in a single day. My one complaint of the book is he sets this day to a Saturday. Thus work in its many aspects is avoided, as is the irksome business of commuting. However, the book does cover everything else from the common divisions of time and the calendar, to beds, and bedding, to all matters bathroo
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David Elizondo
Jun 22, 2020 rated it it was ok
I love History and random facts so I thought I would love this book, but I was pretty disappointed. Each topic drags on and seems to be filled with useless banter from the author. Like many other reviews mention, this author tries to be funny and witty, but most of the jokes fall flat and just add to the dragging. There is also a lack of consistency in how much topics are covered. Some of the information about the subjects are short, while others were so long and unnecessarily detailed that I go ...more
Daragh
Dec 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
A brilliant, funny read!

This book is brilliant - funny yet highly informative. A wonderful gift for the curious person in your life (me) and funny to boot. Buy it, then buy it for your friends and family!
Patti Beck
Mar 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating way to look at the things we do. Great book for those who are interested in oddities and some history
Bec
Jan 14, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
This has quite a bit of interesting historical tidbits and I like the premise. I do think this would be better as a tv documentary then reading it cover to cover, it's a bit wordy but would really work well live.
Emily
Jan 23, 2019 rated it liked it
Enjoyable, but hit a brick wall with about 100 pages left (Dinner chapter).
Heidi
Apr 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Has the same sense of humor as the show Round Planet by BBC -- dry, quick witted British smirks. You get to smirk at plays on words while learning all about historical tid bits.
Stephanie
Sep 29, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio-book
A MILLION YEARS IN A DAY: Like Having a Funny Brother Explain History
http://fangswandsandfairydust.com/201...
Having your younger brother relate the history of the world throughout the day!


Listening to this book with it’s wry commentary is like having a funny younger brother tell you the history if the world. Sometimes that little brother is going to be stuck in the realm of that bathroom humor wherein it seems young males, in particular, seem to dwell well into their twenties. Other times it wi
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Dan
Mar 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
This book is a fascinating history of how your everyday routine came to be. The chapters are laid out by considering a modern lazy day, from waking up to setting the alarm clock at night. It covers food, clothes, sleeping, pets, alcohol, communication and much more besides.

The format works exceptionally well, allowing the author to tell the history of individual aspects of our lives one at thing at a time. Given the relative brevity, Jenner manages to cover a fair bit of history in each section
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Laurie
Aug 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing
What were toilets like during the time of Imperial Rome? What kind of underwear was worn during the Tudor era? How did people keep in touch before the telephone was invented- before the post office, even? When did the fork develop, or the mattress? What about dentistry? This book can tell you all these things and more, in a witty, casual, conversational way. The author is both historical consultant and comedy writer, and he’s combined both skills well in this book.

This book does not tell us abo
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Munthir Mahir
Jan 19, 2016 rated it liked it
The idea of peering back into history to compare our daily lives to that of our ancestors has its own inherent appeal. On that aspect the author provides interesting pictures though in few parts he overstretchs the example into technical description that is not relevant (like the clock part).
On that basic premise of comparing anecdote the author delivers and touches on all basic daily routines. However, my expectation was for further exploration into daily matters such as commuting, trade, polit
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Paul Byrne
Jul 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: owned
I received this as a GoodReads Giveaway.

A truly fun book, filled with trivia on every little thing we do every day. Jenner wakes up on a Saturday and takes us through the history and little-known facts about our everyday activities and surroundings. The book begins with him waking up which leads to a discourse on how different cultures have measured time since the dawn of history.

Anyone who knows me, knows I live for this type of information. Jenner takes the reader through obscure histories of
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Melinda
Dec 10, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I thought this was hilarious, brilliant, and such a great concept.

Taking the equivalent of a normal Saturday, complete with getting up, alarm clocks, checking your emails, getting dressed, having mates over for dinner and getting pissed...and then take each of these activities and explain where they come from and how things have changed (or not) over the years. Written and narrated with great passion and humour - this was a great read for someone who wants to learn a few new things...without go
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Deng
Oct 08, 2016 rated it liked it
We often think that modern life differs greatly from the life of our early ancestors. The truth is that many of our customs and everyday objects date back thousands of years. Be it our love of alcohol, pets or the simple toothbrush, most of the tools and habits we take for granted today can be traced back as far as the Stone Age.
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Greg Jenner (b.1982) is a British public historian, broadcaster, and author noted for using humour and pop culture to communicate the complexities of the past. He is the author of
DEAD FAMOUS: AN UNEXPECTED HISTORY OF CELEBRITY, FROM BRONZE AGE TO SILVER SCREEN (2020) and A MILLION YEARS IN A DAY: A CURIOUS HISTORY OF DAILY LIFE, FROM STONE AGE TO PHONE AGE (2015)

He is also the Historical Consultan
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“between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries. The modern toothbrush probably owes more to a certain William Addis who rediscovered the idea in 1780 while serving time in a London jail for inciting a riot. The story goes that, after becoming understandably disappointed with the cleaning power of tooth rags, Addis drilled holes in a pig bone left over from his dinner and affixed bristles from a handy sweeping brush into the recesses. A mere thousand years after the Chinese had invented the toothbrush, Addis had invented the toothbrush. Of course, he was much better at marketing it, and the company he founded is still making hygienic products today.” 0 likes
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