Life on Air

Life on Air : Memoirs of a Broadcaster

4.39 (2,156 ratings by Goodreads)
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For fifty years David Attenborough has entertained, educated, and generally enchanted millions worldwide with his pursuit of the secrets of life in its many guises. For such groundbreaking television series as Life on Earth, The Private Life of Plants, and The Life of Birds, he has traveled to the ends of the earth to give viewers their first (and often only) close look at some of nature's wonders--from the great wildebeest migration to the blooming of desert cacti. Now Attenborough invites readers to travel with him once more, as he reflects on a life at least as interesting as any he's managed to capture on camera. Life on Air begins when, at twenty-four, Attenborough throws over what looks to be a staid future as a "gentleman publisher" for an uncertain position in the BBC's fledgling television service. An adventure in itself (with primitive equipment and unpredictable personalities), broadcasting work involves the Cambridge-educated naturalist in hilarious attempts to improve the upstart Talks Department.
Then the discovery of a coelacanth fish off the Comoro Islands offers him his first chance as a producer, and his career introducing wildlife to the public takes off in earnest. From his first expedition--a junket to Sierra Leone to find the elusive Bald-headed Rock Crow--to his most recent, Attenborough conducts readers on a life journey as instructive as it is enthralling. Rich with insights into nature and behind-the-scenes glimpses into broadcasting history, it is also filled with adventure and humor. Attenborough's storytelling powers are legendary, and they don't fail him as he recounts how he came to stand in rat-infested caves in Venezuela, confront wrestling crocodiles, abseil down a rainforest tree in his late sixties, and wake with the lioness Elsa sitting on his chest. His story ranges from British Guinea to the Zambesi, from Borneo to Madagascar, from the darkest depths of caves to the canopies of the loftiest trees. With quiet erudition, searching curiosity, and generous wit, the world's best-known and most beloved naturalist documents a life that reflects his changing time and our natural world as well as his own irrepressible character.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 320 pages
  • 160 x 236 x 40mm | 859.99g
  • Princeton University Press
  • New Jersey, United States
  • English
  • 64 pages of color and b/w photos.
  • 0691113238
  • 9780691113234
  • 480,766

Review quote

"Life on Air, David Attenborough's professional autobiography, tells the entertaining story of how he turned us all into armchair experts in natural history."--Douglas Palmer, New Scientist "[An] engaging and often amusing text."--Choice "The boyish enthusiasm of the young Leicestershire schoolboy who had his own museum, and collected fossils, butterflies, skulls, and eggs, remains with Attenborough today after 50 years of experience with the media."--Sir Ghilean Prance, Times Higher Education Supplement "Lively and witty accounts of expeditions and television politics make the book and adventure in itself... Life on Air is another Attenborough production you will thoroughly enjoy."--Wildlife Activist
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About Sir David Attenborough

David Attenborough was born in 1926 and educated at Cambridge. He started making television documentaries in the 1950s, produced the series "Zoo Quest", and made some of television's first black-and-white nature films before being promoted to senior management at the BBC. In the 1970s, Attenborough returned to filmmaking and has subsequently produced some of the most famous wildlife documentaries ever made, most notably his "Life" series. He was knighted in 1985 and now lives near London. He is the author of "The Life of Birds", "The Private Life of Plants", and "The Life of Mammals" (all Princeton).
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Table of contents

1. Joining Auntie 9 2. Zoo Quest 31 3. Guiana 47 4. Infant Empires 59 5. Dragons 64 6. A Plunge into Politics 81 7. New Guinea 87 8. Paraguay 105 9. Solving Sound 120 10. A Quest for Custom 124 11. Radio Excursions 143 12. Lions and Lemurs 148 13. The Top End of Australia 167 14. Casting Around 185 15. A New Network 198 16. Exotic Interludes 218 17. The Threat of the Desk 232 18. Back to the Jungle 242 19. The Tribal Eye 255 20. Life on Earth 279 21. The Living Planet 294 22. Extra Duties 313 23. Vanished Lives 326 24. The Trials of Life 344 25. The Private Life of Plants 359 26. The Lure of Birds 372 27. Conclusions 375 Index
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Rating details

2,156 ratings
4.39 out of 5 stars
5 54% (1,154)
4 35% (759)
3 9% (192)
2 2% (37)
1 1% (14)
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