Man, John 1941-

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Man, John 1941-


Born May 15, 1941, in Tenterden, England; son of John Henry Garnet (a farmer) and Peggy (a tennis coach) Man; married Angela Strange (an actress), January 27, 1967 (divorced, 1991); married Timberlake Wertenbaker (a playwright), June 30, 1991; children: (first marriage) Jonathan, Thomas, Emily, William, (second marriage) Dushka. Education: Keble College, Oxford, B.A.; School of Oriental and African Studies, London, post-graduate study.


Home—90 Oakfield Rd., London N4, England. Agent—c/o Author Mail, St. Martin's Press, 175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010.


Writer, historian, and editor. Reuters, London, England, correspondent in London and in Bonn, West Germany, 1965-68; British Publishing Corp., London, editor, 1968-69; Time-Life Books, New York, NY, editor in London, 1969-72, European editor in London, 1972-74, senior editor, 1974-75; director of John Man Books Ltd., London, 1975-81. Interviewer for Survive, a six-part television series, 1984.


Berlin Blockade, Ballantine (New York, NY), 1973.

(Editor) Tom Sterling, The Amazon, Time-Life International (Amsterdam, Netherlands), 1973.

(With Henry Kyemba) State of Blood, Ace Books (New York, NY), 1977.

The Day of the Dinosaur, Dutton (New York, NY), 1978.

Assault at Mogadishu, Corgi (London, England), 1978.

Walk!: It Could Change Your Life, Paddington (New York, NY), 1979.

(Editor) John Gribbin, Weather Force: Climate and Its Impact on Our World, Putnam (New York, NY), 1979.

The Lion's Share, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 1982.

Gold-Dive, Corgi (London, England), 1982.

Jungle Nomads of Ecuador, Time-Life (Alexandria, VA), 1982.

(With Thomas Dickey and Henry Wiencek) The Kings of El Dorado, Stonehenge (Chicago, IL), 1982.

The Survival of Jan Little, I.B. Tauris (London, England), 1985, Viking (New York, NY), 1987.

(Editor) Christian Schmidt-Haeuer, Gorbachev: The Path to Power, I.B. Tauris (London, England), 1986.

(With Pin Yathay) Stay Alive, My Son, Free Press (New York, NY), 1987.

Exploration and Discovery (juvenile), Gareth Stevens (Milwaukee, WI), 1990.

Zwinger Palace, Dresden, with photographs by Nicolas Sapieha, Tauris Parke Books (London, England), 1990.

The Facts on File D-Day Atlas: The Definitive Account of the Allied Invasion of Normandy, Facts on File (New York, NY), 1994.

The Penguin Atlas of D-Day and the Normandy Campaign, Penguin (New York, NY), 1994.

(With Jayne Torvill) Torvill & Dean: The Autobiography of Ice Dancing's Gold Medal Winners, Carol Publishing Group (New York, NY), 1996.

Battlefields Then and Now, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1997.

The Birth of Our Planet, Reader's Digest (London, England), 1997, Reader's Digest (Pleasantville, NY), 1999.

Gobi: Tracking the Desert, Orion (London, England), 1997, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 1999.

The Traveler's Atlas: A Global Guide to the Places You Must See in a Lifetime, Barron's (Hauppauge, NY), 1998.

The War to End Wars, 1914-18, Reader's Digest (London, England), 1998.

The Space Race, Reader's Digest (London, England), 1999.

Atlas of the Year 1000, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 1999.

Alpha Beta: How Twenty-Six Letters Shaped the Western World, Headline (London, England), 2000.

Comets, Meteors, and Asteroids, DK Publishing (New York, NY), 2001.

The Gutenberg Revolution: The Story of a Genius and an Invention that Changed the World, Review (London, England), 2002, published as Gutenberg: How One Man Remade the World with Words, John Wiley & Sons (New York, NY), 2002.

Genghis Khan: Life, Death, and Resurrection, Bantam (London, England), 2004.

Attila: The Barbarian King Who Challenged Rome, T. Dunne Books/St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2006.


John Man is an author who has published a wide variety of nonfiction titles: as-told-to adventure tales, travel books, historical volumes, biographies, and science works for non-technical readers. He has a special interest in Mongolia. Among his most popular works are Stay Alive, My Son, The Facts on File D-Day Atlas: The Definitive Account of the Allied Invasion of Normandy, and Gobi: Tracking the Desert.

In Stay Alive, My Son Man and coauthor Pin Yathay chronicle Yathay's experiences in his native Cambodia following the takeover of the country by communist guerrillas. The genocidal tactics of the new regime led to the deaths of several million Cambodians in a campaign of deliberate starvation. Yathay describes how one communist official explained the slaughter: "In the new [society], one million is all we need to continue the revolution. We don't need the rest. We prefer to kill ten friends rather than keep one enemy alive." Joseph Sobran, reviewing the book for the National Review, called it "moving and harrowing."

Man's The Facts on File D-Day Atlas "is a concise history illustrated with color maps and black-and-white photographs," according to Sandy Whiteley in Booklist. Man's account of the pivotal battle of World War II, in which Allied forces crossed the English Channel and successfully won a beachhead in the Nazi-held French province of Normandy, provides an overview of the complex and treacherous operations of the invasion. John Bemrose in Maclean's found that the book, "with its colorful maps, fine photographs and clear, energetic text, creates a stimulating overview of the Normandy battlefields."

Man details a journey he made across the desolate Gobi Desert of Mongolia in his travel book Gobi. Combining an account of his own adventures with historical background on early explorers in the region and recountings of local myths and legends, Man creates a "fascinating and informative book that is hard to put down," as Stephanie Papa noted in the Library Journal. The critic for Publishers Weekly concluded that Gobi is "an exhilarating blend of travel, history and adventure" by "a graceful and companionable travel writer."

Man's Atlas of the Year 1000 is a portrait of the world at a moment which, as he writes, "marked the first time in human history when it was possible to pass a message, or an object, right around the world…. It does not seem too fanciful to look for the roots of today's ‘one world’ in the world of 1,000 years ago." Robert Bartlett of the Times Literary Supplement commented that "it introduces the astonishing range of human activity of the time," while Felipe Fernandez-Armesto, in the London Times called it "an amusing, quirky conspectus spattered with surprises."

Man continued his focus on world-changing events and developments in two books detailing the effects of the development and dissemination of language. The first of these books, Alpha Beta: How Twenty-Six Letters Shaped the Western World, traces the development of the English alphabet from hieroglyphics first used by the ancient Egyptians some 4,000 years ago. Man tells how a 1905 expedition to turquoise mines in Sinai led to the discovery that early alphabets were derived from Egyptian picture writing. Man also explores what seems to be the innate predilection humans have toward language, and how human brains can store approximately 2,000 images but twenty-five times more words.

Man next looked at an invention that has been called as profound as the invention of language itself. In Gutenberg: How One Man Remade the World with Words, Man details the history of printing and how Johannes Gutenberg's invention of movable type led to a phenomenal expansion of human literacy and knowledge. He notes how, in the middle of the fifteenth century, "all Europe's printed books could have been carried on a single wagon," noted Frank McLynn in the New Statesman. By the end of the fifteenth century, with Gutenberg's invention to propel the expansion, more than a million volumes representing 10,000 titles were in existence, McLynn reported. "By any reckoning, then, Gutenberg deserves the title of ‘genius’ that Man gives him," McLynn commented. "Here indeed was an invention that changed the world." Man explains the political and religious atmosphere of medieval Germany during Gutenberg's early career, and tells the story of the document known today as the Gutenberg Bible, a book which was begun by Gutenberg but which was actually finished by disgruntled business partners who sued and acquired Gutenberg's first printing press. Where the historical record is unclear or incomplete, Man offers educated speculation, "but is very clear about what is generally accepted fact, and what is not," noted Booklist reviewer Gavin Quinn. McLynn called Man's account a "very good introduction to Gutenberg and his world," and concluded that "there can be no denying his central thesis that, without Gutenberg and printing, there would have been no Reformation."

Man turns again to historical biography with Genghis Khan: Life, Death, and Resurrection. In the book, he explores the accomplishments of the ancient Mongolian leader whom some revere, and others revile. Khan unified the Mongols, opened up trade between Japan and Europe, destroyed obstructions to expansion, and "built the largest land empire in history," noted Charles W. Hayford in Library Journal. His tactics were often violent and included sheer terrorism as well as military might, but also included refined statesmanship where necessary. A true "father of his country," Khan's genetic legacy is said to exist in as much as eight percent of the population of Europe and Asia. A reviewer in Bookseller called the book a "winning mix of history, biography and travelogue," while Booklist reviewer George Cohen named it an "engrossing book" and Hayford called it a "lively volume."



Booklist, June 1, 1994, Sandy Whiteley, review of The Facts on File D-Day Atlas: The Definitive Account of the Allied Invasion of Normandy, p. 1874; May 15, 2002, Gavin Quinn, review of Gutenberg: How One Man Remade the World with Words, p. 1562; January 1, 2005, George Cohen, review of Genghis Khan: Life, Death, and Resurrection, p. 809.

Bookseller, July 29, 2005, "Genghis Is the Main Man: Word of Mouth, Retail Support, and Even DNA Tests Have Created a Bestseller," review of Genghis Khan, p. 17.

Country Living, April, 1998, Tom Claire, review of Battlefields Then and Now, p. 50.

Far Eastern Economic Review, November 20, 1997, Alan Sanders, review of Gobi: Tracking the Desert, p. 57.

Library Journal, February 1, 1987, Joan W. Gartland, review of The Survival of Jan Little, p. 74; October 15, 1999, Stephanie Papa, review of Gobi, p. 92; February 1, 2005, Charles W. Hayford, review of Genghis Khan, p. 93.

Maclean's, June 6, 1994, John Bemrose, review of The Facts on File D-Day Atlas, p. 57.

National Review, October 23, 1987, Joseph Sobran, review of Stay Alive, My Son, p. 54.

New Statesman, February 11, 2002, Frank McLynn, "An Invention that Changed the World," review of The Gutenberg Revolution, p. 51.

Publishers Weekly, May 21, 1982, Barbara A. Bannon, review of The Lion's Share, p. 65; January 23, 1987, Genevieve Stuttaford, review of The Survival of Jan Little, p. 57; July 17, 1987, Genevieve Stuttaford, review of Stay Alive, My Son, p. 45; August 16, 1999, review of Gobi, p. 67.

School Library Journal, December, 1994, Susan H. Woodcock, review of The Facts on File D-Day Atlas, p. 146; February, 2002, Claudia Moore, review of Comets, Meteors, and Asteroids, p. 156.

Science News, October 13, 2001, Cait Goldberg, review of Alpha Beta: How Twenty-Six Letters Shaped the Western World, p. 226.

Times (London, England), December 9, 1999, Felipe Fernandez-Armesto, "How Not to Set the World on Fire."

Times Literary Supplement, December 31, 1999, Robert Bartlett, "The Way It Was," p. 31.


John Man Home Page, (May 1, 2006).

Powells Books Web site, (May 1, 2006), biography of John Man.