Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Universe Within: Discovering the Common History of Rocks, Planets, and People” as Want to Read:
The Universe Within: Discovering the Common History of Rocks, Planets, and People
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Universe Within: Discovering the Common History of Rocks, Planets, and People

3.84  ·  Rating Details ·  1,862 Ratings  ·  214 Reviews
From one of our finest and most popular science writers, the best-selling author of Your Inner Fish, comes the answer to a scientific mystery story as big as the world itself: How have astronomical events that took place millions of years ago created the unique qualities of the human species?

In his last book, Neil Shubin delved into the amazing connections between human an
Audiobook, 7 pages
Published January 8th 2013 by Random House Audio (first published January 1st 2013)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Universe Within, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Universe Within

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Brendon Schrodinger
Feb 07, 2013 Brendon Schrodinger rated it really liked it
Shelves: geology, biology, physics
I've had Your Inner Fish on my to-read shelf for a while now, but I thought I'd give Neil's new one a try first. What a little condensed power-house it was.

As a fellow scientist I'm well-versed in the theories presented here; but teh book offered much more. Firstly, it ties together multidisciplinary sciences in a neat little dialogue. One moment you're reading about biology, the next geology, but it all ties together. Science as a spectrum is well demonstrated here.

Secondly, the history of thes
Dec 28, 2012 Jaylia3 rated it it was amazing
When the continent of India slammed into Asia creating the Himalayas it changed the world climate which altered the plants available for food eventually leading to our ability to perceive color. How? This fascinating book, a sort of big history/big science blend, is exactly as its title describes it. The Universe Within: Discovering the Common History of Rocks, Planets and People explores how the properties of our bodies and the course of our lives have been affected by the universe we live in, ...more
I like sense-of-wonder science, like Carl Sagan’s assertions that we are “starstuff”. This sounds as if it’s going to be in that vein, and in a way it is — certainly it brings home that it’s only possible for us to have iron in our blood because of ancient fusion in the hearts of stars — but on a more banal level, it’s the perfect way of revising what you’ve learnt in the Open University’s introduction to science module, S104. If you can follow and understand everything here, you’re okay on at l ...more
I have a bit of a nerd crush on Shubin, having now read both of his books this year. What I like about his writing, is that it is as smart and informative as it is accessible. I don't know about your average Joe, but I do not have a degree in evolutionary biology, astronomy, or tectonics, so it was sure nice to find an author who can really explain the tricky details. I've read explanations of Carbon 14 dating of fossils in both this book and Nick Lane's Oxygen, and I only really got Shubin. Lan ...more
Tanja Berg
Apr 23, 2013 Tanja Berg rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very solid 4 out of 5 *. Fascinating content, well-written, personal and easily digested. Popular science at its best!

"Ours is a species that can extend its biological inheritance to see vast reaches of space, know 13.7 billion years of history, and explore our deep connections to planets, galaxies, and ohter living things. There is something almost magical to the notion that our bodies, minds, and ideas have roots in the crust of Earth, water of the oceans, and atoms in celestial bodies. The st
Apr 13, 2013 Gendou rated it liked it
This book reminded me of A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson. Except, it isn't as well written, or as comprehensive. Shubin introduces the formation of the planets and our moon. He talks about circadian rhythms. He talks about oxygen and how it allows for big bodies and mammals, etc. He tries to be Carl Sagan, with pontification on how stars go supernova and make the chemical elements that find their way into out bodies. That's about it. I guess that's the origin of the title? He ...more
Mar 16, 2013 Lauren rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science, audiobooks
Not perfect, but pretty darn good. Rounded up to a full 5 stars because it was so full of memorable tidbits. Shubin may be a paleontologist, but you'll learn about astronomy, physics, microbiology, social sciences... And so many things in between. Accessible science writing that offers a solid starting point to many additional disciplines.
Jun 15, 2017 Susan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Some aspects of this book were entertaining and the science seems very up-to-date. But overall it was too disjointed. I think the best part of this book is going to be the suggestions for further reading, because there is such a wide range of topics he touched on.
Chris, the Dalek King
This was very entertaining, but I couldn't help but feel by the end that is was a bit lacking in substance. Maybe it is just because I came off a monster of an 19hours audiobook, but by the time we got to the end, it felt like it was just starting to get going. I kinda wanted it to go into further detail about a lot of this stuff. It was very easy to listen to, though, so I have to give it points for readability.

3.5 stars
I don't understand how this book gets its name. It is really a geological/biological/astronomical survey of earth over time.

13.7 billion years ago - The formation of the universe and how the different elements were created. This chapter includes a nice write up of how scientist estimate the age of the universe and the odd fact that all of the stars are red-shifted indicating they are moving away and why that radio telescope in New Jersey was important.

4.7 billion years ago - The creation of the
Arvind Balasundaram
Aug 16, 2013 Arvind Balasundaram rated it really liked it
In this lively book, Neil Shubin (noted author of Your Inner Fish), makes paleontology, carbon chemistry, and climate science all come together in explaining our lives and the world around us. Drawing on the deep connectivity between our chemical composition and the natural processes in our universe, Shubin makes an immediate case of how dependent we are on almost everything around us. He explains how the state of the planet is greatly dependent on its carbon balance, a process maintained and go ...more
PEI Public Library Service
Shubin’s book is subtitled Discovering the Common History of Rocks, Planets, and People, and that pretty well sums up what the books is about.  It is a discussion of how astronomical events that took place billions of years ago have led to the human species as we know it today. Beginning with our very molecular composition, he shows how the evolution of the cosmos has had profound effects on the development of human life on earth and  marked our own bodies. Starting with the first second of crea ...more
Jun 16, 2014 Jessica rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, science
3.5 stars

What I liked:
- context-rich factoids interweaving geology, astronomy, chemistry, biology, physics, and the history of science
- the extensive, descriptive "further reading" section. Love that stuff, especially in overviews like this where I sometimes want more info.

What I didn't like:
- the interdisciplinary interweaving sometimes felt like mental ping-pong, which made it hard to maintain focus at times
- I didn't get the point of all the portraits of dead science dudes. I don't care what
Julie Davis
Dec 18, 2012 Julie Davis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
All the galaxies in the cosmos, like every creature on the planet, and every atom, molecule, and body on Earth are deeply connected. That connection begins at a single point 13.7 billion years ago.
This book takes a big scientific fact and then links it back to life on Earth and our lives specifically. For example, the Big Bang created particles that exist on Earth and in living creatures today (including us). Along the way he tells the stories of scientists whose "wacky theories" just happened t
Vipul Murarka
Jun 04, 2016 Vipul Murarka rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Neil Shubin is a great story teller. Topic such as this might be boring for few, but the way he deals with the topic is amazing. He not only gives you facts that are backed by solid figures but also tells those facts in a story format that doesnt seem like you are reading a scientific book.

The book ties together multiple disciplines of Science and has beautifully explained how humans are connected to rocks, planets, etc. The book describes how the properties of our bodies have been affected by
Mar 07, 2013 Arianne rated it it was amazing
completely beautiful book. It might sound silly to say but at leas to me, this book is perfect in every single way. The universe, our galaxy, the earth and all the wonderful developments that have come into fruition are all such beautiful things and processes to admire! We have such a deep connection to our environment, yet it doesnt feel like it? Through this book, I've felt like I've solidified a mysterious missing piece... a sort of lost-family connection. Seeing the development of the earth, ...more
Heather Marshall
Feb 02, 2013 Heather Marshall rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. I dove into The Universe Within by Neil Shubin with no expertise in the subject. It was easy for me to follow and understand. In this book Neil Shubin had a way of making me the reader so interested and always wanting to know what was going to be around the corner. I love how he broke everything down, explaining the different scientists and how there different ideas originally came about. My only criticism for this book would be the fact that it didn't seem to flow as ...more
Koen Crolla
Jun 05, 2014 Koen Crolla rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biology
Neil Shubin, you'll remember, is the guy (or at the face of the team) who discovered Tiktaalik, which was all over the news a while ago. He wrote a book about that, which I quite enjoyed.
The Universe Within is more generic pop-sci, which is a bit disappointing; it's certainly not bad pop-sci, but there's also little to set it apart from a hundred other such books. Still, if you're looking for a low-difficulty thing under two hundred pages about the history of life, you could do worse.
Jan 08, 2013 Jennifer marked it as to-read
Shelves: science
I just heard Neil Shubin speak at Harvard Bookstore and look forward to reading this book! I enjoy all types of science books, and Geology is one of my favorite areas of science, and so it is exciting to see a book that links geology with anatomy and biology.

In this talk, Shubin showed slides of places where he has explored for fossils - Painted Desert in Arizona, Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia, Greenland, all places I would love to go to enjoy beautiful geology.

He is an engaging speaker, and so
Joe Iacovino
Mar 10, 2013 Joe Iacovino rated it really liked it
This was a fun book to read. I was little hard on Shubin with "Your Inner Fish" as I was expecting a more technical read but this this time I expected a popular science book and with that expectation I was very pleased. The book jumps off to a pretty quick start and is a real smooth read. I would have liked to see a little more chemistry just to tie everything together a bit tighter. Also, I prefer footnotes that serve as little asides. Regardless, this is a great book for anyone who has an inte ...more
Feb 28, 2015 Ashley rated it it was amazing
As my first non-fiction in years, I couldn't be happier with my choice. Neil Shubin does a superb job of taking complex theories, histories, and stories and folds them into manageable and easily understood packages. Though I'm not currently working in the field of Earth sciences, this book brought me back to my childhood explorations in creek beds and forests, finding connections between myself and our planet. A big thank you to Shubin for re-opening this curiosity within.
Troy Neujahr
Shubin's science, anecdotes, and warmly friendly writing style make "The Universe Within" an intriguing read. While I as a conservative Christian and pastor cannot agree with Shubin's evolutionary scientific conclusions, I nevertheless appreciated hearing his voice in this book, and found the breadth of topics to be sufficiently satisfying. All in all, a good read if you appreciate a scientist who is able to speak from his worldview with articulation and without condescension.
Jul 22, 2014 Gary rated it it was amazing
Fun and easy to follow listen. Ties together Darwin's evolution of man with the evolution of the universe and some of its constituent parts. If your like me and you just can't get enough about evolution and our place in the universe (who among us can?), than I would recommend this short, well written and informative book.
Daphne Miller
Mar 21, 2013 Daphne Miller rated it really liked it
Although not as fantastic as Your Inner Fish (Shubin's previous book) this book is a great reminder of just how intimately our biology (and our health) is connected to our environment and our planet.
Jan 12, 2013 Dominic rated it it was ok
I liked his first book a lot because it was packed with facts and interesting things about our biology. This book takes a slightly more "Gee whiz, isn't the universe amazing" approach which left me feeling a little pandered to.
Plamen H.
Apr 24, 2015 Plamen H. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Увлекателна, много добре написана. Дълбоката ни взаимосвързаност с Вселената, подкрепена с купища интересни факти. Изток-Запад да не се ослушват, ами да налягат парцалите - книгата е бижу и заслужава българско издание.
Stefany GG
Jan 11, 2017 Stefany GG rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Enjoyable as you explore several scientific fields and how we relate to everything around us. You can feel a great Carl Sagan's inspiration. The only down is that sometimes the author deepens in some superfluous details that could be left out and make a more fluent read.
Jun 17, 2014 Merilee rated it really liked it
Really 4.5 stars. Shubin writes beautifully about topics scientific. The only reason I didn't give this 5 stars was because it was not quite as superb as his previous Your Inner Fish.
Jeremy Jetzon
Apr 21, 2013 Jeremy Jetzon rated it liked it
An expository tour de force! Shubin excels in stringing together words and sentences in order to communicate ideas!
Feb 07, 2015 Alan rated it liked it
Clearly written but not enough technical meat for my taste.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Lone Survivors: How We Came to Be the Only Humans on Earth
  • The First Human: The Race to Discover Our Earliest Ancestors
  • The Story of Earth: The First 4.5 Billion Years, from Stardust to Living Planet
  • Creation: How Science Is Reinventing Life Itself
  • Horseshoe Crabs and Velvet Worms: The Story of the Animals and Plants That Time Has Left Behind
  • The Sun's Heartbeat: And Other Stories from the Life of the Star That Powers Our Planet
  • The Accidental Species: Misunderstandings of Human Evolution
  • Masters of the Planet: The Search for Our Human Origins
  • The Social Conquest of Earth
  • Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why It Matters
  • The Universe Inside You: The Extreme Science of the Human Body From Quantum Theory to the Mysteries of the Brain
  • Wonders of Life: Exploring the Most Extraordinary Phenomenon in the Universe
  • Mirror Earth: The Search for Our Planet's Twin
  • Neanderthal Man: In Search of Lost Genomes
  • Written in Stone: Evolution, the Fossil Record, and Our Place in Nature
  • Only a Theory: Evolution and the Battle for America's Soul
  • Time Reborn: From the Crisis in Physics to the Future of the Universe
  • How Humans Evolved

Share This Book

“Each galaxy, star, or person is the temporary owner of particles that have passed through the births and deaths of entities across vast reaches of time and space. The particles that make us have traveled billions of years across the universe; long after we and our planet are gone, they will be a part of other worlds.” 17 likes
More quotes…