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Origin Story: A Big History of Everything

4.04  ·  Rating details ·  3,326 ratings  ·  367 reviews

How did we get from the Big Bang to today's staggering complexity, in which seven billion humans are connected into networks powerful enough to transform the planet? And why, in comparison, are our closest primate relatives reduced to near-extinction?

Big History creator David Christian gives the answers in a mind-expanding cosmological detective story told on the grandest

Kindle Edition, 368 pages
Published May 22nd 2018 by Penguin
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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…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…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  ·  review of another edition
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
J.L.   Sutton
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
Emma Sea
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,
Oct 27, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Maria Espadinha
Nov 06, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 07, 2019 marked it as review-copies-to-read  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Tucker by: Little, Brown and Company

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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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...
Susan in NC
Jul 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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,
Ron Quartel
Mar 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Priyam Roy
Oct 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Caleb Masters
Apr 08, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A wonderful and relatively compact history book that does its best to tell the history of EVERYTHING, from the big bang to what the future may hold for us and our universe. Christian highlights various "thresholds" that our universe and then our species crossed to take history to its next big level. I admire his ability to synthesize information and present it in an easy digestible package for the reader. Fans of Harari's "Sapiens" and Tyson's "Astrophysics for People in a Hurry" will find a lot ...more
Jul 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.

Very similar to his lecture series. My review of that can be found here:
Jun 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating, well written, & full of information that you probably don’t know, but should. Makes you think, wonder, & want to learn more.
Said AlMaskery
A good topic, but written as an essay which makes it difficult to follow up. The introduction though was really nice.
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
Rajesh Goradia
Nov 01, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Andy Klein
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 ...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.
Sarah (WorldOfWonders)
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
Aug 29, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very enjoyable read! Easy to follow, informative, and dense without being overwhelming.
May 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
excellent book that condenses the entire knowledge on universe into a delightful read
Nov 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley-books
4.5 stars

Basically, this an in depth exploration of life from the big bang to current humans. At times, it took some careful re-reading of the physics portions of this book but really this book is immensely readable and I found so much of it incredibly fascinating. I think the most important idea to take away from this book is that it really is a miracle that we are here, living the life that we do, because it took a lot of extremely ideal conditions for us to get to this point. I received a
Mal Warwick
Jul 03, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Origin Story is historian David Christian's valiant effort to cram the history of the universe into 300 pages.

Historians typically trace the beginning of human history to the time some 5,000 years ago when people started committing language to writing. After all, history as practiced in academia is the study of primary and secondary sources, nearly all of them written. And without a written record there is presumably no history. But doesn't it seem shortsighted to limit ourselves to a mere 5,000
Nancy Ellis
Jun 25, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Having read Dr. Christian's previous text on Big History, Maps of Time, as well as having studied his course on Big History produced by The Great Courses (previously known as The Teaching Company), I found this an enjoyable refresher. It is a more condensed version of Big History than the massive Maps of Time and is an excellent introduction to whet the appetite of potential students. Anyone who knows me is aware of my tendency towards OCD behavior in reading, in that I am obsessive about ...more
Jan 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
History bored me as a child. Who wants to know about kings and wars and dates? As I grew older, I realized that knowing how we got to today is a key part of understanding today as well as future. In Origin story, Christian offers a solid, all-encompassing scaffolding for everything we know as a species today. This book touched me deeply in offering a moment of complete AWE at how complex, vast and interconnected everything in the universe is. Magnum opus extraordinaire!

The book narrates big
Jun 07, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting. Fulfilled its purpose very well. I wish it had been more about social systems but that wasn’t the goal of the book, just my personal preference and (incorrect) assumption that it would include more of that lens. Covered a tremendous amount of information with excellence.
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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 ...more
“Like human lovers, electrons are unpredictable, fickle, and always open to better offers.” 4 likes
“Knowledge is like a sphere; the greater its volume, the larger its contact with the unknown.” 1 likes
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