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Material World: A Global Family Portrait

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Format: Paperback

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Book Overview

This description may be from another edition of this product. Called "Fascinating An incredible book" by Oprah Winfrey, this beloved photography collection vividly portrays the look and feel of the human condition everywhere on Earth. In an unprecedented effort,...

Customer Reviews

4 ratings

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

"Material World" is one of those books that EVERYONE should read. It really is beyond description...deceptively simply yet incredibly moving in its stark simplicity. In these pages about families across the globe, we see scenes from their everyday life. When we glance at the pictures of each family on their lawn surrounded by all of their material goods, the difference between the average American family and the average Ethiopian family couldn't be plainer. We look at the faces on these pages, hear their thoughts on the future, and compare their lives to our own...and suddenly the people in other countries seem real to us, and the faceless people of the news suddenly have faces and thoughts and homes and families. Peter Menzel and all of the others who have worked on this book have done a brilliant and wonderful thing when they created "Material World". They have done what no "You should be grateful..." or "Think of those people in other countries..." could have done...they have made the world real to us.

Not just about material differences

This book was a required "textbook" in a high school "Science and Sustainability" pilot class my school did in junior year. I remember we generally used the books in class but could check them out to take home if we wanted. I checked one out and din't want to give it back. I think I skipped two classes that day just sitting in the student lounge poring over it, and I think the people reading over my shoulder probably had other things to do as well, but I couldn't put it down, it was so fascinating. So of course I bought my own and I can still pick it up and pore over it for another three hours with the same fascination. It's real life, and the families are real people that you feel somehow close to after reading this. I love this book and show it to everyone. This book will change the way you look at things. Also, for those who think that this book is primarily about material goods around the world, you couldn't be more wrong. Each chapter shows an incredibly detailed portrait of life in another country, and is as wonderful for introducing kids to other cultures as it is for opening their eyes to economic realities. Enjoy.

An excellent idea, well executed

What does the average Ethiopian home look like? What is the average Cuban family's hope for the future? How much does a carrot cost on the black Market in Bosnia? Which country has the highest fish consumption per capita? What does the average Japanese father have for breakfast? It may seem trivial, but these are the questions that Peter Menzel and the creators of "Material World" have tried to answer. And the answers they found are more profound than you might think. 30 very different countries, and 16 excellent photographers, trying to show through images, statistics and interviews how the world's average families live. The differences are astonishing: the financially average Abdullah family in Kuwait is both literally and figuratively a world removed from the Cakonis in Albania.In this book, created to celebrate the United Nations International Year Of The Family, sumptuous photographs, show each family with their material possessions spread around them outside their homes: while one family's material wealth seems to consist almost entirely of carpets, another's is made up of animals and cooking pots. One family has four cars, another a single and ragged looking donkey. More photographs show each family in the course of the average day, and coupled with data based on interviews, they answer questions such as: do the children go to school? Where does their food come from? What does their house look like? And most tellingly, what is their most treasured possession? More light hearted sections, which explore average televisions, toilets and meals across the world, show at once how alike and different we are.The creators of "Material World" have sought, and achieved a fine balance. They contrast not only those countries which we know to be rich or poor, but also look at how other factors, such as war and technology, affect families. The information is implicit rather than explicit, conveyed only through the images and words of each family; while the photographers' impressions are expressed in small "photographer's notes" sections, their main function is simply to show us the real lives of their subjects. No judgements are passed, nor opinions given. The reader is left to examine the evidence for themselves. "Material World" works on many levels. The quality of photography and the compilation of each section make it beautiful to look at - a smart and very PC coffee table book. The statistical information and photographs together provide a wealth of material for use in schools. Flipping backwards and forwards to explore the differences yourself is as much fun as "Where's Waldo", and the writing is so good that "Material World" is a great book to snuggle up with and read. I can only pick one fault with this book: the more trivial statistical data is not always consistent. For example, data on percentages of income spent on food is only available for some families, making comparison impossible. However, this

Your Kids Will Get A Whole New Perspective on "Stuff"

I discovered this one-of-a-kind book while paging through my favorite book catalog. I couldn't wait to get my hands on it, and bought it immediately for full price at my nearest bookstore (I NEVER pay full price - I was that excited!) On a cue from my catalog's annotation, I left it casually available in our family room. Within 10 minutes, my 9-year-old "material girl" zoomed in on the large, glossy cover, and asked about the book. I played cool: "Just a new book I really like... it's about all kinds of families and what kinds of stuff they have." Warily sensing the "educational" angle, she left it untouched as I left the room. Ten minutes later, she impatiently called to her 6-year old sister: "Look at this picture! This is a real family and this is all their stuff, even their beds! Where's their car? Look at these 2 little Mexican girls buying Barbies!" Unable to resist the text by now, she amended: "Oh, they're just looking. They don't have money to buy them." A thoughtful pause followed. Were the darling kids in the picture the anonymous "poor people" they heard about so often at school? They don't look unhappy in the photos...they look just like a regular family. YES! CONNECTION! It took the 2-page "Toilets of the World" spread to hook their 8-year-old brother, but this book remains an unending source of fascination for all of us. I am making a list of families to buy it for. Please take my word on this: I love language, but Material World's pictures tell a story of common humanity that could never be conveyed the same way in words. Don't miss this book.
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