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Summary

The city has killed most of your ancestors, and it's probably killing you, too - this book tells you why.

Imagine you are a hunter-gatherer some 12,000 years ago. You've got a choice - carry on foraging or plant a few seeds and move to one of those new-fangled settlements down the valley. What you won't know is that urban life is short and riddled with dozens of new diseases; your children will be shorter and sicklier than you are; they'll be plagued with gum disease and stand a decent chance of violent death at the point of a spear. Why would anyone choose this?

But choose they did. Why? This is one of the many intriguing questions tackled by Brenna Hassett in Built on Bones. Based on research on skeletal remains from around the world, this book explores the history of humanity's experiment with the metropolis and looks at why our ancestors chose city life and, by and large, have stuck to it. It explains the diseases, the deaths and the many other misadventures that we have unwittingly unleashed upon ourselves throughout the metropolitan past and, as the world becomes increasingly urbanised, what we can look forward to in the future.

Built on Bones offers accessible insight into a critical but relatively unheralded aspect of the human story: our recent evolution. It tells the story of shifts in human longevity, growth and health that have occurred as we transitioned from a mobile to a largely settled species. Beginning with the very earliest experiments in settling down, the narrative moves slowly forward in time, with each chapter discussing a new element of humanity's great urban experiment.

©2017 Brenna Hassett (P)2017 Audible, Ltd

What members say

Average customer ratings

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    1 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

I had to give up on this one

I rarely give up on a book but this one was impossible to listen to because of the poor narration and the irritating voice of the narrator. It's a pity because I think I might have enjoyed the book if it had been read by someone else.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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Fascinating!

This is a fascinating topic, described in a humorous and down to earth way whilst still having substance. If you can get past the slightly odd phrasing and occasional mispronunciation by the narrator, you will enjoy it.

17 of 21 people found this review helpful

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Fascinating

Great story read by a great narrator with a pleasant voice. Many insights into city life that one wouldn't know or has heard of which are finally explained.

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Book maybe okay underneath

I somehow managed to endure the whole of this book, which wasn't a pleasant experience - The problem is not with the book itself per se, apart from the continuous needless and unfunny jokes, there is some interesting content in there - but it's the narrator, although technically proficient, she has undoubtedly the most irritating voice I have ever heard. It was as so she was scraping away underneath my skin with sandpaper, for about 15 hours!

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nice idea terrible performance.

So nasal and sarcastic. Why? Otherwise an interesting insight to what bioarchaeology has to offer us. Warning - does grind a feminist agenda over archaic gender roles. Does she actually laugh at a female hominid struggling with several children? Also, a tiny error but one that makes me feel superior - malaria-causing plasmodium microbes are not bacteria, they are protoctistan. Tut tut.

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Very interesting

AS other reviewers have indicated, this is a fascinating topic of scientific interest presented in a slightly humorous tone. Personally I didn't mind the asides at all and didn't have a problem with the narrator's voice as some did. It might be worth listening to the sample in case the voice just isn't for you.

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Interesting but a bit repetitive

The idea is good and the earlier subject matter is strong. However it was a bit like a documentary on American TV where every concept is repeated three or four times so you don't miss it.

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Incredibly dense, but well written and witty

First of all, hats off to the author Brenna Hassett for creating such an accessible book for such a complex subject. Secondly, I applaud her writing, the tone is sarcastic and witty, unlike a dry scientific journal. It is an absolutely fascinating look into the affects of urbanisation over the past 15,000 years, ingrained into the bones discovered from various archaeological sites.

From the spread of disease and conflict, to social practices and customs, there's more to skeletal remains than meets the eye. She also reveals the depth of inequality, through the health of slaves, women and children, as well as those poverty stricken, who carry ill health for generations. It is detailed and extensive, so you'll need to concentrate. A great listen.

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Technically spoke.. brilliantly read

A great book .. with lots of facts and figures. however even with this dry subject it was made fun by the narrator
a great book on history and how ppl lived

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A fascinating account

Beautifully read (for once the reader has researched the pronunciation of foreign words). But a scholarly work completely spoilt (for me) by irritating, weak, humourous asides throughout.

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  • Sara
  • 11-05-18

What A Disaster

I was thrilled when I stumbled upon this book and anticipated a totally enthralling listening experience. The topic fascinates me and the reviews were good on several sites so I had high hopes. Yikes was I dismayed when I started to listen.

The author chose to present the material using such a terrible, flip, almost sarcastic tone that I found it totally off putting or really to be honest almost repellent. To me, the frequent attempts at failed humor and idiotic insider jokes squelched it completely. It was just too embarrassing.

Topping the whole thing off, just to make my day, I dropped the ball and found that it was too late for me to return this dreadful mess of a book. Oh Ugh. Can't recommend.

9 of 14 people found this review helpful

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  • J.T.
  • 02-08-17

This is a "light" book for many reasons

The author tries to be funny and sometimes she is. She is obviously young, smart and she will look back at her last chapter with a bit of regret I think. Her whine about the rich and poor is one that is almost silly. The rich inheriting investments but she does not recognize she is one of those making a living and not producing anything. Only a society of "rich" can afford to indulge her but she does not see she is one of the oppressors.

She should learn life is not fair and she is proof.

To paraphrase, this story is a "mile wide and a foot deep".

0 of 4 people found this review helpful