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Origin Story

A Big History of Everything
Written by: David Christian
Narrated by: Jamie Jackson
Length: 12 hrs and 23 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (30 ratings)
Price: CDN$ 35.08
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Publisher's Summary

A captivating history of the universe - from before the dawn of time through the far reaches of the distant future. 

Most historians study the smallest slivers of time, emphasizing specific dates, individuals, and documents. But what would it look like to study the whole of history, from the big bang through the present day - and even into the remote future? How would looking at the full span of time change the way we perceive the universe, the earth, and our very existence? 

These were the questions David Christian set out to answer when he created the field of "Big History", the most exciting new approach to understanding where we have been, where we are, and where we are going. In Origin Story, Christian takes readers on a wild ride through the entire 13.8 billion years we've come to know as "history". By focusing on defining events (thresholds), major trends, and profound questions about our origins, Christian exposes the hidden threads that tie everything together - from the creation of the planet to the advent of agriculture, nuclear war, and beyond. With stunning insights into the origin of the universe, the beginning of life, the emergence of humans, and what the future might bring, Origin Story boldly reframes our place in the cosmos.

©2018 David Christian (P)2018 Recorded Books

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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    5 out of 5 stars
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complex energy flows

using unfamiliar language to describe very familiar phenomena makes this book a very effective way to gain perspective on things most of us probably think about daily.

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  • Diana
  • New York, NY, United States
  • 2018-08-15

A great introduction into big history

The book takes you through what we understand as the beginning of the universe up to the creation of modern civilization. I myself can start to lose attention when big numbers are thrown out, but I wasn't too put off by the way they described our early universe. The evolution of big life, then hominid species, is when I really found it to get interesting. So if you find the beginning to be a little slow, I would advise you to stick with it. It's really worth it.

28 of 28 people found this review helpful

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  • N. Weston
  • 2018-07-29

Really interesting

I really enjoyed this book and it held my attention the whole way through (although I was a little surprised by that to be honest). It is factual, apolitical and ended with some very thought provoking ideas. The narrator was excellent with just the right amount of energy and inflection for the book.

61 of 64 people found this review helpful

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  • RCSL
  • St. Louis, MO
  • 2018-09-05

A brilliant achievement, must read/listen

This is the best and perhaps most important book I have read or listened to in a long time. We humans have a very poor sense of our place in the universe and this planet, of what a speck we are on the ocean of time. Origin Story places us in the context of, quite literally, the history of everything: the Big Bang, formation of galaxies, our star and our planet; the chemical, geological and biological development of the Earth; and where our species has come from, how it has transformed in an instant; and how our hurtling acceleration of technology and energy consumption may destroy us and our home. However, it also discusses how we can change our direction, possibly leading us to a brilliant future.

One of the main characters in this book is entropy, and entropy always wins in the end. Christian states that it will lead to the heat death of the universe, which he explains well. (I have read, however, that some scientists think that the ever faster expansion of the universe may lead to a Big Rip, in which the fabric of spacetime is literally shredded.)

The book is written with exceptional clarity and organization. There is limited scientific jargon and when technical terms are used, they are well explained. I recommend it to anyone who is interested in something more than the myopic vision of ourselves that is so prevalent.

84 of 89 people found this review helpful

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  • Joe Klepacki
  • 2018-08-07

A Little Bit of Everything

After reading A Short History of Nearly Everything, I was worried this book may be a little repetitive. However, I was pleasantly surprised that this only built-on any prior tid bits and only made the reading more enjoyable.

19 of 20 people found this review helpful

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  • Rebecca Sokol
  • SAINT JOHNSVILLE, NEW YORK, US
  • 2018-08-03

Interesting-Fascinating-Scary

An enjoyable book to remind us who we are and where we are going. All ages will profit from the lessons in this book. I did not agree with some of the conclusions reached, such as why hominids control the earth. I think the author falls short in his assessments of the other species with whom we share this planet.

12 of 13 people found this review helpful

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  • William F. McCann
  • Old Bridge, NJ USA
  • 2018-08-09

Interesting but boring

is that an oxymoron? This book is a great introduction to the current thinking regarding creation of the universe and evolution of man. that said, it's pretty dry and a bit boring to listen to.

26 of 31 people found this review helpful

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  • Lori
  • 2018-07-10

Amazing!

Lots of data but that's what made it so interesting. I highly recommend it for all who are curious and who struggle to find their place in the universe.

10 of 12 people found this review helpful

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  • Paul
  • 2018-09-25

Outstanding!

Recommended reading for all humans. Don’t let a bit of a slow beginning deter you, this book is incredibly rich, informative and well done.

7 of 9 people found this review helpful

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  • Martin Vecera
  • 2018-09-12

The best book on how we got where we are

I was very surprised the deep extent of the book and put it on the list of my top favorites. I learnt some of the individual concepts on high school but never saw the so connected. Awesome!

8 of 11 people found this review helpful

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  • Elisabeth Carey
  • 2018-11-24

A lively look at who we are & how we got here

Every culture and tradition has had its origin story, its understanding of how the world came to be as they knew it, which formed the basis for their further understanding of how to live, interact with others, get food, make clothes. Our origin stories are the basis of how we understand everything.

Now, in the early 21st century, we know far more about the origin of the universe, our sun, our planet, and life on Earth. We live in a society of unparalleled complexity, and in the last two hundred years, we have gained the ability not just to support more human beings, but to improve the daily lives of most humans on the planet, not just an elite 10% or so.

What we haven't done yet is integrate this knowledge into a new, shared origin story that helps us cope with this new, complex, and rapidly changing world.

Christian intends this as at least a first pass at a modern origin story. In a lively, highly readable or listenable style, he lays out the basics of our new knowledge of the origins of the universe, our planet, and life on Earth, as well as an overview of the evolution of our species and development of our societies, right down to how we made the transition from strictly agrarian societies to today's high-tech, rapidly changing world.

And he looks at the challenges as well as the benefits of that transition and our current power to affect our planet.

Christian makes the point, as others have in the last few years, that we now have, in essence, the controls for our only habitable planet. We decide what species live and which ones die, and we are playing with the climate controls. If we understand and master those controls in time, we have the potential to give our species the best and most comfortable lives we have ever had.

Or we could make the planet uninhabitable for such an energy-consuming culture, and drive ourselves back to the early agrarian or even hunter-gatherer level.

Or we could render the planet uninhabitable for our species altogether, and leave Earth to start over again, with other species in a climate unlike any that has existed since the first primates evolved.

Despite that potential grim outcome, I found this overall a lively and interesting book, well worth the time I spent listening to it. Recommended.

I bought this audiobook.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Pierre Gauthier
  • 2018-08-05

Sadly Irritating!

In this substantial work, David Christian endeavours to present no less than the history of the Universe, from the Big Bang to the 21st century and to conclude with various scenarios for its close and distant future.
The first two thirds of the book are unswervingly fascinating by smartly integrating scientific knowledge from a variety of disciplines that are generally kept apart: cosmology, physics, chemistry, biology, geology, etc.
When the timeline reaches the industrial era, however, a strong negative bias is palpable and reasoning at times ceases to be coherent. The author insists for instance that the huge increase in population over the past centuries is the cause of the current technology race and of what he sees as an enormous energy drain on fossil fuels that accumulated over millennia. Of course, the increase in world population results from technological and medical improvements and not the reverse!
Many other elements must be pointed out as irritating:
• the author repeatedly states that there is no need for God in the Creation Story he presents but attempts no explanation for what he himself describes as the very highly improbable sequence of events that led to the flourishing of intelligent life on Earth;
• the author appears obsessed with current climate change whereas it is clear from his own presentation that it has shifted tremendously over the past 4 billion years!
• when discussing the future of mankind, no reference is made to artificial intelligence and the positive and negative impacts it may have;
• the text could have been better edited to avoid the multiple repetition of formulaic expressions such as “Goldilocks’ conditions”.
Consequently, it appears difficult to wholeheartedly recommend this work to anyone.
In fact, a much more satisfying offer on basically the same topic is Robert Hazen’s “Story of Earth”.