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The World Without Us

3.79 of 5 stars 3.79  ·  rating details  ·  23,556 ratings  ·  2,633 reviews
If human beings disappeared instantaneously from the earth, what would happen? How would the planet reclaim its surface? What creatures would emerge from the dark and swarm? How would our treasured structures--our tunnels, our bridges, our homes, our monuments--survive the unmitigated impact of a planet without our intervention? In his revelatory, bestselling account, Alan ...more
Hardcover, First Edition, 324 pages
Published July 10th 2007 by Thomas Dunne Books (first published 2007)
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The Devil in the White City by Erik LarsonFreakonomics by Steven D. LevittIn Cold Blood by Truman CapoteA Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill BrysonGuns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond
Best Non-Fiction (non biography)
50th out of 3,153 books — 5,150 voters
A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill BrysonA Brief History of Time by Stephen HawkingCosmos by Carl SaganThe Selfish Gene by Richard DawkinsGuns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond
Best Science Books - Non-Fiction Only
40th out of 861 books — 2,096 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Stephanie
If you are like me “The World Without Us” will cause you want to do one of two things.

A: Find a remote wilderness and build a cabin. Add a few chickens, goats, cows ect. and live off the land with as much peace of mind you can muster until man destroys the planet. Or

B. Say "AWWW F**K IT", and put all regular, old fashioned light bulbs in all your lamps and turn them on. Leave your house, with the air conditioner running, get in your Hummer, and drive across the country…..just because you can.
...more
Mateo
Yeah, what you've heard about this book is true: It really is very good, very scary, very depressing--AND it's written entirely in Spurdlish, a language I just made up that consists only of the letter 't'.

If it only enabled fire ants to slowly liquify Dick Cheney, it would be perfect.

Okay, I'm kidding about the Spurdlish, but, yeah, great book. Weisman doesn't just speculate on what happens to your house or the NYC subways or the pyramids once we've all been raptured off to Heaven. (Hint: That
...more
brian
the world without us... would be a better place. well, not for the dogs. they'd die out pretty quickly. and since dogs are the greatest things on the planet, it gives one pause. but, no. the badness of all the bad shit we've done outweighs even the goodness of the dogs. the kanamits aren't gonna 'serve us' anytime soon, a virus probably couldn't take everyone out, war certainly won't... so here are two options:

1) we simply stop procreating and peacefully die off, leaving behind a near (not total
...more
Colin McKay Miller
Nov 28, 2008 Colin McKay Miller rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans of nonfiction science
Shelves: nonfiction
In The World Without Us, Alan Weisman attempts to answer the question of what would happen to the earth if, for whatever reason, humans were to completely disappear tomorrow. While it’s a fascinating premise, one that Weisman undoubtedly put a lot of time and effort into, the execution falters. Inevitably, it’s hard to stretch what was initially a short essay into a full book, but that’s how The World Without Us got going. Structurally, the book is broken down into four parts with chapters discu ...more
Michael
Well written and researched exploration of the premise of how the world would change if humans suddenly disappeared from the earth. This ostensible absurd premise turns out to be a very useful lens to view many important environmental and ecological issues.

Several chapters, such as those on plastics and nuclear waste, are distressing as their impacts are incalculably long lasting. The ones on how fast pockets of biodiversity might spread or how quickly highly stressed areas might recover are re
...more
Marcus
Jun 16, 2008 Marcus rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: insomniacs
I enjoyed the premise, but the execution was a snoozer. I'm not sure if it was the author's soporific style, or that I was let down by his overly repetitive rundown on floral succession: "asparagus and trumpet vine take hold as dingleberries and snorfle-weed provide shade..." Over and over; it felt like the author was attempting to display the fact that he did thorough investigation with environmental biologists and was flexing his bio street cred, After the first 4 times, the remaining 18 were ...more
Riku Sayuj
Oct 12, 2013 Riku Sayuj rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Riku by: Rohini
Shelves: r-r-rs, ecology

I am disappointed that in spite of the tremendous scope, the book never manages to rise beyond the past and the present and truly explore its potential - that of imagining a post-human world, far into the future. Most of the book was about the world before humans and about how we have changed it. This was interesting and informative, but was not really the reason I started the book and was not what the dust jacket promised.

But, despite the shortcomings or rather the under delivery, it still mana
...more
Jim
The Coda (last chapter) should probably be read first as it sums up the thrust of the book & it's not what the description & title suggest. It started out as billed, a look at what the world would look like if we disappeared, but devolved into a platform for an environmental rant with some snide political remarks thrown in. If it was a little better balanced & thorough or if it offered any solutions, I'd like it more since I'm a tree hugger, too. It's generally negative, though. He d ...more
Shannon (Giraffe Days)
This is one of the most amazing books I've ever read. I simply can't get over how fantastic, informative, well-written, and mind-opening it is. Wow, where do I start?

The book revolves around the hypothetical question: What would happen if all humans disappeared tomorrow? Would anything we created survive? Would anything miss us?

The short answer is: very little, not really. It's a blow to our ego perhaps, but true nevertheless. The only creatures who are dependent on us for survival are the minis
...more
Glenn
I came across this book on a jaunt around the web, and, I suspect like most people, thought “what an amazing idea!” The only question I had in hearing about it was whether the writing in the book would live up to its premise.

It does, effortlessly. There is real, unforced poetry in Alan's writing, lines like “Rills lined with yellow asters flow soundlessly across spongy, hummocked meadows, so rain-logged that streams appear to float,” and, in a wonderful description of a famous mountain, he unfur
...more
Richard
The conception of this book was brilliant, but while writing, the author—or at least his editor—should have realized that the execution was muddled.

Imagine several of your favorite foods. Perhaps Kung Pao chicken, a spinach salad, blueberry pie, beer and peanuts, coffee and biscotti, shrimp etouffee. Very nice individually, some might be made even better with artful blending. Now toss them all in a big bowl and mix thoroughly. Appetizing?

Weisman’s title teases us with a singular view of human ex
...more
Becky
Mar 22, 2015 Becky rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Pretty much everyone on earth.
This book has been on my wishlist for quite a while, so when I was able to get the audio edition, I didn't hesitate to dive right in. I will say that this is not the best audiobook I've ever heard. The reader, Adam Grupper, was a bit stiff at times, but that's really my only complaint.

I think that this is one that I will have to read again myself at some point, because I feel like it's one that I would need to really take my time with, and absorb. This was so fascinating to me, and too often I
...more
David
Jan 26, 2012 David rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anybody interested in ecology
On the surface, this clever book describes what the world would be like if humans were to suddenly disappear from the face of the earth. Alan Weisman begins the book by describing the probable fate of man's buildings, structures--above and below ground, and cultural artifacts. For example, New York subways would completely flood within days. Interestingly, our longest-lasting legacy will probably be the radio signals transmitted into space.

But the majority of this engaging book is really about e
...more
P.
I wanted to like this book, I really did. Not only was it given to me by my new uncle, but it ostensibly dealt with a subject that I have spent some time thinking about (usually during periods of outdoor solitude such as when walking to or from work) -- the decay of human structures and how they might be co-opted by nature if they were abandoned.

Unfortunately, rather than dealing primarily with scientific, archaeological or anthropological observations about the resilience of human architectura
...more
Matthew
Sep 29, 2007 Matthew rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Literally, everyone. Even, or perhaps especially, if they're too stupid to get it.
Shelves: essaysjournalism
I had to stop several times in the middle of reading this, to digest the chapters and pick something lighter up temporarily. Its not depressing in the way a sad novel is, but its upsetting in the way it really drives home how much humans have fucked the world up. The sacry thing about the book is that when reading about how humans have dissappeared and nature reclaims her property, I'm not thinking 'how terrible', I'm thinking 'how wonderful'. I've pulled back from the brink of thinking of human ...more
Jennifer (aka EM)
Aug 25, 2008 Jennifer (aka EM) rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: all earthlings
Recommended to Jennifer (aka EM) by: Pinky
An astonishing book, and the first piece of non-fiction that I've read in quite some time that has had the emotional power of a novel. The first comment I'll make has to do with that: Weisman's voice is a powerful one. He knows how to marshall the facts but also how to keep the story moving, and most importantly, get the reader engaged at an emotional as well as intellectual level.

Weisman's research seemed incredibly solid, but the book never felt plodding or laden down with eye-glazing data, a
...more
James
This is a good book.

Not a great book, but a good book.

As a humbling, interesting book about Our World and the incompatibility of our Current Society with Ecology, it belongs on your shelf next to Guns, Germs, and Steel, An Inconvenient Truth, and The Omnivore’s Dilemma. And there is plenty to keep your eyes wide open in horror at our existence’s lack of harmony with the environment. Like the frightening petrochemical monstrosity that is Houston, Texas. Yeehaw!!!

This is a subversive book in that
...more
Shira
Ok, even though this book is a bestseller and many people seem to think it is so great and so deep, I found it to be very repetitive and not necessarily that well-written. I read this for my environmental book group, and probably would not have picked up such a depressing book on my own.

The basic idea is kind of interesting -- how would nature respond if people suddenly disappeared from the earth? Would the damage we caused to the environment be corrected? It's kind of a novel concept and would
...more
Sarah
I just demoted this book from four-star status to three-star status. I started reading it and then had to give it back to the library before I was done and then I had to get it back to read the last chapter. At the risk of being platitudinous, this book is no fine wine.

The literary world is definitely instep with our current go-green zeitgeist and, as past president of Earlham's Environmental Action Committee and as someone whose economic footprint is minimal, I am quite pleased. That being said
...more
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
Even if you took out all the stuff about what will happen to the world when we are gone, this would still be a fantastic book. It is filled with fascinating information about the natural sciences and about the ways ancient and modern societies have altered the planet.

I'm glad the author didn't tiptoe around the overpopulation issue. So many people are afraid of stepping on toes with this topic, but population growth is exponential, folks!! By the time people recognize crisis, it may be too late
...more
Kerri
Weisman's fascinating thought experiment takes readers from earth's deepest past into the farthest future imaginable. I was particularly interested in his research on population growth and the ability of nature to bounce back after not only the elimination of humans, but a reduction in worldwide human population. You will be surprised by just how resilient nature can be. A great read for the environmentally minded and for anyone who can put ego aside and envision a world without us.
Felicia
Fascinating. Just amazing and scary.
Mark
The basic premise of the book is a hypothesis on what would happen to our world if humans just suddenly disappeared. Not all living things, just humans. The author points out quite early on that nature would simply reclaim our built environment, in some cases quite rapidly, and he backs it up with a lot of scientific fact and expert opinions. There are some pretty interesting scenarios here, such as what will likely happen when there are no humans to monitor our built environment, such as the pr ...more
Jill
I disagree with the many reviews that refer to this book as “depressing.” The book's gotten a lot of publicity because it considers how the built environmental would deteriorate if mankind suddenly disappeared, but that’s by no means the beginning and end of Alan Weisman’s message.

Yes, New York City’s subways would flood and our art would corrode, but the real story is of nature’s prospects for recovery in our absence. Examples include coral reefs re-equilibrating, and the rate at which ecologi
...more
Punk
Non-Fiction. Weisman explores what would happen if humans were to become extinct, instantly, with no precipitating disasters. How would the Earth recover?

This book is incredibly painful to read. I could have handled it if it were only speculation about what the world would be like without humans, but the truth is that we don't know what it would be like because we aren't going to disappear suddenly and we're probably going to make a big mess when we go. So already the scenario Weisman posits is
...more
Loren
Every writer should read this. There are so many ideas to feed your imagination in every chapter! I was surprised to read how quickly our pumps would fail and our subways fill with water, but I loved the chapters about the abandoned cities and how long things have continued to stand in different parts of the world. Also, the chapters about how animals would fare without us fascinated me. I look forward to reading this a second time and taking notes.
Flora Bateman
This is a wonderful book. It is so interesting to see what would happen if for some reason humans suddenly vanished from the planet. You realize how nature takes back the spaces that we invade. And you come to think about the footprint that we leave behind. Everything from plastics that never degrade to nuclear power plants that need us to take care of byproducts, this book covers it all. There are no religious or hypothetical speculation as to why everybody vanishes it only deals with what woul ...more
David
Jan 13, 2008 David rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: nobody
It's located on the 'mind-numbingly-boring' shelf for a reason. Whatever point the author is trying to make certainly doesn't support 300 pages of impenetrable prose. After five false starts I managed to get to page 50 before finally giving up in disgust.

All the people who have made this a best-seller? I don't believe for a moment that they have actually read it. This is not a book to read, though it may be one to impress your friends with by pretending to have read it.

Don't waste your time. Re
...more
Joe
Alan Weisman is a shrewd author. He knew that the people he needed to impress in order to sell this book would be influential, liberal elite, New York based, literary critics. He also was probably canny enough to know that most would simply read the first section, stop reading, and lie about reading the rest. The first section is what I thought the whole book would be like. That section goes through what would happen to New York City if all of humanity suddenly disappeared. I'm a big fan of post ...more
Emily
I needed to find a book in the airport bookstore at the beginning of our vacation, because all my own books had been sealed up behind a plastic tarp by the contractors. The pickings were, unsurprisingly, slim, but I found a copy of The World Without Us and decided to give that a try. After all, we were going to Colorado to get away from the city, and perhaps this was simply an extreme version of the same proposition.

The intent of the book is to extrapolate what would happen to the world if human
...more
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

Alan Weisman's reports from around the world have appeared in Harper's, The New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic Monthly, The Los Angeles Times Magazine, Orion, Wilson Quarterly, Vanity Fair, Mother Jones, Discover, Audubon, Condé Nast Traveler, and in many anthologies, in
...more
More about Alan Weisman...
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“Without us, Earth will abide and endure; without her, however, we could not even be.” 18 likes
“All of us humans have myriad other species to thank. Without them, we couldn't exist. It's that simple, and we can't afford to ignore them, anymore than I can afford to neglect my precious wife--nor the sweet mother Earth that births and holds us all.

Without us, Earth will abide and endure; without her, however, we could not even be.”
8 likes
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