... 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?
... an engaging miscellany of stories and details about timekeeping technologies spanning a huge range of cultures and periods ... Though the book aspires to engage grand themes of ethics, power and historical transformation, it rises only intermittently above the thickets of moderately interesting trivia to survey this broader landscape ... Much of this material is quite interesting, but the book’s frenetic pace can make it hard to catch more than occasional glimpses of meaning. In the space of just two pages, for instance, Rooney leaps from a tower clock in 14th-century Italy to a cannon fired at noon each day by the British in 19th-century Cape Town to a boom of clockmakers in Australia in the 19th century to clock towers in British India in the 1850s. When he does surface for a broader reflection, it’s banal ... Closer analysis of these individual circumstances, and a smaller set of examples more deeply considered, might have enabled more original conclusions ... But the details of his innumerable examples are often very intriguing ... With its hasty rushing between examples and themes, Rooney’s book itself feels calibrated to slot into the schedule of an overly busy reader snatching a few minutes at the end of an overstuffed day. One longs to wander with Hardy’s Tess down a dark, winding path, tracking the time only by the sun overhead.
... provides a fascinating look at timekeeping devices throughout history and the societal roles they’ve filled ... A quick but thoughtful read ensuring you will never look at your alarm clock or smartphone the same way again. Highly recommend for fans of microhistories like Mark Kurlansky’s Salt.
Readers will appreciate Rooney’s history of timekeeping, from ancient sundials, to the water clocks of imperial China, to medieval hourglasses and mechanical clocks, to the Greenwich Royal Observatory. This book discusses timekeeping in terms of scientific innovation, artistry, and political power ... An interesting book for world history readers, especially those interested in the history of science or art.
... insightfully explores the ramifications of electricity and the creation of standardized time, which had a controversial, even violent, cultural impact ... Throughout, Rooney entertains with witty clock trivia and anecdotes alongside illuminating sketches of famous horologists ... Go slowly when devouring this charming, intelligent, highly informative history.