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The Story of Earth: The First 4.5 Billion Years, from Stardust to Living Planet

4.23  ·  Rating details ·  2,205 ratings  ·  233 reviews
Author Robert M. Hazen writes of how the co-evolution of the geosphere and biosphere—of rocks and living matter—has shaped our planet into the only one of its kind in the Solar System, if not the entire cosmos.
With an astrobiologist’s imagination, a historian’s perspective, and a naturalist’s passion for the ground beneath our feet, Hazen explains how changes on an atomic
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published April 26th 2012 by Viking Press
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Art Giff Hazen pulls the study of mineralogy into the evolution of the earth itself and life processes and cycles. It is a refreshing and paradigm changing boo…moreHazen pulls the study of mineralogy into the evolution of the earth itself and life processes and cycles. It is a refreshing and paradigm changing book, quite accessible to a reader with some background in reading earth science.(less)

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Apr 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science
Hazen views earth’s 4.5 billion year history through his unique lens as a mineralogist. He explains how the earth was built from cosmic dust and transformed into continents, oceans, atmosphere, and life. We find out why earth was primed for life and the many ways it could have started. We learn how minerals and living organisms evolved together shaping the future of each other. This very readable book is packed with fascinating insights. Following are my notes.

Hazen puts time in perspective. If
It is time for my sorta-yearly scientifical audiobook! Last year, kinda around this time, I was listening to A Universe from Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather Than Nothing, which was good but quite a ways over my head technically. This time, I shifted the focus a bit closer to home and just focused on Earth, rather than the whole of universal existence. (Listen to me talking as though I plan what I read... Funny! You all know that the books choose me, right?)

Anyway, this was really interes
Thi T.
Feb 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: geology
I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in Earth history, or Earth's future. My background: I'm a 2nd year master's student in geochemistry. I've been taking geology classes for 5+ years and I've never had the story of Earth explained in such a captivating way. I'm the type of person who doesn't claim to know a subject unless I could describe its processes from the ground up, without using much jargon. That's all you get in Hazen's book.

My reading pace and enthusiasm decelerated
Dr. Carl Ludwig Dorsch
May 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reality

Well constructed review of consensus earth science by one practicing in the field.

Embarrassingly I was halfway through “The Story of Earth” before recalling that I had only recently read Hazen’s “Genesis: The Scientific Quest for Life's Origins,” a volume covering recent experimental science in origins-of-life research, including, or rather emphasizing, Hazen’s own.

While in “The Story of Earth” Hazen largely resists the technical (though, appropriately for a practitioner, he can’t resist it a
Kris Sellgren
Jul 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed
This was a fun read. The author has a talent for colorful and descriptive language that brings the science to life. I knew the broad sweep of the Earth’s history, so there were no surprises, but I enjoyed learning new details. The author’s biases show at times — he really dislikes Stanley Miller of the famous Miller-Urey experiment — but mostly he presents all the various approaches to understanding the origins of life as worthwhile and complementary. I particularly liked the experiment where so ...more
Adam Conn
Oct 12, 2012 rated it really liked it
I never liked geology in school. Learning about rocks and how they formed was a series of exercises in memorization.

It's hard to say what made me pick this book up at the library. Whatever the reason, I'm glad I did. Hazen has a way of making a topic I had always found dreadfully boring fascinating, interesting and exciting.

My layman's description is the book covers a bit of astronomy, geology, oceanography, meteorology, physics, biology, and even a little history. Not too much of any one, usu
Mar 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: evolution, science
A very good book on the evolution of our universe, solar system and Earth.  Hazen chronologically walks the reader through 4.5 billion years of our earth's history, explaining the conditions at each stage of our planet's existence.

One aspect of this book that was very appealing to me was his frequent references to current work being done by scientists who are searching for answers to geological questions still unknown.  His own theory, which he calls "Mineral Evolution", explains how minerals a
Oct 01, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: science
A fairly well-written story of the 4.4 billion-year geologic history of Earth, with a chapter also extrapolating to the future 100 years to 4 billion years. I learned a bit—lots of highlights—but less than I would have liked given the length. Too much was review.

I enjoyed Hazen's emphasis on the methods by which scientists have learned the prehistory he relates, and also on the current hot topics, disagreements and open questions.

Flaws: Occasionally repetitive and unnecessarily verbose.
Bob R Bogle
Oct 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is not the book I thought it was when I bought it. I was expecting more of an evolutionary history of life on Earth. Probably a full 80-90% of this book is essentially a geological history of the planet, and I'm no geologist.

To my surprise, however, I found every page of this wonderful book to be of far more interest than I could ever have imagined. It seems seven or eight fascinating new facts ― new to me, anyway ― jump off of every page. And this doesn’t even begin to get at the implicati
Prasanna Venkatesan
May 18, 2021 rated it really liked it
Absolutely captivating..
This is my first book on origin story and I am happy for having started with this book (because a strange sense of fullness and emptiness of knowledge after reading this book has made me wanting to explore more books towards this origin knowledge). I believe the author has covered everything from big bang to holocene, future probable scenarios, contribution of various factors from varied fields and how the stories/theories of origin have been proposed using various eviden
Noah Goats
May 31, 2017 rated it really liked it
From the creation of the universe to the eventual destruction of the planet, Hazen, emphasizing the relationship between geology and biology, sets out the entire history and future of the Earth. There are some boring bits. For example, in writing about the billion years generally considered the most boring in Earth's history (the "boring billion") he tries to sell the reader on the idea that these years were actually quite exciting... and fails. But for the most part he succeeds in making all th ...more
Joseph Whitt
It's difficult to rate a book like this. It's not exactly a book one can "disagree" with, at least anyone who is not at worst an amateur geologist or other earth scientist. I enjoyed - that is to say I was interested - in the concepts of a living Earth and a geo-system that is actively and intimately involved in evolution of life. Hazen had me pegged as one of the many people who assume that these systems are relatively independent. I learned some things about plate tectonics that were new to me ...more
John Martindale
Feb 21, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: audiobook, science
I thought the book was well written. I know of Darwinian theory, but I have never really heard how they think the non-living earth "evolved". I wanted to hear the theories of how scientist think the big bang produced the 118 different elements and how they explain the formation of stars and planets from a singularity. Throughout the book, occasionally the author would mention various scientific experiments in which they'd try to replicate earlier earth environments to test out a hypothesis, this ...more
Woefully esoteric.

Hazen recounts the history of Earth from a perspective one would never expect: the perspective of a dedicated and highly knowledgeable mineralogist. Hazen argues that the history of Earth, and of life, are inexorably linked to the history of mineral evolution. The evidence he provides is at times fascinating, and the beginning of the book in which Hazen describes the formation of the first elements and minerals as though it were some sort of cosmic ballet was quite immersive.
Nov 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, science
It's a fantastic treatise that argues that minerals and rocks are an intimate part of evolution. Evolution is a fundamental process of the universe, not just in living organisms, but everywhere, at every level. We don't perceive rocks in our notion of evolution but they, just like elements evolving to become compounds and then minerals, have evolved.
Rocks are an integral part of life- they came from life and became life.
Dave Schey
Aug 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Great and interesting read even if you have limited knowledge of geology. Hazen spends most of the book talking about the lesser-known Pre-Phanerozoic Eon (the first 4 billion years of Earths history). Fascinating read!
Wonderful, extremely detailed description of Earth's formation and the wonders hiding inside. A bit dry at times, but if you can stand that, great info. ...more
Mar 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
How interesting could a history of the earth’s geology be? Well this wonderful book is a page turner. Hazen writes well and this book unfolds like a thriller. He narrates the evolution of earth from a black molten orb to the current time. His descriptive language is very evocative and carries you to these distance times, at least as our best and brightest have reconstructed it from the geological record. He steps through subsequent epochs using mineral and fossil evidence to create a fascinating ...more
M.J. Groves
May 27, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. Loved, loved, loved it. I am a science nerd though, and non science people, like my spouse, struggle through some of the more sciency parts. BUT, it is a very short book, which is a writing feat itself since he piles billions of years of history of earth and the universe between the covers. I was literally saying “Whaaaat?” out loud every other page I was so gob-smacked by fascinating facts and theories of geography, geology, biology, astronomy, chemistry and physics. The scie ...more
Amogh Thakur
Dec 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Anything less than 5 stars would be an injustice to this book.

Recommended for anyone with a curious bent of mind, this book is a fabulous read. It probably requires basic school level understanding of chemistry and biology to understand some concepts.

The writer has explained the most complex of concepts and ideas in a very simple and lucid manner such that even the layman with basic school level education can understand them.

Great read overall. Will probably read again after few months so that t
Dec 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
This compelling narrative leading from the formation of our solar system through the present reminded me of the tininess of human life. I found the book a bit of a slog, and I bet that most readers would prefer a version with less prose and more diagrams.
Rob Corrigan
Jun 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
Really fun read if you like physics, chemistry and geology!
Jun 12, 2021 rated it really liked it
Although I got lost in some of the sophisticated science discussion, this book was quite informative. Did not know the moon used to be closer, and that the earth was essentially a snowball, three times, in its billions of years of development, and that there was more than one supercontinent over time. Fascinating.
Jan 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
This never-ending tail of a lonely little world we call home is a glimpse into our Earth's past. while this may not be the most riveting story it is very interesting to see how the Earth has evolved. I would suggest this book only to my most dedicated readers or someone with a long car ride and tons of patience. ...more
Curtis Bozif
Favorite parts of this book include:

1. The part about abiogenesis and biogenisis and Hazen's theory that Earth's impressive array of mineral diversity is due to the life that it's supported for the past 3.5 billion years.
2. The part about the Great Oxidation Event/Catastrophe.
3. The part about how the moon was formed and how its orbit around Earth used to be much, much closer.

I listened to this audiobook while I was reading Alan Weisman's The World Without Us and watching the NOVA series, The
Bob Gustafson
May 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is an excellent book. The text is true to the title. For those who are unaware, the earth is about 4.5 billion years old, so this is the entire story. It is told in a chronological format, making it easier to follow than "Planet in a Pebble".

In the beginning, the author tells us that he is a mineralogist, i.e. at the intersection of geology and chemistry, but that the story of earth can only be told and appreciated from a panoramic view including physics, astronomy, biology, and paleontolog
Sep 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned, science
Wow! This book, written for a popular audience without talk down to them, was informative as well as interesting. Hazen draws on diverse fields such as astronomy, paleontology, and geophysics to paint a history of the planet we call home. His story telling method includes personal anecdotes smoothly transitioning into scientific evidence to bring those who might be venturing into historical geology for the first time into the fold and, eventually, along for the ride.
The only complaint I have
Nov 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I listened to the audiobook version of this, although I may now pick up a hard copy as it would be worth rereading some of the more interesting sections.

As the title suggests the book covers the formation of the Earth, starting even a bit before this with a reprise of the Big Bang and processes that created the elements; continues through the 4.5 billion year existence of the Earth.

Hazen is a mineralogist who uses the language of biological evolution to describe the changes in the mineral makeup
Angela Gray
May 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
First a disclaimer- I have a reasonable background in science (minor in bio), but am not at all a science geek. That said I listened to this book and enjoyed it and feel like I took a way all the main parts. There was A LOT of very detailed chemistry, astronomy, and geology information in it though and there were times I got lost and had to replay sections. Few of the small details will stick with me (though I'll remember some neat new things like Uranus rolls on its side as it orbits). That sai ...more
Apr 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I listened to the audio book. (Twice!) I love good science stories like Guns, Germs, and Steel that are factual but give the information in an interesting and engaging way. This book definitely qualified. Geology has uncovered so much new information about the formation of the earth and much of it is included in this book, some still theoretical. It was fascinating to see how different factors from many science disciplines interacted. If you are interested in hearing what's new in geology, this ...more
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Robert M. Hazen, Senior Research Scientist at the Carnegie Institution of Washington’s Geophysical Laboratory and the Clarence Robinson Professor of Earth Science at George Mason University, received the B.S. and S.M. in geology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1971), and the Ph.D. at Harvard University in earth science (1975). The Past President of the Mineralogical Society of Americ ...more

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“The lessons of rocks, stars,and life are clear. To understand Earth, you must divorce yourself for the inconsequential temporal or spacial scale of human life. We live on a single tiny world in a cosmos of a hundred billion galaxies, each with a hundred billion stars. Similarly, we live day by day in a cosmos aged hundreds of billions of days. If you seek meaning and purpose in the cosmos, you will not find it in any privileged moment or place tied to human existence.” 4 likes
“To get a sense of the scale of Earth history, imagine walking back in time, a hundred years per step—every pace equal to more than three human generations. A mile takes you 175,000 years into the past. The twenty miles of Chesapeake cliffs, a hard day’s walk to be sure, correspond to more than 3 million years. But to make even a small dent in Earth history, you would have to keep walking at that rate for many weeks. Twenty days of effort at twenty miles a day and a hundred years per step would take you back 70 million years, to just before the mass death of the dinosaurs. Five months of twenty-mile walks would correspond to more than 530 million years, the time of the Cambrian “explosion”—the near-simultaneous emergence of myriad hard-shelled animals. But at a hundred years per footstep, you’d have to walk for almost three years to reach the dawn of life, and almost four years to arrive at Earth’s beginnings.” 4 likes
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