But for those of us with an enquiring mind, the ‘how this was done’ approach is a fascinating one, and Jheni Osman’s guide to the world’s great wonders, natural and otherwise, is full of pleasures.
Here, you’ll learn not only how the Skywalk over the Grand Canyon was built, but also how to make the Grand Canyon itself, should you have the time and resources at your disposal – alongside the information that three and a half Empire State Buildings could stand upright in the canyon at its deepest point, and that the Canyon itself would be ‘merely a small tributary’ in Mars’s Valles Marineris system.
Back on a human scale, Osman reveals that Stonehenge was constructed over a 1,500-year period, which puts Crossrail into perspective, and that the Great Pyramid of Giza, contrary to popular belief, was probably constructed by skilled labourers rather than slaves – a theory based on analysis of local living arrangements and ancient graffiti.
Much of what Osman shows us in The World’s Great Wonders underlines how strange and beautiful our planet is. A photograph of hot air balloons over Cappadocia is otherworldly, and a map of Peru’s Nazca lines – huge geoglyphs in the shapes of plants and animals, each made up of a single continuous line, created in the Nazca desert more than 1,000 years ago – pays testament to humanity’s inextinguishable desire to celebrate life.
This urge to create and participate in beauty is evident on every page, whether it’s explaining why divers travel the globe to explore the Great Blue Hole off the coast of Belize, or revealing how many elephants were involved in the construction of Angkor Wat. A book of wonders, indeed.
THE WORLD’S GREAT WONDERS: How They were Made and Why They are Amazing by Jheni Osman, Lonely Planet, £19.99