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Long for This World: The Strange Science of Immortality

3.44  ·  Rating Details  ·  568 Ratings  ·  128 Reviews
“[A] searching and surprisingly witty look at the scientific odds against tomorrow.”
—Timothy Ferris

Jonathan Weiner—winner of the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and one of the most distinguished popular science writers in America—examines “the strange science of immortality” in Long for This World. A fast-paced,
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published June 22nd 2010 by Ecco (first published 2010)
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Will Byrnes
Aug 08, 2013 Will Byrnes rated it really liked it
Updated - 8/8/13 - see link at bottom

The most persistent aspect of this intriguing book is the questions it raises. Why do we age? Can we do anything to halt or at least slow the aging process? What might be the implications of extending our time on Earth?

Jonathan Weiner builds his look at the science of immortality around Aubrey de Grey, an odd duck of a British theoretician, a sort of Methuselahn gadfly. De Grey, who looks like he might either play back up with ZZ Top or live in a moss-covered
Aug 04, 2010 Kristen rated it it was ok
I'm rather conflicted on how to rate this book. For sheer entertainment value alone it ranks rather high, unfortunately I expect a bit more from pop science books than just mindless amusement, you know, like actual science and here the book falls flat. Although the early chapters offer brief insists from real scientists, the bulk of the book follows Aubrey De Grey, who's educational background in science is made rather unclear in the book (and even so when I googled him.) This is a man who most ...more
Jenny Brown
Dec 27, 2010 Jenny Brown rated it did not like it
A complete waste of time. There's no real topic, the author darts from one long rumination festooned with literary quotations to another, stopping only to festoon his prose with annoying similes which add nothing to our understanding and come so thickly at times you feel like you should stop to pick them out of you teeth.

What little science has made it into the book is poorly explained in a way that suggests the author doesn't understand it, and the continual focus on de Grey, who comes across a
May 29, 2010 Greg rated it really liked it
Jonathan Weiner is one of those stealthily brilliant science writers--he doesn't publish that often, but when he does, it's a big deal. There is a sense of wonder at the heart of a lot of what he writes--with The Beak of the Finch, which won the Pulitzer Prize, it was that evolution could be documented in virtual real-time on a small crater island in the Galapagos. With Long for this World, it's that a small cross-section of science is actually attempting to elongate the human life span. Of cour ...more
Feb 15, 2012 David rated it liked it
While this is an interesting book, it did not engage me fully. The first part of the book is historical--lyrical even--and the middle third of the book is really about the science of lengthening life. The last third returns to a lyrical--well, I wouldn't go that far, I'd say biographical. So much of this book is about a single theoretical scientist, Aubrey DeGrey. DeGrey believes that there are seven types of "junk" that accumulate in the body. The way to achieve immortality is to drain the junk ...more
3.5 Stars

Written well. Content can get boring at times. A knowledgeable book despite that. Did help me in understanding ageing, why ageing, how to improve longevity for ourselves. The books also discusses quite a lot about immortality through the eyes of philosophers in history.

Interesting read, but at times feels like skipping some paragraphs.
Jul 01, 2010 Megan rated it really liked it
Jonathan Weiner's eloquent and thought-provoking Long for this World looks at the historical and contemporary search for the science of immortality.

This book is not actually about the science of aging or anti-aging. It's about the search for the science of anti-aging: the myriad of ways we humans have comprehended aging, both inside and outside of science, and on the drive (particularly of one man, Aubrey de Grey) to fight the seemingly inevitable force of aging.

The science itself is presented c
Cassandra Kay Silva
Nov 21, 2012 Cassandra Kay Silva rated it it was ok
Shelves: science
I don't know why I thought this was going to be a good one, I should have looked more into the reviews and realized how much more biography this is than a lot of scientific anything. Of course when it comes to the "science of Immortality" I am not sure what I expected to get. I mean its definitely an interesting subject right on the for front of my thoughts actually as I just spent the better half of the year hospitalized and feeling the specter of death. However this really not only didn't give ...more
Jul 22, 2010 Sara rated it it was ok
I won this book from Goodreads and was looking forward to reading about the science of immortality, as the title promises. However, I feel like the book failed to deliver on both the goods promised in the title and on being much of an engaging read overall.

Certainly immortality is something that many, many people have sought after for years. The author makes mention of some such individuals, noting what they have done to contribute to this field - whether in the form of actual scientific advance
Jolie Kerenick
Jun 28, 2010 Jolie Kerenick rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
I won this book in a first reads book giveaway. I found it fascinating. The author does a really good job of intertwining his conversations with Aubrey, a staunch proponent of the possibility of achieving immortality, with research of other scientists and references to immortality in literature and religion. He spends a good bit of time describing the science behind the structure and functioning of human cells as well as that of other life forms. He writes in a manner that engages the non-scient ...more
Dec 15, 2010 Corinne rated it it was ok
Shelves: science, non-fiction
For this book, I'm going with the literal star rating 'it was ok.' I did learn a thing or two, and found some parts interesting. Overall though it didn't impress me. Most of the book followed Aubrey DeGrey, a controversial scientist who is a supporter that immortality is feasible. While I think he was certainly in place in this book, most of the book centered around him. A few other scientists would pop in and out, as well as some interesting science segments. Perhaps Weiner didn't realize how l ...more
Michael Rushnak
Jan 21, 2013 Michael Rushnak rated it it was amazing
Jonathan Weiner does an excellent job of bringing to life in compelling humanistic terms the fascinating scientific work that has already been achieved and a detailed explanation of the present day conflicts that are currently underway to extend the human life span. Long For This World is both a visionary look at dreams for immortality while providing a sobering balanced review of what is believed to be possible. I thoroughly enjoyed the read as Weiner takes us back to the beginnings of life on ...more
Jul 21, 2011 Elaine rated it liked it
I was prepared for Ponce de Leon or even Faust, and, of course new discoveries about why and how we age. The science of gerontology is discussed, but most of the book is about a fanatic who is sure immortality will be achieved in 25 years or less.

This fanatic is neither interesting nor appealing in any way. Spittle in his beard, that sort of thing. Or at least that's how I picture him.

The book itself is not interestingly written and doesn't enlighten us much as to real progress in gerontology.
Feb 15, 2016 Twum rated it really liked it
A fascinating expose into the current research around longevity. Witty and often humorous, Long for This World, follows some of the most passionate (and often eccentric) genetics and geriatrics over several years. It contrasts competing ideas while painting common themes across the varying schools of thoughts around whether or not immortality is possible and, if so, how much longer we can extend human life. Sometimes, Long for This World even explores whether extending human life should be pursu ...more
Al Bità
Sep 16, 2015 Al Bità rated it really liked it
Over the last few centuries or so, the life expectancy of human beings has at least doubled. This can be attributed to increasingly beneficial developments in the sciences and technologies relating to medicine, health, diet, treatment of diseases, stable societies, safety measures, public hygiene, etc. etc. — and there does not appear to be anything which would hinder further advancement in any of these areas, and even in areas yet to be examined and explored. Could it be that within the next 10 ...more
Apr 18, 2016 Charity rated it liked it
Popular science writing is definitely entertaining. It has the power to deliver up the goods in an accessible way, leaving you feeling a wee bit smug about your ability to understand it. However, it usually little more than entertaining. Typically, you are only getting about a chapter's worth of new information peppered throughout and a bunch of filler. That's what I ran into with Long For This entertaining read with very little to say. Ah well.

(First Reads Win.)
Apr 19, 2014 David rated it really liked it
I'd read relatively little on the science of gerontology prior to reading this. Describing this phenomenon as the potential for vastly increased longevity seems more accurate than "immortality." In any event, this book examines a few of those who are passionately certain that immortality is attainable, particularly Aubrey de Grey, plenty of others who believe it is junk science, and a number of scientists who fall somewhere in between. What I most enjoyed about this book are the philosophical di ...more
Oct 02, 2014 Cara rated it did not like it
Jonathan Weiner is a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, but you certainly couldn't tell that from this book. This book is awful. I mean really, really awful. Jonathan Weiner, you should be ashamed of yourself.

What's wrong with this book? Ugh, where to start. For one thing, while it claims to talk about the "science" of immortality, there's precious little science in this book. Weiner follows Aubrey de Grey, who is studying the possibility of people living forever. You can't read this book and come t
Apr 26, 2012 Thom rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: jennifer
Shelves: non-fiction
A well rounded overview of gerontology and aging related subjects nowadays, even touching on ethical issues. Author seems to have remained mostly neutral; I find myself on the side of Aubrey David Nicholas Jasper de Grey - but with a name like that, who wouldn't be?
Jan 31, 2015 Tinika rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2015, science
Long for This World: the Strange Science of Immortality was a disappointment. From the subtitle, I thought it was going to be about cutting edge research but, instead, it was mainly filler and philosophizing. (Okay, we get it, Aubrey de Grey was bored in Ravenna. Did the author really need so many pages to tell us this?) The book asks the question “why do we have to age and die?” It talks about some research in the field (Rudzinska’s work on tokophyra) and mentions some relevant theories (mitoch ...more
Jul 13, 2014 Pasithea rated it really liked it
As someone who plans on not dying, this book was relevant to my interests. Some may find it disappointing because it's certainly not a full of practical advice (I, for one, am preparing a phylactery and learning Dark Magicks), or because it's not so much about the science of aging, but instead is a portrait of some of the folks who are figuring out why we age and die and some kooky ones like me who plan on not dying but who are using science and not the unspeakable arcane arts to extend their ti ...more
Dave Mills
Jan 04, 2015 Dave Mills rated it really liked it
Jonathan Weiner writes well. His words and sentences flow easily. He's smart, but he doesn't try to overwhelm you. Try these: "Now we live in a new time, with a somewhat different sense of time...for every day we live now we are given the gift of another five hours to live later on. While time runs out today, time pours in tomorrow." And "This is why your dental hygienist is always reminding you to floss. The inflamed gums of periodontal disease can cause chronic high levels of CRP [C-reactive p ...more
Feb 19, 2014 Rebecca rated it liked it
This book was a bit disappointing. how can you write a book about immortality without mentioning Ponce De Leon and his search for the fountain of youth. That being said I have learned that immortality is an unreachable goal. There are ways that immortality can be achieved but we are sacrificing quality of life. This was one man's journey into the very interezting science of immortality. This is book is well written and well researched but we still come to the conclusion that life is worth fighti ...more
I read this fantastic book in March 2014 and wanted to write a review, which is finally here. The book was so interesting I read it in five days. It’s engaging and not very technical even when covering the science. I absolutely loved the book. I encourage anyone interested in not getting old to read this book.

The primary focus is on gerontologist, Aubrey de Grey, including a little on his personal life as well. Aubrey de Grey is purposefully a bit eccentric, donning a long untrimmed beard, and
Beth G.
I'd spent most of the summer in London, and quite a few hours in Cambridge, listening to Aubrey [de Grey] over pints of ale. I'd heard him predict five hundred years for us, I'd heard him give us a thousand years, he'd hinted about a million years. He'd foreseen the coming of this new age of man in fifty years, or even as swiftly as fifteen.

Science-writer Jonathan Weiner takes the reader on a brisk tour of developments in the study of aging and longevity, beginning with an ancient Egyptian presc
Jul 06, 2011 Craig rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: People nostalgic for themselves.
Promised by the jacket's synopsis, "Today a motley array of scientists, researchers, and entrepreneurs believe that another, bigger leap is at hand—that human immortality is not only possible, but attainable in our own time." Boy, that would make for an entertaining read! Unfortunately Long for This World's "motley array" consists of Aubrey de Grey and some de Grey skeptics.

Aubrey de Grey is annoying. That's a surmountable defect if he made those overwhelmingly prescient type of arguments, but h
Sep 13, 2010 Molly rated it really liked it
This science-humanities hybrid discussion on the modern scene of anti aging science, with a focus on the indefatigable, bearded, dreamy visionary and scientist Aubrey de Gray will stay with more for a long time. I might even read it again. I appreciated the clear, cautious approach of the writing. It is a series of conversations, with a few myths, reflections and connections to literature thrown in and a fabulous further reading bibliography section. Yet I cannot give it a 5.

Yet I wanted this
Sep 07, 2010 Vegantrav rated it really liked it
What I most enjoyed about this book was learning why and how we age. We often take it for granted that we all--humans anyway--age, but we rarely think about the biological factors (at the level of the cell, of the gene, and even of the molecule) that cause aging. In this book, Weiner tells us why we grow weaker, why our skin becomes wrinkled, why we our bones become brittle, why have less endurance, why our vision grows dim, why we get Alzheimer's and Parkinson's and cancer and a host of other d ...more
Simon Friedman
Dec 18, 2010 Simon Friedman rated it liked it
Weiner is a talented writer (although no Malcolm Gladwell, to my mind at least) and the subject is a fascinating one, but I very much wanted the book to be more than it was. Perhaps at least part of that was my own fault: I already knew much of Aubrey de Grey going in to the book. However, as he is both a fascinating and pivotal figure in today's field of gerentological research, I certainly understand the attention Weiner affords him. What bothered me more was the flighty attention payed to the ...more
Jul 08, 2010 Jamie rated it liked it
This was quite a fascinating read. We start with an almost historical overview of the progress and even evolution of the study and concept of aging, then move through some of the "problems" considered in the understanding and manipulation of those aging processes, and end with a rather brief overview of view on the 'should' rather than 'could' of achieving some sense of immortality.

With a background in education focused in world history, I have a certain attraction to works of a historical natur
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Jonathan Weiner is one of the most distinguished popular-science writers in the country. His books have won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. A former editor at The Sciences and a writer for The New Yorker, he is the author of The Beak of the Finch, Time, Love, Memory, His Brother's Keeper among many others.

He currently lives in New Y
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“It's almost as if each instant is our last and first. We are always dying, and always reborn. And that is living.” 5 likes
“The first man and woman knew it all; they had "pure and uncorrupted natural knowledge," before they tasted the forbidden fruit and were thrown out of Paradise. Adam and Eve enjoyed not only perfect knowledge but perfect power; and there was no death in the world. Once we recover what our First Parents knew, we will conquer death again.” 0 likes
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