cover image Timekeepers: How the World Became Obsessed with Time

Timekeepers: How the World Became Obsessed with Time

Simon Garfield. Canongate, $25 (368p) ISBN 978-1-78211-319-5

British journalist and author Garfield (To the Letter) chronicles the very human obsession with time in this lively, wry, and captivating work of pop science. Garfield attributes his personal fascination with the topic to a bad bicycle accident that highlighted for him the way time seems to speed up or slow down depending on what a person is experiencing. From that entry point, Garfield traverses far and wide across his subject. The chapter “How the French Messed Up the Calendar” looks at the French Revolution–era plan to decimalize time with a 10-hour day and a French anarchist who in 1894 tried, unsuccessfully, to blow up the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, England. Elsewhere in the book, Garfield tackles such topics as luxury watchmaking, political filibusters, and railway timetables, providing a sumptuous banquet of food for thought about how technology shapes the way we work, as well as how films are produced and music is written and performed. Here the “Doomsday Clock” of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists and self-help books, including Thoreau’s Walden and modern texts on time management, become newly thought-provoking and laugh-out-loud funny. Exhibiting dry wit and fizzing with insatiable curiosity, Garfield collects enough eccentric characters, places, and ideas to entertain every reader. (Dec.)