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on November 23, 2012
I was introduced to this book by an excerpt in the Nov/Dec issue of History magazine, and immediately ordered the Kindle version. However, I think the hard cover book's larger format would be better for this work, so I will order that version for my second reading.
I tried to watch the TV show but couldn't get interested, so I turned it off after 10 minutes. (in my poverty-blessed youth, the public library took the place of the TV my parents couldn't afford; I was past the age of 21 before I regularly watched TV)
Negatives: the Kindle version seems to have been rushed into production; I found mispellings, incomplete sentences, and other grammatical errors. There are many "side-stories" inserted into the text in half-size type; hard-but-not-impossible to read. However, these side notes are often followed by another side note of half again down sized type that is certainly hard to read.
Positives: the author tackled the ambitious project of covering the evolution of mankind from beginning to now, in one volume; she succeeded well beyond my expect ions. The narrative is fast-paced, informative, and flows smoothly from topic to topic, moving easily across centuries without losing context. Ms Toler tells the stories and covers major events of history without passing judgement; she covers such events as Hiroshima and the violence of the Selma AL civil rights march without resorting to the self-flagellating condemnation of America that is so prevalent today, even by those who enjoy the blessings of this great nation.
Another positive: the illustrations - photographs, paintings, etc; zoomable on my Kindle Fire, and beautifully HD. This was a challenging project, well executed, and well worth the price in any format. Get This Book!
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on December 9, 2012
Mankind the Story of All of Us: A Review

"Mankind: The Story of All of Us" is a history book, from the birth of the cosmos to modern times. Any single volume work of this scope must carefully choose its topics and depth of coverage, and overall, I thought the format and structure of the book was well done. The photos were clear and complemented the text quite well (I have not watched the "Mankind" series by the History Channel).

Nonetheless, I can't help comparing this book to J. Bronowski's "The Ascent of Man", and by comparison, I was disappointed. They both attempt to capture human history in a single work, focusing on key moments and advances that pushed civilization forward. However, Bronowski's work is far superior on every level, from editing to accuracy of information to writing style. Below, I give just a few examples from the first few chapters (but errors and problems are riddled throughout the text).

Poor Editing:
The text states, "After the Earth cooled enough to form its unique configuration of elements and atmosphere, it took another half billion years for the first single-celled organism to blossom in its deep oceanic vents, and two billion more for them to begin to divide and diversify." It should be obvious that it could not have taken two billion years after the first organisms appeared for them to "begin to divide"; the organisms would've died out long before if they were not capable of dividing when they first appeared. While I believe the authors did not intend for this meaning to be conveyed, it shows a sloppiness in writing.

As early as page 3 we see further problems. The text states, "It is here that we join human evolution reached its first critical pivot: the transition from apes to humans". The sentence is a direct quote. I think the authors meant to say, "It is here that human evolution reached its first critical pivot...." While the message is still understood, this shows poor editing (or complete lack of editing) by the publisher.

On page 8, the author describes the hunt, in which a small group of mean pursue an antelope. But then, two paragraphs later she describes a woman and her son watching as these same men "chase the warthog". She then ends the section with the capture of the "antelope". So which is it? Was it an antelope or a warthog that the men were hunting?

On page 14, the author discusses the hominid journey out of Africa. However, she begins by stating, "After about one hundred thousand years, bands of Homo erectus... began to travel farther from the warmth of the Great Rift Valley in search of food, eventually crossing the land bridge where Africa joins Asia. By about 400,000 BCE, small tribes of Homo erectus lived throughout Eurasia, reaching as far east as China." There is an accompanying map, which shows hominid movement into China around 50,000 years ago and into Beringia around 25,000 years ago. So which is it - 100,000 years, 400,000 years, 50,000 years? Did the author mean "40,000 BCE", not "400,000 BCE"? Given that humans (Homo sapiens) were already present 150,000 years ago, is the map referring to Homo sapiens movement, as opposed to Homo erectus. It isn't clear.

Accuracy is one problem that should not plague a history book, but seems to haunt many sections of this book. On page 6, there is a diagram with the caption, "The big bang provided earth with the oxygen-rich atmosphere necessary for fire". There are different ways to interpret this sentence, so at the very least, I would say that this sentence is misleading. However, the author seems to be stating that oxygen came directly from the Big Bang. If this is what was meant, this is incorrect. Oxygen is produced in stars and not a direct product of the Big Bang.

On page 36, the author mentions the first cities, including Jericho (9000 BCE), but then states that the Sumerian cities were the first city-states (civilizations) founded between 4500 BCE and 4000 BCE. The first city could not have been founded at both 9000 BCE and 4000 BCE, so which is it? Perhaps the distinction hinges on the definition between city versus city-state? But the author does not appear to make any distinction between the two terms in the text.

Writing Style:
Overall, the writing style is good, though not as rich or articulate as Bronowski. Nonetheless, the author keeps a good pace and the material is interesting.

If it wasn't for the editing and accuracy problems, I would have given this text four stars. However, given these problems, I can only give the book two stars -- one star for a decent writing style and one star for the photos, diagrams, and sidelines. Moreover, knowing that there are other better history books on the market, I would probably not recommend this book.
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on January 14, 2013
This book is as difficult to review as it is to read. The principle reason is due to very poor editing combined with careless attention to details and accuracy. Another reviewer detailed many of the specific errors - there are numerous others.
The author should have a serious conversation with the publisher about withdrawing her book and having it edited by someone more compentent. I have enjoyed the author's fluid writing style, however, I should not be laughing at the poor editing or grimacing at the factual errors. Her comments about the big bang are terribly misleading for readers not familiar with the material.
There are simply too many better books available that I can not recommend this book.
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on November 29, 2012
I am enjoying the side stories, the photos, the maps, and I like the way the book is organized. I can pick it up and begin reading sections that interest me, or I can flip around to another section if I wish.

I would recommend the book to history lovers, nonfiction readers, or others who like to understand connections to world events from a more scientific view.
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on March 1, 2015
Criticisms, Positive:

- The text is well written and summarizes human history in a sweeping pageantry. It hold the reader’s interest and is not difficult to read;
- It tells human history as a compelling story rather than a collection of dry facts;
- The photographs are well-chosen and interesting and they enhance the text.

Criticisms, Negative: The book seems to have a number of editorial deficiencies.

- Major Criticism: There is neither a subject index nor an index of the maps and subject boxes. Any non-fiction book should have an index. In frustration I finally made one of my own;
- There are a total of 29 maps in the book, the last being on page 269; there are no maps on the last 160 pages except for a faded photograph of a map on page 300; where are the maps for more than the last third of the book?
- Some of the photographs and maps are devoid of a legend and are displaced from the text to which they belong by one or more pages, which can be confusing;
- The photograph and insert about pictographs on pages 28 and 29 are after a page about the art of the last Ice Age and would seem to be more appropriately placed before or after page 37 commenting on the development of written language;
- On page 43 under “WHY” the sentence seems to be missing the word “solstices” after the word winter;
- Pages 80 and 81: On page 80, the first sentence of the first paragraph states, “The Quin (pronounced Chin) dynasty of northwest China was considered less cultured than its rivals …” However, the map on page 81 (which has no legend) depicts Qin region in what seems to be southwest China. The map at the top of page 81 would be more appropriate on page 79, especially since it has no legend to explain what it intends to demonstrate;
- On page 74, the map seems to be titled “Phoenician States” (within the borders of the map and not as a legend) but does not depict any of the Phoenician city-states (Byblos, Sidon, Tyre). The words “Phoenician States” is probably not a map title but a label for the yellow area immediately to the north of the Kingdom of Israel, but the font size and position on the map seem to make it a title for the whole map. If the map did have a legend or title, it would perhaps be “Neighboring Tribes of Israel, c. 1000 BCE”;
- Page 167, last paragraph: In the sentence, “A second form, the pneumatic plague, was less common …”, used the incorrect word “pneumatic”; the correct word should be pneumonic;
- Page 173: On page 173 malaria and typhus are listed with a group of epidemic diseases, caused by either bacterial or viral agents that are spread through direct human contact. Malaria is a protozoan parasitic infection that is spread by anopheline mosquitoes that have bitten an animal or human infected with the Plasmodium protozoa (usually P. malariae) then bites an uninfected individual. It not normally spread directly from one person to another (except through sharing hypodermic needles, for example). Thus, it is more common in swampy areas and controlling the mosquito population controls the spread of the disease.
- There is not mention of the early space exploits of either the United States or the Soviet Union; the Apollo 11 landing on the moon is not mentioned; but there are over 8 pages devoted to the wreck of the Titanic; there are only 5 pages covering the exploration of space; even the American Revolution got only 7 pages.
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on September 9, 2014
I usually prefer British docs, as I find American docs often contain too much hype. But this series is the proverbial exception, it is the best documentaries I have seen along with 'the story of Earth'
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on October 27, 2015
A fairly breezy fly-by look at the evolution of mankind beginning with the early days when humans roamed the grasslands of Africa, then jumping to the ice age, immediately followed by the establishment of first societies and the transition to farming. From that point on, the path is more concise, covering the major (and only the major with a capital M) developments in humanity.

Since the subject topic is so vast, it is understandable that a feat of this magnitude cannot be accomplished in a single volume. However, seeing that this book was released in conjunction with the History Channel mini series of the same name, one must realize that History Channel is not exactly the right source to seek enlightenment. Rather, as the channel itself caters to the lowest common denominator and attempts to keep the viewer interested with sensationalism, this has to e taken into account when considering this book as a whole.

So, did I learn anything new? Not really. But the book provided an opportunity to share a journey with my child, and for that I am grateful.

The chapters in this book are fairly short, fairly educational, and fairly entertaining. They allowed me to share the milestones in mankind's development with my child, have conversations about topics we read about, and, hopefully, entice a further future explorations into the complicated history of humanity.

As with any work of this kind, one must realize that history, in general, is written by the victors. Thus, the topics covered in this book were in line with that approach, highlighting the successes and disregarding the disasters. It was to be expected. Aside from a brief cautionary chapter following the story of Hiroshima, there was hardly any exploration of the darkness of the human soul, or the simple fact that history, as we know it, repeats itself. The book, nevertheless, provided me with an opportunity to discuss the fact that empires rise and fall, and that nothing is to be taken for granted.

The book suffers from the same 'being politically correct' expectations so many books suffers from today, as it attempts to have an almost universal appeal. One exception was the chapter on Congo and the terrors committed there. The distant past, however, was almost romanticized. Likewise, the not so distant past, especially the industrial revolutions and the agricultural 'revolution' failed to depict the evil the so called 'visionaries' committed along their path of greed. the chapter on agricultural revolution could have been better if the benefits of GMOs were discussed against the dangers associated with the practice, for example.

Overall, even though I cringed every now and then, it was a read I enjoyed, if for no other reason than to spend a time with my child. That is priceless.

One major caveat is the poor editorial input. The book contains many typographical errors, and the chapters are often interrupted by separate stories which is distracting.

I don;t think I can recommend this to history buffs, but I would recommend it as a gateway to start talking about history with those unfamiliar with the story of mankind.
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on May 23, 2015
Love this book. To synthesize thousands of years of history in a coffee table book! Photography gorgeous. A keepsake! Got my bf his own copy!
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on February 7, 2013
Wonderful book and series. Very through. I think this is the first time I have seen a "History" book with such a strong focus and rounded out delivery. I suppose the only negative is this is somewhat of a companion to the TV series as many photographs are of the actors from the show. But one must understand that there obviously wern't cameras in some of the periods discussed. The book will stand on it's own nicely however. I did like it enough that I bought two and gave one as a gift.
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on January 12, 2013
This book beats the tv program. Even though it probably would not have been done without the tv program. It leaves out many important historical points for brevity. Great to inspire interest in what is missing. It is simple enough for school kids. Would make a good school reader. Anyone interested in history can use this as a framework for future reading.
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