by Adam Hart-Davis
Subtitled "The Science and Technology of our Everyday Lives", this book is a walk through a typical day in Adam Hart-Davis's life, examining a number of the inventions we use all the time, usually without thinking about them. It's a tie-in for the TV series of the same name, which was shown on the History Channel in 2007.
He covers obvious subjects like the invention of the flush toilet, minor subjects like the invention of the bowler hat, and many in between. For example, did you know that companies have spent years, decades even, attempting to find a plastic toothpaste container that will fold flat without springing back ("deadfold", as it is described) but that will not split? Apparently they have not been able to do it.
I would guess that a number of the inventions here have been done before, by Hart-Davis, in previous series like "Local Heroes", but they still make interesting reading. The coverage is understandably skewed by his own interests - photography gets a lot of detail, for example - but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Adam Hart-Davis is a presenter firmly in the tradition of eccentric, enthusiastic scientists, such as Magnus Pike (with whom Hart-Davis has worked), Patrick Moore, Johnny Ball, David Bellamy and so on, and I like his presentation style very much but of course it's not the same in a book. Bringing himself into the mix so much serves to inject his own personality into the book.
In the edition I read, it's a very nicely presented hardback, with thick glossy paper and good quality photos. It's also quite short and, from what I can tell from looking at clips on YouTube, doesn't cover some of the subjects that were covered by the programme. I think if I were purchasing this book I would feel short-changed but as a read (from the library, in my case) it was enjoyable.