Fitted into a career spanning fifty years of television production and broadcasting, Attenborough's stories and anecdotes give a feel for broader changes. In the 1950s, even zoos carried out fairly slapdash collecting, giving him quite general commissions. Fifty years later many of the out of the way places he visited are popular destinations and ecotourism is booming. The primitive camera and broadcasting equipment available for his early documentaries, requiring improvisations and workarounds, has been transformed by technological progress. And there's something magical about the sheer informality of Attenborough's early adventures, often carried out with minimal planning.
Attenborough is urbane and genial, and Life on Air is easy reading. While it could be read just for pleasure, however, it will appeal most to those who are already fans and want some background on his television programmes, and to those curious about the history of television and the BBC.