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Origin Story: A Big History of Everything

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  4,557 ratings  ·  485 reviews
** A 2018 GoodReads Choice Award Nominee in the History & Biography category**

A captivating history of the universe -- from before the dawn of time through the far reaches of the distant future.

Most historians study the smallest slivers of time, emphasizing specific dates, individuals, and documents. But what would it look like to study the whole of history, from the big b
Hardcover, 357 pages
Published May 22nd 2018 by Little, Brown Spark
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Anu From my perspective:
Short history: This book focused a lot more on evolution of modern science and had some great stories about major inventions and d…more
From my perspective:
Short history: This book focused a lot more on evolution of modern science and had some great stories about major inventions and discoveries over the last 250 years in great detail. I felt like the early cosmology aspects were given short shrift. Bryson can be engaging but also a bit tedious.
Sapiens: Focuses a lot more on the "why" of critical moments in humanity's evolution rather than just an overall narrative. Also, very heavy anthropological basis. Harari is brilliant and his analytical genius shines in this book and the ones thereafter
Origin: Does the best job of unifying various aspects of knowledge from cosmology to modern science to anthropology. I enjoyed the analysis of "threshold moments", right from the big bang, creation of stars, galaxies, planets, evolution of life, the breakneck evolution over the past 200 years and a little peek into potential futures. Christian's writing style is not the most interesting but boy, does his content make up for it!

Other books in the same category that I enjoyed were "Our Mathematical Universe" by Max Tegmark (takes a more numerical and data-analysis based approach, with precision cosmology) and "What a wonderful world" by Marcus Chown (very accessible to young adults as well + a wonderfully witty writing style) (less)
Jan Objective. It's just the facts of human history, presented as they are, but in as large an empirical context as possible. There is no discussion of an…moreObjective. It's just the facts of human history, presented as they are, but in as large an empirical context as possible. There is no discussion of any metaphysical assumption.(less)

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Bill Gates
May 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
We all have an origin story. In some societies, they manifest as creation myths. In others, they look more like history textbooks. For example, as a kid in the United States, I grew up learning about the group of rebels who stood up to their British overlords and founded our country. It’s human nature to be curious about where we come from, and origin stories unite people through a common history and shared sense of purpose.

But what if all of humanity shared an origin story? What would that stor
J.L.   Sutton
Dec 08, 2018 rated it liked it
David Christian's Origin Story: A Big History of Everything was my first go at 'big history' (13.8 billion years of it). Christian looked at threshold events the way futurists look at trends and singularities. These thresholds were like transitional mile markers differentiating one order (perhaps by a near extinction event) from the next. Christian looked at the numerous 'Goldilocks' conditions which allowed life to exist as it does today. Christian also brought origins myths into this history, ...more
Big History is becoming a familiar concept. Since it was launched in the 1990s by the Dutchman Fred Spier and in Australia by David Christian himself, it has taken on a life of its own. Christian first summed up his way of looking at history "on a large scale" in 2004 in his Maps of Time: An Introduction to Big History, which was an impressive book, though not without issues. Since then, variants and additions have been published by himself, but also by many others. Big History also has become a ...more
A Man Called Ove
Oct 27, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
The first thing I have done after finishing the book is to unlike Bill Gates' review (4/5) of it. I also suspect if he reviewed and recommended this not because he personally found it great, but because he wanted others to read it as a good, lucid introductory book on Big History.
The first half of the book is a poor cousin of "Cosmos" or "A Short history of Nearly Everything". It deals with the origin of the universe to the origin of human beings. The book has more information than insights and
Emma Sea
Oct 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
loved this. Had the most wonderful sense of the sublime while reading it; I'm tiny and unimportant and my specific life could not matter less. Christian's framing of 21st-century power in terms of cell structures has made me deal better with my anxiety about how fucked the world is, and my fears for humanity in the near future.

Excellent writing, about the only topic there is, really.
• Big bang,
• Big (and some very small) science,
• Big history.

David Christian takes his big approach to life, the universe and everything to provide a very readable and interesting book.

Origin story will take the reader from billions of years ago up to the information age. He does this in two ways: the first using thresholds to define leaps and...well thresholds in space and evolution; second by accessible and engaging prose.

For me the big bang, and how that developed along with its universes, ga
Tucker  (TuckerTheReader)

Many thanks to Little Brown, and Company for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review

Bill Gates blurbed this


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Maria Espadinha
Nov 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
The Implications of the Unified Whole

Bacterias, baboons, rocks, oceans, auroras, meteors, planets, moons, stars, quarks, photons, supernovas, black holes, slugs, cell phones... — they are all part of the Enigmatic Whole — the infinite parts of Infinity, interacting and making History in a Cosmic Web where “a butterfly flaps its wings in Chicago and a tornado occurs in Tokyo.”

Everything is connected. Every tiny, atomic event has an implication in the Mysterious, Unified Whole

“I have written this
This was good, definitely good but just so.
Felt more of a concoction of already familiar works of some of the famous historians, scientists, biologists and anthropologists.
Was hoping for something more insightful...
Sense Of  History
David Christian already impressed by his seminal Maps of Time: An Introduction to Big History, published in 2004 (though I also had some issues with it). This was the first time someone tried to present a comprehensive overview of all of history, including that of the universe, in just one volume. I know, I’m ignoring H.G. Wells’ A Short History of the World, but given its publication date (1922), I’ll guess you understand why: our knowledge of the evolution of the universe since then has evolve ...more
Susan in NC
Jul 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I want to read more good nonfiction, and came across this intriguing title - it fit the bill nicely, giving me a new cautiously optimistic outlook and taking my mind off of the dreadful news headlines for a bit.

First of all, I really enjoyed the dry humor and interesting observations of the author. He uses the term Goldilocks to refer to the just right evolutionary conditions planet Earth possessed which allowed life to develop. The following passage is typical of his engaging style, in which he
Mar 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Scary stuff. Really scary, and important, and informational.

This is science that everyone needs to understand. If you follow creationist theories, just skip over the bits on evolution. There is still some good information in here that won't go against your beliefs.
Nikhil Iyengar
May 29, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, history
I have a strong impulse to type the opening lyrics of the show Big Bang Theory, but I'll resist.

Origin Story delivers exactly what it promises, the history ranging from the manifestation of the universe to the capitalism and global issues we go through today. I must admit that I glossed over a few chapters because I was here mostly for the human part and just a summary of the big bang. With that in mind, I did find reading the book a fairly enriching exercise that explains how humans evolved to
Priyam Roy
Oct 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Wow - Where to begin? When I first started reading Origin Story, I had absolutely no idea that this book would grow to become one of my favourites. Trust me when I say that it is a nail-biter, I found it excruciatingly challenging to put down! Origin Story takes you on a journey through time, from the beginning of the universe at the Big Bang, to present day, and onwards into some likely scenarios for the future. It's difficult to praise this work without spoiling its contents, but I especially ...more
Jan 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science
Multidisciplinary look at the modern origin story of humankind. It begins with the big bang (astrophysics, quantum mechanics, etc.) and talks about star formation and planet formation. Then it goes on to discuss the history of earth and of life on earth (biology, chemistry, geology, etc.), all the way through present times (economics, history, sociology, etc.). It finishes up by looking at possible futures for us and the universe as a whole.

I don't normally get as engaged with non-fiction books,
Tamim Ansary
Sep 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Christian really puts the "big" in "big history". Somehow this book achieves both sweep and detail. He gives us the universe as a story of energy and information interacting to generate ever-increasing complexity, and I'm sold. By the time he's done, I'm thinking, "Yeah: that's a pretty good way to look at it. Hard to think of any aspect of history that doesn't fit into that schema." As for meticulous, illuminating detail, look at his account of how life forms emerged from non-living matter: wow ...more
Jul 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
I'll be honest--it was a little difficult to concentrate on this as one of my summer selections, but I'm glad I did. The author is an engaging writer and I found myself carried along once I started. History and science are fascinating. Glad I picked it up.
Jun 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating, well written, & full of information that you probably don’t know, but should. Makes you think, wonder, & want to learn more. ...more

Very similar to his lecture series. My review of that can be found here:
Apr 21, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In this expansive book, the author tries to explain the science behind how the galaxies were created, leading to the formation of our own planet and the subsequent substantial changes that produced the planet we know now. He then goes on to describe the development of life and the process that led to humankind taking effective charge of the biosphere.
I found the book interesting and engrossing although at times I must admit that I got a bit lost with the science, especially at the time of the c
Iman Shabani
A pretty nice read indeed. Connecting the dots that we already know of, was done nicely in this book.

Give it a read and you won't be disappointed.
Said AlMaskery
Feb 22, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: science, history
A good topic, but written as an essay which makes it difficult to follow up. The introduction though was really nice.
Rajesh Goradia
Nov 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
The Origin Story is a great summary of David Christian's Big History Project - a field of study that integrates concepts from diverse silos of knowledge in order to explain the rising complexity in the universe – the pinnacle of which is represented by the human race.

Through this story we come to terms with our chance existence, despite the law of entropy which predicts that disorder of a closed system should only increase. Each threshold – where something new emerges – requires more energy and
Lis Carey
Every culture and tradition has had its origin story, its understanding of how the world came to be as they knew it, which formed the basis for their further understanding of how to live, interact with others, get food, make clothes. Our origin stories are the basis of how we understand everything.

Now, in the early 21st century, we know far more about the origin of the universe, our sun, our planet, and life on Earth. We live in a society of unparalleled complexity, and in the last two hundred y
Andy Klein
Nov 07, 2018 rated it it was ok
This book is much overrated as is the so-called field of Big History. I kept thinking that this total is not the equal of the sum of its parts. This was a combination of Cosmos, A Short History of Nearly Everything, and Sapiens, but not even close to the equal of any of them. It succeeded best in its description of the creation of the universe, the sun, and Earth but went steadily downward as it shifted to sociology to be quite jarring. The book tried to do too much and succeeded in delivering t ...more
Martin Smrz
Feb 09, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great book. Especially the history of Earth is delivered in very cohesive and clear way.
The one star down is for a bit repetitive covering of industrial era.
Otherwise this should be a history book in school to understand the history of our planet.
May 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
excellent book that condenses the entire knowledge on universe into a delightful read
Aug 29, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very enjoyable read! Easy to follow, informative, and dense without being overwhelming.
Oct 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I needed this book in my life! I knew most of it already, but to read the entire story as a whole was terrific!
Angelique Simonsen
This is one that makes you think especially the last chapters
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David Gilbert Christian is an Anglo-American historian and scholar of Russian history notable for creating and spearheading an interdisciplinary approach known as Big History. He grew up in Africa and in England, where he earned his B.A. from Oxford University, an M.A. in Russian history from the University of Western Ontario, and a Ph.D. in 19th century Russian history from Oxford University in 1 ...more

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