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Dan Cruickshank
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Around the World in 80 Treasures
hard cover
256 pages
Dan Cruickshank's book, accompanying the TV series and the DVD. It's quite a worthy effort - he's an intelligent, articulate bloke who can justify his choices to the extent that he's been able to go gallivanting around the world with a film crew. He's restricted his choices to eighty, not a hundred, tell-tale pieces which evidence civilisation and the ability of human beings to leave their mark upon the world.

You wonder if this is some marketing device ... Michael Palin went around the world in eighty days, therefore eighty treasures? But Cruickshank wasn't chasing any deadlines. He could as easily have made it a hundred places and artefacts to see. You get the impression that Cruickshank, or his producer, or his agent, sat bemoaning the fact that Palin has exhausted all the good ideas and searched for some other adventure to pursue, something exotic, something worthy.

And that's where it loses its excitement, its ability to seize your imagination. Given a decent atlas and encyclopaedia, I could come up with 100 places and objects I'd like to see before I pop me clogs. I could come up with thousands! So could you. So could David Beckham! The excitement, the interest in such an exercise is in sitting around arguing the relative merits of an Orkney broch over a French brioche. The interest is in the arguments you can have with your partner or friends. Watching some bloke getting a crack at a world tour ... and knowing he gets payment and celebrity status into the bargain ... well, it doesn't so much inspire wonder as envy.

Oh, you can argue about Cruickshank's choices. Great Wall of China, fine, Pyramids, fine ... but the Colt Navy revolver? You can argue about Cruickskank's choices, but I doubt they're going to fire much passion in your household, and it's too late to change them now, too late to win him over to the merits of the Horseshoe Bar in Glasgow, or a Welsh rugby crowd singing at the Millenium Stadium.

It's an interesting concept, but it wasn't riveting television, and it's not a 'must-have' book. It's well enough written, quite nicely illustrated ... but it doesn't set my imagination or my heart racing. That decent atlas and encyclopaedia look better value ... you can spend months thumbing through them, looking for your own top hundred treasures and creating your own route. That sounds like fun, that sounds like much more fun.
6/10
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