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Material World: A Global Family Portrait [Hardcover]

Peter Menzel , Charles C. Mann , Paul Kennedy
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
List Price: CDN$ 51.95
Price: CDN$ 32.57 & FREE Shipping. Details
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Book Description

Oct. 11 1994 Sierra Club Books Publication
We are witnessing the emergence of a unified world economy, as exemplified by NAFTA and GATT, that will, in theory, make goods available at cheaper prices, create new jobs throughout the world, raise standards of living, and benefit the average family. However, population growth and resource exploitation will also affect these potential benefits as patterns of consumption change. In stunning photographs and text, Material World demonstrates the present context for the emerging global economy, what it means to be "statistically average," by displaying families in more than thirty nations outside their homes - with all their possessions in view.
Among the 350 stunning images are those of a family in lush Samoa juxtaposed with a Kuwaiti family and the two Mercedes-Benzes parked outside their desert home; a family in Iceland posing with their treasured string instruments while a family in Sarajevo huddles outside their bullet-ridden apartment. The text describes what it means to be "average" in each of thirty very dissimilar cultures and the impact of each way of life on the local environment. Statistical information about each country accompanies the photo-essays so that readers can easily compare one culture with another.
Material World is a fascinating portrait of multicultural diversity and a preview of emerging issues raised by the impact of the global economy on the cultural heritage of the human community.

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In honor of the United Nations-sponsored International Year of the Family in 1994, award-winning photojournalist Peter Menzel brought together 16 of the world's leading photographers to create a visual portrait of life in 30 nations. Material World tackles its wide subject by zooming in, allowing one household to represent an entire nation. Photographers spent one week living with a "statistically average" family in each country, learning about their work, their attitudes toward their possessions, and their hopes for the future. Then a "big picture" shot of the family was taken outside the dwelling, surrounded by all their (many or few) material goods.

The book provides sidebars offering statistics and a brief history for each country, as well as personal notes from the photographers about their experiences. But it is the "big pictures" that tell most of the story. In one, a British family pauses before a meal of tea and crumpets under a cloudy sky. In another, wary Bosnians sit beside mattresses used as sniper barricades. A Malian family composed of a husband, his two wives, and their children rests before a few cooking and washing implements in golden afternoon light. Material World is a lesson in economics and geography, reminding us of the world's inequities, but also of humanity's common threads. An engrossing, enlightening book. --Maria Dolan --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

From School Library Journal

YA?A fascinating look at the material possessions of families throughout the world. These people have been determined "average" for their countries and have agreed to have photographers move the contents of their houses outside in order to create visible representations of their relative standards of living. The dirt house and few possessions of Mali residents contrast with the 4 cars, 45-foot long sofa, and 12+ oriental carpets lined up outside the luxury home of a family from Kuwait. Each chapter includes the original spread of possessions, statistics about each family and country, as well as further pictures of daily life and some observations by the photographer. Interspersed among the chapters, which are divided by region, are pictorial representations of such interesting comparisons as televisions, meals, and toilets. Almost all of the pictures are in full color. Menzel hoped this would be "a unique tool for grasping cross-cultural realities." It is that and much more.?Susan H. Woodcock, King's Park Library, Burke, VA
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Feb. 5 2004
By Laura
Format:Paperback
This is a very interesting book--more like a written documentary--that explores the lives of families in a number of countries based mainly on their possessions. Beautiful photos accompany each section, including the "Big Picture," in which the family is photographed with all of its belongings. Country statistics are also included, as well as interviews with family members and daily life photos.
The value of each family's possessions, as well as the family's values (what's important to them, etc.) are stressed. However, I noticed that while standard of living may differ considerably, everyone, no matter their location, seems to want bascially the same thing: education, a better life for their children, security, etc. This realization was perhaps the best part of the book for me.
What also impressed me was the fact that this book is filled to the brim. There's no way to read it cover-to-cover, really. Instead, it's more of an experience. It must be taken in. Every time I pick it up, I see something differently, in a new light.
You don't have to be an economist or an anthropologist to enjoy this book. On the contrary, anyone who has any interest at all in the outside world would enjoy it. Because the photographers spent so much time with each family, I truly felt like I was transported to each country, like I had a more complete understanding of what it was like to live there.
The residents weren't just faceless, nameless inhabitants of a distant land but were brought to life. And since it was basically told in their own words, very little to no bias is able to come through. Lastly, I have to congratulate the authors for putting together a balanced portrait of life around the globe. The choices were well-made and quite diverse.
Highly recommended!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic Aug. 22 2003
Format:Paperback
This book is a fantastic picture book and statistical reference of our world. Menzel's idea was brilliant- -to identify a statistically average family in every corner of the world, and photograph them and all of their belongings, as well as capture aspects of their daily life on film.
The book is organized by continent, and then by country within each continent. Each entry begins with a multi-page photo of the family in front of their house, with of all their possessions. Beside the photo is an enumeration of the possessions that appear in the photo. The remainder of the article is found on the next 3 or 4 pages. There is usually a short summary of statistics about the country, covering such topics as area, population, population density, life expectancy, and rank of affluence among U.N. member countries. But much more informative are a variety of high-quality color photos showing family members going about their daily activities, at work, at school, or eating a meal in the family home. There is a brief text about the family itself, who they are, what they do, and where they live. The photographer also provides a brief summary of his or her experiences while living with the family and taking the photographs. In the photographer's notes are statistics about the work week, the number of radios, telephones, televisions, VCRs, and automobiles. The photographer also asks each family member to identify their most valued possessions and their dreams for the future.
The choice of the family to convey both the ideal and the reality of a typical "American" family was perfect. They have the requisite two children, one of each gender, and a dog. They are shown outside their ranch-style house, with a fairly new pickup truck and minivan in their attached garage.
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5.0 out of 5 stars THIS BOOK WAS GREAT BOOK TO READ AND LEARN FROM April 19 2003
Format:Paperback
I really enjoy everything about it. Thank you.
Also recommended: Women in the Material World
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5.0 out of 5 stars Material World: A Global Family Portrait Feb. 20 2003
Format:Paperback
This is my favorite book - ever. So frequently we don't bother to really know about other people on our planet, so to see global life from the individual's viewpoint is surprising and humbling. I like to give this book to friends and family - everyone is always amazed.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words June 13 2002
By Allyn
Format:Paperback
"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.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Thought Provoking and Worth Owning Jan. 27 2002
Format:Paperback
We have looked at this book over and over again. It gives great insight into other cultures and how people all over the world live their lives (mostly with fewer material possesions than we have). My children enjoy looking at the people and asking questions about them. We have loaned this book to many friends, who want to convince their children that they own enough stuff! What a shame that it is out of print!
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars you've told your children, now show them
At a familiy's dinner table:
FATHER: You know, we're lucky,
CHILDREN: Oh no, here we go again.
FATHER: we have health, food, a home, a vehicle, ... Read more
Published on Oct. 27 2000 by Mark Senn
5.0 out of 5 stars 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. Read more
Published on Oct. 20 2000 by ReaderFromAK
5.0 out of 5 stars Changes me every time
Every time I pick up this book and thumb through it, I am profoundly changed for the rest of the day. You will be too. Read more
Published on Aug. 29 2000 by Jim Owen
5.0 out of 5 stars 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? Read more
Published on June 27 2000 by H. J. Wakenshaw
5.0 out of 5 stars more than a coffee table book
My 10 year old daughter was attracted to this book as we browsed in the local bookstore, and we bought it impulsively. Read more
Published on June 9 2000 by sheila
5.0 out of 5 stars 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... Read more
Published on March 20 2000
5.0 out of 5 stars I feel like I know families all around the world now.
I have read and reread this book and I feel like I know these diverse families in many different countries. Read more
Published on Jan. 6 2000 by Casey Newlin
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