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The World Without Us

3.80  ·  Rating details ·  36,112 ratings  ·  3,429 reviews
A penetrating, page-turning tour of a post-human Earth

In The World Without Us, Alan Weisman offers an utterly original approach to questions of humanity's impact on the planet: he asks us to envision our Earth, without us. In this far-reaching narrative, Weisman explains how our massive infrastructure would collapse and finally vanish without human presence; which everyday
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Hardcover, First Edition, 324 pages
Published July 10th 2007 by Thomas Dunne Books
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Average rating 3.80  · 
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 ·  36,112 ratings  ·  3,429 reviews


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Stephanie *Extremely Stable Genius*
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.
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Mateo
Sep 14, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
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brian
May 07, 2012 rated it liked it
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
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Leonard Gaya
Jan 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is a worldwide documentary book, in the fashion of Jacques Cousteau, or more recently a few BBC programs. The inciting question is a bit strange: what would happen, should the whole of the human race suddenly vanish from the face of the Earth? Of course, even if entire populations could be decimated by war or natural catastrophes, an utter extinction of the human race is a highly improbable event. Yet, this odd hypothesis is a way of exploring how much humanity’s footprint has changed and i ...more
Colin McKay Miller
Nov 10, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  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
Marcus
May 09, 2008 rated it it was ok
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
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
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Jill Hutchinson
Sep 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book is a tour de force of "what ifs" based on scientific facts mixed with scientific guesses. The premise is unusual.....what if humans suddenly were no longer on the earth. Not dead by plague, war, or natural disaster but simply disappearing tomorrow, leaving no bodies. But what humans leave behind will change the Earth as we know it, forever.

Environmentalist have been fighting battles to save the planet for years but the damage has partially been done. Huge whirlpools of garbage, miles w
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Mario the lone bookwolf
Mar 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Detailed journey into an again very nature-bound, deserted future

Please note that I put the original German text at the end of this review. Just if you might be interested.

A bonanza of ideas for science fiction and downscale world scenarios that describes the various aspects of the tooth of the time following a fictional extinction of humans.
The explanation begins with the immediate knock-on effects after day X, with incoming indoor plants and water-rich mines and infrastructures such as subways
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Jim
Dec 01, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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 doesn't seem ...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
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Carlos
Dec 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
This book was very informative but a little bit naive in it approach. I don't think that humans are going anywhere in the near future so drawing conclusions from an scenario that will likely never happen seems a little bit masturbatory but at least among all the information in this book , there is some usefulness. It is also very good to gain knowledge about the fauna and flora that went extinct because of human involvement. And I was surprised by the conclusion of the book where it stated that ...more
fourtriplezed
Oct 18, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For a science duffer like me this was easy to read and I would recommend it. So us westerners have left depleted uranium with a half life of 4.5 billion years all over Iraq and expect them to like us? Ha! I had no idea of the ramifications of depleted uranium, heck the science side of this has passed me by. Stupid me. How could I have not given thought to armour piecing weaponry that leaves radiation traces of a half life of 4.5 billion years. Depending on who one wants to believe all that for e ...more
Riku Sayuj
Aug 30, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
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Glenn
Dec 18, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: journalism
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
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David
Dec 25, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
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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
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Ram
Feb 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: popular-science
Since reading The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History ,
I have been playing with this idea in my head. What would we humans leave behind us after we are gone? What would inhabitants of earth in 500 million years find to indicate that a sentient, technological species inhabited this planet? The answer, according to that book was that the main, and probably only long lasting, detectable impact that humans will have on earth, is the species that went extinct due to humans.

This led to My second
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Felicia
Feb 10, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Fascinating. Just amazing and scary.
Becky
Sep 12, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  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
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Raluca
Wow, wow, wow! Best non-fiction book I've read in a long time and my best 2019 book so far.

It's so difficult to define The world without us. Imagine if Thanos snapped all humankind out of existence. What happens to our cities and buildings? What of the plastic we've released into the ocean (which takes 10 000 years to decompose in the presence of oxygen, but would take 100 000 years to break on the oxygen-deprived ocean floor)? What of the oil refineries, the nuclear reactors, the radioactive du
...more
Shawn Mooney (Shawn The Book Maniac)
I did 40% of this on audio. The chapter or chapters on New York City aside, it was as dull as dishwater. Yet another magazine article’s worth of interesting material stretched to make a boring book.
Nikki
Jan 03, 2017 rated it liked it
This book tries to imagine what the world would be like if we were just raptured away or abducted by aliens, with little or no warning. Despite being ostensibly a book about the world without us, it turns out to mostly be a book about us. Or, more accurately, what we’ve done to the world, which the world will have to cope with whether we’re here and part of that or not. If you’re science-aware, there’s probably not much to learn — in fact, if you’re up on your climate science, what’s here is ver ...more
Matthew
Sep 29, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
Lena
Mar 25, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio, nonfiction
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“Humans perpetrated the extinctions that killed off three-fourths of America’s late Pleistocene megafauna, a menagerie far richer than Africa’s today.”

Humans, even allegedly environmentally harmonic native humans, are a plague on the world.

The world without us will recover the eden it once was in as quickly as two hundred years. But... it will have to adapt to our long lasting mistakes.

Plastic. Nuclear waste. CFCs.

There was beautiful adventurous imagery and true horror.

And stubborn hope
...more
Jeanette (Again)
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
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Bandit
Jul 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was my first time listening to a nonfiction book, naturally there were some reservations, mainly…would it be dynamic enough to prompt outside time. But then I listened to the first chapter and I immediately thought this is the book I need to own, in paper. I seldom if ever have that reaction to a book anymore, which should tell you just how highly I esteemed it. This is a mesmerizing image of the world without us and all we do to sometimes sustain it but mostly maim it. Fictional apocalypse ...more
Jennifer (aka EM)
Aug 16, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: all earthlings
Recommended to Jennifer (aka EM) by: Jason
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
Amy
I caught an interview on NPR a few days ago with the author for The World Without Us when I was driving across town. After hearing the interview, I HAD TO go out that afternoon and buy the book. I've never had a work of non-fiction activate my imagination in so many ways: dense Hansel & Gretel forests, roaming megafauna, organisms that learned to digest organic matter over time, lost cities, underground caverns ... I absolutely love this book because it's so much more than post-apocalyptic specu ...more
David
Dec 14, 2007 rated it did not like it
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
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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
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