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For Small Creatures Such as We: Rituals for Finding Meaning in Our Unlikely World

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  1,833 ratings  ·  270 reviews
"What is the meaning of life? Sagan finds its meaning everywhere--with her family, around the world, and especially among the stars of the cosmos. Read her work; you'll have a deeper appreciation for your every step, every bite, and every breath." --Bill Nye

Sasha Sagan was raised by secular parents, the astronomer Carl Sagan and the writer and producer Ann Druyan. They tau
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Hardcover, 288 pages
Published October 22nd 2019 by G.P. Putnam's Sons
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Average rating 4.13  · 
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 ·  1,833 ratings  ·  270 reviews


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Toni
Oct 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, 2019
Beautiful, honest, thoughtful... Sasha Sagan's For Small Creatures Such as We is a fascinating read for anybody who looks for spirituality in everyday life.

Full review to come.

Thank you to Edelweiss and G.P.Putnam's sons for the ARC provided in exchange for an honest opinion.
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Olivia (Stories For Coffee)
A wonderful nonfiction discussing births, adopting, creating, and dropping rituals, appreciating daily rituals (even if it’s just getting a cup of coffee). Sagan manages to make me slow down and appreciate the smaller beauties of life as well as the momentous occasions that we have celebrated for centuries. A truly fascinating read.
Heidi The Reader
Jan 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoirs, non-fiction
My parents taught me that the universe is enormous and we humans are tiny beings who get to live on an out-of-the-way planet for the blink of an eye. And they taught me that, as they once wrote, "for small creatures such as we, the vastness is bearable only through love." pg 12, ebook.

Sasha Sagan, the daughter of celebrated scientist Carl Sagan, was raised to believe only what could be proven. Her father told her: "It's dangerous to believe things just because you want them to be true." pg 11, e
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Sarah Olson Michel
Oct 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Sasha Sagan's thoughtful examination of how rituals, both secular and religious, bring meaning to our everyday lives is simply impossible to put down - I read it in one evening. With a scientific perspective that encourages awe and wonder, her profound observations will resonate with readers religious, agnostic, atheist, or otherwise. Truly an unforgettable book you don't want to miss even if you've never read Carl Sagan or Ann Druyan's works (although you certainly should). It's an inspiring an ...more
Ms. McGregor
Aug 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
Sasha Sagan's forthcoming book deftly combines memoir, history, theology, philosophy and science into an Atheist/ Agnostic guidebook for creating and celebrating rituals to enhance a meaningful, connected life. Sagan draws upon the legacy and lessons of her parents to make the case for the miraculousness of coincidence and the natural universe.

It is truly refreshing to read a book that makes the case for a humanist, atheist worldview that is not fatalistic or condescending but includes wonder, r
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Bruce Crocker
Nov 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Even though this is NOT THE Earth-shattering, non-fiction book of the year. Even though sellers may find it hard to place - memoir, self-help, social science,...? - and sell. Even though part of my reaction is the happy curiosity of finding out how the kid of Carl Sagan and Anne Druyan turned out [I met her at the signing at Vroman's Books in Pasadena, CA], this is a really great book and I've already been recommending it to everyone. As a secular person - surprise, she's the kid of Carl Sagan a ...more
R.
Nov 05, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: female-authors
The book is lovely in some parts, and annoyingly new-age, hippie, and care-bears-like in others. The good: the first few chapters are an ode to life, and, if I am honest, reading that in the middle of a global pandemic was uplifting and inspiring. The love of the author for her parents is truly moving, and there are parts that I imagine were not easy to write. The emotions feel very raw in many parts, despite the fact that Carl Sagan died a while ago.

The bad: some chapters were rather annoying
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Steve
Nov 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Lovely book bringing a sense of humanity and ritual to people who might be more scientifically inclined and also bringing science and rationality to those who might not venture past their traditions and feelings. I think the book is aimed at people younger than me but I was moved in many places.
Megan Bell
Nov 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019
“For small creatures such as we the vastness is bearable only through love." ―Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan, Contact.

I honestly feel honored to share with the world this debut book by Sasha Sagan, daughter of Carl and Ann, who taught their daughter that science reveals the wonder and majesty of a world greater than the limits of myth or fable. In For Small Creatures Such as We, Sasha writes with such reverence, beauty, and tenderness about how we can find meaning as humble humans on a pale blue dot
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Shelby
Feb 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
I downloaded this audiobook on a whim because I needed something to listen to. I'm surprised by how much I enjoyed it. Author Sasha Sagan is Carl Sagan's daughter. Despite their Jewish and Eastern European heritage, Carl Sagan's family was obviously secular, and this nonreligious tradition was passed down to his daughter. Enter this book, which is about the ways that secular nonbelievers should and can partake in traditions, celebrations, and rituals that have brought people together for thousan ...more
putri
Nov 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Whatever it is that we have yet to learn will be part of nature once we understand it. And when we do, I hope we can still feel wonder. In those revelations and the ways the randomness, the chance, the chaos sometimes, somehow works out. Still magical. Still beautiful.
Amy
Jul 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
What an amazing gift of a book this is, especially in a world where science is discredited daily. Sagan reminds us of the wonder and awe that surrounds us - in our existence, our natural world, our rituals that create meaning, community, patterns.
Clay Davis
Nov 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
A horrible book cover design, looks like someone trying to strike out the title with a golden crayon.
Subhasree তন্নি Das
Heart melting eloquence. A colorful celebration of our existence as a brief melody in the great sea of cosmic rhapsodies. When the planet earth itself is seen as nothing but a 'Pale Blue Dot,' for 'small creatures such as we, ' each and every moment of our being alive is worth cherishing. Her enthusiasm, motivation are just so infectious through the chapters. I admire her transparency in explaining thoughts. The book is adorable in its own brilliance. ...more
Tom
Apr 23, 2020 rated it liked it
This book is pretty much an autobiography whose main theme is how amazing the world/the universe/reality is from a secular, skeptical point of view. And it does a good job at those things! Sasha Sagan is a very good storyteller, making the events she writes about very engaging. She also conveys very well that reality, in all its unlikeliness, is wonderful and the cause of much awe.
The theme of rituals, though, is somewhat secondary, mostly the underlying context that ties the chapters together.
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Gendou
Jul 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
When I read non-fiction, I stick to science books. This isn't a science book. Sasha grew up with Carl Sagan for a father. This book is a testament to her love for him. It's also a biography of her life, chronicling her secular Judaism, marriage, giving birth, starting a book club, etc. I normally find biographies boring, but Sasha managed to keep my attention with her cosmic perspective. And we have her late father to thank for that. As well as her mother, Ann Druyan!

Sasha's easy going secular s
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Steph
Jan 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
A sweet, kind-hearted book that’s a mix of memoir, anthropology and contemporary philosophy. I’ve never heard Sasha Sagan speak but her energetic enthusiasm and passion for the world shines through. For me it wasn’t life-changing but perhaps life-affirming.
Mackenzie Callahan
As I’m simultaneously getting ready to bring new life into the world and say goodbye to my father, this book has been a particularly poignant and beautiful companion.

“No matter what the universe has in store, it cannot take away from the fact that you were born. You’ll have some joy and some pain, and all the other experiences that make up what it’s like to be a tiny part of a grand cosmos. No matter what happens next, you were here. And even when any record of our individual lives is lost to t
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Chris
Nov 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
Well I can finally say that I've read a book wholly endorsed by Bill Nye the science guy. And I hate to start with that line for this review because it actually does a massive disservice too the author and tone of this book. I was so captivated by the quiet, amusing, somber and heartfelt narrative of this book. The daughter of Carl Sagan, Sasha Sagan has written a book that I didn't know I was looking for. I've never been religious myself and have always felt that the reliance on faith was a cru ...more
Amanda Campbell
Sep 01, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Books that are part memoir, part something else tend to be my favorites. With Sasha Sagan's book, I really wanted two separate books. I loved the personal stories and I loved learning about the rituals found in other cultures and faiths, but I wanted more of each. ...more
Jigme
“All the great and terrible parts of being alive, the shocking sublime beauty and heartbreak, the monotony, the interior thoughts, the shared pain and pleasure. It really happened. All of it. On this little world that orbits a yellow star out in the great vastness. And that alone is cause for celebration.”
Kate Lawrence
Nov 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
Author Sasha Sagan lost her famous father Carl when she was 14, a fact that permeates this thoughtful consideration of how we celebrate special occasions and family history. I was led to read this by seeing a Zoom interview she gave recently.
I found this to be a relaxing, hopeful set of musings on making life meaningful; I enjoyed both the parts where her experience is like mine and where it has been quite different. She shares much that is deeply personal so that readers--at least this reader-
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Christopher Woods
Nov 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019
Beautifully written. Despite being secular myself, it was fun getting to learn about different religions, rituals, and cultures; and it’s a shame how divided we are, when we’re all so similar.

There’s a line in “Contact” written by Ann Druyan and Carl Sagan that reminds me of “For Small Creatures Such as We”: “You're an interesting species. You're capable of such beautiful dreams, and such horrible nightmares. You feel so lost, so cut off, so alone, only you're not. In all our searching, the onl
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S
Jul 18, 2020 rated it it was ok
I found this book really boring. In between snippets of the author's autobiography, this book glosses through hundreds of rituals the world over in areas such as "spring," "marriage," etc. It has moments of beauty and insight, but its almost encyclopedic in the way it lists these rituals, and in between these short snippets it often feels pretty sappy. ...more
Emily
Jan 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I'm not sure I can explain the depths to which this book moved me. Perhaps the way I felt about it is the way that believers feel about the Bible, I don't know. As a secular Jew, the book felt so true, I felt so seen, and it made me rejoice in the magnificence of the world and universe around us. ...more
Lara (notjeanthough)
You may have heard of Carl Sagan, astronomer, physicist and science communicator. His series 'Cosmos' (now presented by also physicist Neil deGrasse Tyson) paved the way for communicating science for "ordinary" people and promoting critical thinking. He's a figure really admired in my family (we even have a picture of him hung in our living room wall<3) and I never cease to be amazed by all his work and his amazing capacity and passion about science. If you've never heard of him, I highly recomm ...more
Hannah
Feb 05, 2021 rated it it was amazing
“No matter what the universe has in store, it cannot take away from the fact that you were born. You’ll have some joy and some pain, and all the other experiences that make up what it’s like to be a tiny part of a grand cosmos. No matter what happens next, you were here. And even when any record of our individual lives is lost to the ages, that won’t detract from the fact that we were. We lived. We were part of the enormity. All the great and terrible parts of being alive, the shocking sublime b ...more
Gian Q
Feb 05, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I am secular and this book is great for generally everyone. It contains topics such as seasons, birth, death, sex, feast and fast, diving into each of them and how the rituals that come along with them give life meaning but that meaning doesn't have to tag a belief and shows us how other cultures perceives them. You can enjoy Christmas without believing in Jesus Christ, you can enjoy many common rituals and use religious words to describe how you feel about the world. My life has been enriched b ...more
D.L. Morrese
Feb 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
We recognize and celebrate the cycles of our lives -night and day, the passing of seasons, birth and death- through rituals, many of which have religious trappings. Until relatively recently, religious speculations were the only stories humans had for making sense of such things. Now, as we learn more about how the universe works, people are becoming more secular, but our desire for ritual and tradition to mark the events of our lives remains. What's a modern secular person to do? In this book, ...more
Kate Windnagel
Mar 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
An ode to secular science, life, and wonder. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and appeal to any religious folks to read it if only to better understand those of us who thrive in secular lives. It receives 4 stars from me for two reasons: first, because I felt the heart of the book was overshadowed by her personal, familial anecdotes relating to her husband and daughter - I wanted more science, less autobiography, and second, I listened to the author-read audiobook version of this and felt her dict ...more
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Alexandra Rachel "Sasha" Druyan Sagan (1982), is a native of Ithaca, New York and a graduate of NYU. She has worked as a writer, television producer, filmmaker, and editor in New York City, Boston and London. Her essays and interviews on death, history, travel and ritual through a scientific lens have appeared in New York Magazine, O. the Oprah Magazine, Literary Hub, Mashable.com and elsewhere. S ...more

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“No matter what the universe has in store, it cannot take away from the fact that you were born. You’ll have some joy and some pain, and all the other experiences that make up what it’s like to be a tiny part of a grand cosmos. No matter what happens next, you were here. And even when any record of our individual lives is lost to the ages, that won’t detract from the fact that we were. We lived. We were part of the enormity. All the great and terrible parts of being alive, the shocking sublime beauty and heartbreak, the monotony, the interior thoughts, the shared pain and pleasure. It really happened. All of it. On this little world that orbits a yellow star out in the great vastness. And that alone is cause for celebration.” 14 likes
“Days and weeks go by and the regularity of existing eclipses the miraculousness of it. But there are certain moments when we manage to be viscerally aware of being alive. Sometimes those are terrifying moments, like narrowly avoiding a car accident. Sometimes they are beautiful, like holding your newborn in your arms. And then there are the quiet moments in between when all the joy and sorrow seem profound only to you.” 4 likes
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