At one point in our collective history, humans didn’t measure time. At least, not in the neatly segmented, overly regimented way we do now around most of the planet. In the past, time was measured by the changing of the seasons, the rising and setting of the sun, and the biological imperatives within our bodies and within the plants and animals that surround us. That has changed, of course: slowly at first, but, particularly during the Industrial Revolution, more and more rapidly. The history of how cultures track time, from its earliest reckonings to our current systems, is the subject of science journalist Jessa Gamble’s first book.
Gamble has travelled the world, interviewing everyone from scientific experts to ordinary people trying to live in a world centred on the dictates of weeks and hours and minutes. She explores the measurement of time using artificial devices such as calendars and clocks, as well as the ways we experience time biologically.
The Siesta and the Midnight Sun is full of stories, interviews, and perspectives ranging from the Far North, where Gamble currently lives, to labs buried deep beneath the earth’s surface. Gamble examines the repercussions of artificially disrupting our built-in circadian rhythms, and critiques the ways in which science continues to meddle with what nature has created.
While it is fascinating and packed with information, The Siesta and the Midnight Sun can be curiously frustrating because, despite its focus on rhythm, it lacks a natural rhythm of its own. Gamble introduces ideas or stories, then moves on to explore new ideas, never to return to her original starting point. Gamble’s journalistic background stands out in her descriptive and expressive writing, yet somehow the organization of the material makes this book less compelling than one might hope.