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Material World: A Global Family Portrait Hardcover – Oct 11 1994


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Sierra Club Books; 1 edition (Oct. 11 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0871564378
  • ISBN-13: 978-0871564375
  • Product Dimensions: 31.2 x 23.6 x 2.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 Kg
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #287,117 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Laura on Feb. 5 2004
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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By Erika Mitchell on 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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Format: Paperback
I really enjoy everything about it. Thank you.
Also recommended: Women in the Material World
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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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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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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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