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  • A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived

  • The Human Story Retold Through Our Genes
  • Written by: Adam Rutherford
  • Narrated by: Adam Rutherford
  • Length: 12 hrs and 13 mins
  • 4.6 out of 5 stars (154 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

A National Geographic Best Book of the Year  

In our unique genomes, every one of us carries the story of our species - births, deaths, disease, war, famine, migration, and a lot of sex. 

But those stories have always been locked away - until now. 

Who are our ancestors? Where did they come from? Geneticists have suddenly become historians, and the hard evidence in our DNA has completely upended what we thought we knew about ourselves. Acclaimed science writer Adam Rutherford explains exactly how genomics is completely rewriting the human story - from 100,000 years ago to the present.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio. 

©2016 Adam Rutherford (P)2018 Tantor

What listeners say about A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived

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Absolutely brilliant

A concise and easy to understand history of humanity in the genetic and historical sense!

7 people found this helpful

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Very informative. I loved listening

The author took on quite a task with the book. He made the book clear and offered a lot of real-world examples I would recommend this book to any who is curious about our origins.

4 people found this helpful

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Comprehensive, contemporary and high yield

Dr. Adam Rutherford provides a comprehensive and contemporary description of the origin of all humans through the study of human genetics. The information is high yield, making the book a must read for anyone interested in the most up to date information about human genetics and how they impact human health, disease, behaviour, and society. One of the best virtues of this book is that it corrects many old and contemporary beliefs about human genetics and their impacts.

3 people found this helpful

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Engaging, Fascinating, Entertaining

I love popular science books. I have no science background, and this was perfect for me. It is well written, and narrated by the author (normally that would be dire, but here is an author that knows how to read his own work).

This is such an engaging read, and the author makes all the concepts totally understandable, you will be left with the impression that, albeit briefly, you totally understand the science of genetics. I enjoyed the human stories behind the science (Darwin's barnacle collection made me chuckle)

Nice to know that I am most probably descended from Royalty (but so are all of us with with European ancestors), and while racism is real, sigh, race as a genetic marker is arbitrary, And the chapter on inbreeding, wow that was so so fascinating. The PDF that accompanied the book was super useful then.

This is a Brit centric book. Googling his name I found out he does a popular BBC podcast, so will definitely be giving that a listen as well.

I thoroughly recommend this book.

2 people found this helpful

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TOO MUCH FOR ME

When I continually groan when I want to listen to a book and it’s still this one, I know it’s time to put it away. The author is an excellent narrator and is clearly an incredibly bright man with an expertise in this field. However from the perspective of a layperson generalist in this area, it’s just too much. I simply cannot finish this book. Although it is interesting, it has become like a long boring historical paper I feel the need to just get through. I think a four or five hour book on this topic that is more succinct would be better for the average person. I just can’t take it anymore. Sorry.

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light science 'reading'

I learned many facts and too much of the author's opinions. Will look for books by other authors on the same subject.

1 person found this helpful

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Is Tremendous

A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived by Adam Rutherford

Is tremendous.

Dr Rutherford is possibly my favourite science communicator, with the exception of Dr Hannah Fry (but she’s more maths). A geneticist, author, former editor of Nature, and BBC presenter of many things, the best being The Curious Cases of Rutherford and Fry., Dr Rutherford is very good at what he does. This is my second book of Rutherford and it shall not be my last.

We follow the basics of genetics, debunk some false claims and mistakes learnt in schools, and the dumbing down of complicated science. The family tree and how closely everyone has a common ancestor (3k years), as well as our inbreeding was fascinating. As was the exploration of mutations.

There is a very good chapter about Charles Darwin. Exploring his notes, what Darwin meant, what was edited by his daughter and what was taken over by eugenic commentators, not the actual books of C Darwin.

Being Rutherford there is a very good level of anti-racism and lessons of the horrors and stupidity of eugenics. As a good communicator Rutherford explains a lot of the complex information in personal and simple terms without the science being lost. However, parts were reminiscent of his book How To Argue with a Racist, this is mostly overlapped with pop-science beliefs of DNA and racist theories; and using his own family tree to explain the oddity of thinking race (as scientific thing) even exists. Rutherford does not deny racism, or prejudice but that a human is a human is a human.

I highly recommend this book to those that enjoy science books in general, but even more so that would like to learn more about history eugenics and how science can be used for ill. As well as combating pretty basic genetics we were taught at school. DNA is not always as simple as Mendel and their pea plants would have us believe.

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Explaining science in a fun, simple way is a gift

..... and the author has that gift. It’s brilliant and will leave you wanting more on the topic as you reach the last paragraph.

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A most interesting topic

This is one of many books written with the interested non-scientist in mind. I recommend it over many others because it is clear and it stays on point.
The author will fly from the most minute, a single gene say, to all of us who breathe or who ever did or ever will breathe. And we are with him. We listen and follow and are engaged in understanding what was just said, anticipating the next story, the next shining piece of information. By the end there has been no traipsing into virtue signalling, maudlin pity for extinct beings. This book removes one’s mind from its perhaps tedious quotidien concerns into a few hours of wonder.

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fantastic listen

I'm so glad the author narrated this himself. Often authors don't make the greatest narrators but he is the exception. I thoroughly enjoyed the knowledge and humour found in this book and recommend it to anyone looking to expand their knowledge of human evolution.

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  • melody sheldon
  • 2019-03-31

I wish this book was in American high schools.

This book along with "Guns, Germs and Steel", would be the death of American racism.

38 people found this helpful

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  • Robert Blais
  • 2019-04-24

DETAILED BUT ENTERTAINING

This book contains far more technical data about DNA and genetics than the average person would need. However it was very enlightening for scientific, social and historical ramifications. At times the author became carried away with philosophical issues but he presented this in a very clever and sometimes comical way. I finished the book much better informed about the science of genetics then when I started this is always a good thing. Of particular note is that the author / narrator did an excellent job and added familiarity and humor that was much appreciated.

37 people found this helpful

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  • Wanderlusting
  • 2018-10-17

too much politics and idealistic ranting

most of the chapters are excellent however towards the second half of the book he starts getting a bit political and goes on a few rants. he also contradicts himself a couple times against things you said in the first half of the book.. lots of potential I really enjoyed the genetic milk drinking tolerance chapter and sections on Ancient DNA.

33 people found this helpful

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  • Rikard
  • 2022-05-17

Falls apart because of woke ideology

It was interesting until chapter 6, which is an apology to Native Americans for the scientific method. The writer ignores the fact that every single culture in human history has rejected science because it undermines their magical beliefs. This is true of Christians. It is true of Jews. It is true of Muslims. It is true of the vikings. It is true of the samurai. It is true of every single culture in human history. And yet the writer spends a chapter pretending that Native Americans belief in magic is more legitimate than other magical beliefs. He also laments about "racism" which is good and fine, except that he goes out of his way to pretend that white people are MORE racist than other cultures—something which his own genomic research belies. It's quite apparent that the author is either himself invested in the woke religion or is very scared to offend those who espouse the new religion. If you're interested in the human genome and what is has shown, I would recommend other books that are more objective and rely on science rather than the feelings of their subjects—Sapiens and a Short History of Nearly Everything both come to mind.

25 people found this helpful

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  • Mark Gunn
  • 2019-02-22

Content drifted away from title, but worth a read

Author was an excellent narrator and did a fabulous job of explaining some of the more complex elements of genetics.

The content didn't exactly follow the scope promised in the title, with a lot of side trips into the author's opinions on commercial genetic services, scientific principles, Christianity, creationism, etc not much of which, helped advance the explanation of our genetic history and seemed more of a soapbox for the author to take a shot at things he didn't like, but despite this, I think it's worth a read.

23 people found this helpful

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  • Maestro F
  • 2020-07-23

Brilliant- a must science read

Adam Rutherford has crafted a clear, comprehensible and thoughtful description of up to date genetics research, the scientific path taken to achieve this understanding (as well as to eventually improve it) and the implications of what we have learned on human society. Books like this are essential in combatting the ill effects of pseudoscience and it’s social/political abuse (just think of Nazi eugenics- and that’s just the start of it). What make this book the best, however, are the author’s gift with language and his excellent oratory skills. He is at once personable, knowledgeable and extremely witty without being condescending or off putting in any way. Highly recommended for all thoughtful, educated people (and the rest of us who aspire to be so).

21 people found this helpful

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  • DNA Diva
  • 2019-03-01

Both entertaining and informative

Adam uses wonderful analogies and has a very engaging, humorous writing (and speaking) style. As a scientist, I appreciated the details and evidence that was presented.

10 people found this helpful

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  • Phil Queeg
  • 2019-11-13

Hey, forget "everyone;" this is about me.

This is a very disappointing book which is not about the history of everyone who ever lived. The book seems to be a series of recycled news articles put together by the author which are vaguely connected to genetics or platforms for smarmy, politically correct sermons. Should be a great favorite for St. Beto. Rutherford seems to a strong candidate for the Justin Trudeau Award for prissiness and self-absorption, full of “victims 'r' us” stories. The reader, who confusingly has the same name as the author, has a very strong German accent and exaggerated Teutonic mannerisms which become extremely annoying over time. If you have a three digit IQ, I suggest Prof. Reich's wonderful book on the supposed subject of this poor effort.

8 people found this helpful

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  • 77Tango
  • 2021-09-12

Really good, except for....

...the diatribe at the end of the book. The book is a must read in terms of providing context and rationale behind what we can draw from genetics, and what we can't. When the author crosses over into religion, however, he is clearly out of his depth and not a little reactionary. Fortunately, that is a small part of this otherwise measured and well written commentary.
Kudos to the author on his personal touches in letting the reader into his life, and for the great sense of humor and feeling of candor throughout.

6 people found this helpful

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  • Elina
  • 2019-07-27

Good, interesting, could be shorter

The book is good but would have benefited from being less lengthy. Some repetitions over too many hours - 12+. Nevertheless, it offers interesting facts, ideas, and perspectives

6 people found this helpful