... abundantly clever ... [Rooney's] notion is that time-noting instruments of one kind or another (his impartial passion for such items, sundials to plutonium-fueled clocks, he recounts quite touchingly) have been central to human endeavor, and he illustrates the power of such influence by scores of well-curated examples ... The consequence of serving up history in such digestible chunks could be an ultimate want of satiety. But Rooney cleverly manages to avoid this, and though some of his chapters are better than others the majority are deftly navigated ... Though the device of structuring books in this particular way may be approaching its sell-by date, this is a lovely and engaging example, with myriad fascinations on every page. Such that Rooney may well be persuaded to examine more closely one or other of his themes — how long-term thinking, for example, might contribute to a sorely needed notion of peace — and expand it further, dive more deeply. That would take time of course, but for Rooney and his readers, I suggest it would be time well spent.
... fascinating ... Mr. Rooney offers not a comprehensive study of timekeeping but instead an episodic survey. About Time is obviously not for those who shrug off the need for a proper wristwatch by saying they can just check their phones. For readers with a longer view, though, and a taste for intellectual history, it is full of riches ... Mr. Rooney has provided a valuable intellectual journey at a moment ripe for contemplation.
It’s to Rooney’s credit that although he clearly knows a colossal amount about clocks, he wears his learning very lightly ... The obvious criticism of Rooney’s book is that it is just too short. His discussion of clocks and faith, for example, is barely 20 pages long, whisking us from medieval Mesopotamia and Cromwellian England to Mecca’s colossal new Royal Clock Tower without a pause for breath ... The details are fascinating, but it is disconcerting to travel centuries in just a few sentences ... Yet underlying this breakneck dash is a serious thesis ... strikes me as an unnecessarily pious, even Bourdinish note on which to end. After all, clocks aren’t only instruments of control, and to most of us they don’t really represent power and oppression. They are miracles of care and craftsmanship, testament to the ingenuity and imagination of the human spirit. Clocks are us, as Rooney argues. But surely we’re not all bad, are we?