Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Billions & Billions: Thoughts on Life and Death at the Brink of the Millennium” as Want to Read:
Billions & Billions: Thoughts on Life and Death at the Brink of the Millennium
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Billions & Billions: Thoughts on Life and Death at the Brink of the Millennium

4.27  ·  Rating details ·  12,979 ratings  ·  430 reviews
In the final book of his astonishing career, Carl Sagan brilliantly examines the burning questions of our lives, our world, and the universe around us. These luminous, entertaining essays travel both the vastness of the cosmos and the intimacy of the human mind, posing such fascinating questions as how did the universe originate and how will it end, and how can we meld sci ...more
Paperback, 296 pages
Published May 12th 1998 by Ballantine Books (first published 1997)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Billions & Billions, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Billions & Billions

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Rating details
Sort: Default
Huda Yahya
Oct 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science, carl-sagan

ما الذي يمكنك قوله عن كتاب تشاهد فيه ابتسامة واحد من أعز الناس على قلبك وهي تخفت

ما الذي يمكنك فعله وأنت تقرأ كلماته الأخيرة
وتشعر بأوجاعه تشتد قرب النهاية فلا تملك إلا البكاء مع ابتسامة سكينة تملأ وجهك

لا يمكنك مع كارل ساجان إلا الشعور بالسكينة والطمأنينة مهما كنت تتوجع

اختتمت آن زوجته الكتاب وهي تصف بحزن نبيل لحظات كارل الأخيرة
معاناته والجو المحيط به حينما عاد لأجداده النجوم مرة أخرى


في كتابات كارل الأخيرة تلحظ دوماً إنشغاله الشديد بقضية البشرية ومستقبلهم على هذه الأرض

كيف يمكننا إطالة
Jenny GB
Jul 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
Carl Sagan writes about many topics in this book, but manages to make them all readable and understandable. My favorites are his essays on exponential growth and decay, the universe, and abortion. He really clearly lays out his thoughts and makes hard to understand concepts reachable in science and mathematics. He makes what is probably the most logical argument I have ever read in the abortion debates about our need to decide what makes us human and determine at what point that happens. His sho ...more
Nov 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Posljednja knjiga koju je Sagan napisao prije svoje prerane smrti. U ovom djelu veliki humanist iznosi svoje viđenje nekoliko svjetskih problema, kao i svoju viziju poterncijalnih rješenja. Ražalostolo me zapravo, što se u dva desetljeća otkad je djelo napisano toliko malo pomaklo na bolje. strah, paranoja, iracionalnost, fanaticizam i zatvaranje očiju pred dugotrajnim rješenjima radi kratkotrajne koristi vladaju svijetom više nego ikada. Ima li nade za nas?
May 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I liken Carl Sagan's explanation of physics, mathematics and astronomy in Billions and Billions and all his books to what Steven Pinker did for the field of linguistics in The Language Instinct: he takes extraordinarily complex phenomena and breaks them down so the intelligent reader fascinated by such quandaries, but who just didn't have the passion to study them academically, can understand and muse upon. I used Pinker's work when teaching linguistics in graduate school, and I could see physic ...more
I am a great fan of Carl Sagan and it is with some sadness that I can recommend this, his last book, only partially. It is a collection of nineteen essays, organized into three mostly unrelated parts. Some items are well worth reading—particularly the last—but some not at all.

Part 1, "The Power and Beauty of Quantification," is merely a simple echo of his famous book Cosmos: A Personal Voyage (1980). The first chapter on large numbers, from which the "Billions and Billions" of this book's title
Mar 09, 2014 rated it really liked it
The core premise of Sagan's final book is, to paraphrase an old Native American saying, "We have not inherited the Earth from our ancestors, but have borrowed it from our children." So stop the F screwing it up.

Presented as 3 parts of 19 essays in total, some of the essays, especially in the first part, are similar to the material he covered in Cosmos: cosmology and the vastness of space, our history as a species, general physics, life outside Earth. Some of the other essays are about then emerg
Dec 26, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
Sagan is eloquent as always. It helps even more to read it out loud to yourself, (muttering lest someone observe) and make up a Sagan accent as you go. He takes a gentle hand, which I think bespeaks desperation in his last years, his last chance to nudge the ball forward amidst tangible fear that forceful will be deemed strident, erudite will sound preachy, and warning the bitter rantings of an old Cassandra. Carl knows he's on the losing team, he loves humanity, and deeply fears our suicide by ...more
This is I think Carl Sagan's last published book, published in 1996. His chapter/essay, entitled "The Twentieth Century," is one of the most insightful summaries of what the universe is that I ever read. Well, maybe not the most insightful, but surely in the top three:

"Perhaps the most wrenching by-product of the scientific revolution has been to render untenable many of our most cherished and most comforting beliefs. The tidy anthropocentric proscenium of our ancestors has been replaced by a co
Paul Martin
Jun 07, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2015
Six times now have I looked Death in the face. And six times Death has averted his gaze and let me pass. Eventually, of course, Death will claim me - as he does each of us. It's only a question of when. And how.

I've learned much from our confrontations - especially about the beauty and sweet poignancy of life, about the preciousness of friends and family, and about the transforming power of love. In fact, almost dying is such a positive, character-building experience that I'd recommend it to eve
Whitney Milam
I will never tire of reading Carl Sagan's thoughts on anything and everything.

We’ve been here for only about a million years, we, the first species that has devised means for its self-destruction. We are rare and precious because we are alive, because we can think as well as we can. We are privileged to influence and perhaps control our future. I believe we have an obligation to fight for life on Earth—not just for ourselves, but for all those, humans and others, who came before us, and to whom
Nov 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing
كتاب رائع مهما خالفت معتقداتك افكار كارل ساجان لاتستطيع الا ان تحترمه وتحب فيه انسانيته وشغفه بالعلم وبتوعية الآخرين..الكتاب رائع والمقالات جدا مؤثرة تأخذك الى مستوى مختلف تماما من الوعي والشعور بالمسؤلية حول كوكب الارض وتأثيرنا فيه كبشر ..وينبهك الى خطورة الاسلحة النووية وكيف ان وجودها يمسنا بشكل شخصي ومباشر..اما نهاية الكتاب فقد كانت شديدة التأثير وموجعة حيث تصدمك بفكرة المرض والموت والجدوى من الحياة وقيمة الحب بمواقف من حياة الكاتب نفسه الذي فارق الحياة .. كارل ساجان مازال يضيء عقول الآخرين ح ...more
Jul 10, 2008 rated it liked it
Sagan can be a little repetitive but that doesn't mean his words carry no less value. The chapter on abortion is worth your time if you've ever been even mildly divided on the issue, which you should be. Also, I teared up on the bus reading In The Valley of the Shadow, which documents Sagan's fatal battle with myelodysplastic syndrome.
Mar 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: books-i-own
What a great book. It was well written and really touched on a variety of different topics. Though it is dated now, I still feel that I gained a lot by reading it. And the last two chapters where he talked about his disease and views on death really struck deep with me.
May 31, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Carl Sagan was not only a successful, fun, approachable educator and astronomer, but he was also great author which keeps the reader excited and curious to move to the next chapter... then close the book and think what he just told you!
-Un poco de cada cosa, llamada de atención y testamento en muchos sentidos.-

Género. Ensayo (pero “blando”, de divulgación científica).

Lo que nos cuenta. Recopilación de distintos ensayos de la última parte de la producción (y la vida) del autor, divididos en tres bloques distintos que hablan del universo, de las amenazas tanto al ecosistema como a la convivencia internacional y de asuntos mucho más cercanos y personales en el último bloque, incluyendo el propio camino de Sagan hacia el final de
Jul 13, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Written at the end of his life and published with an post script illuminating his unsuccessful battle with myelodysplasia, as well as a touching epilogue by his widow Ann Druyan. The book starts out with a kind of fleshing-out of humanity by its numbers, things like human population and resource usage and the age of the species are all implicitly synthesized into a description of people by very large numbers. It then touches on social and environmental issues, how people react to them, and what ...more
Nawar Youssef
May 16, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science, philosophy

بلايين و بلايين كتاب غير عادي، ربما لان كاتبه غير عادي. يأخذك الكتاب في البداية برحلة خفيفة يطلعك خلالها على بعض العلوم و النظريات التي توصل إليها الذكاء البشري عبر الزمن و أيضاً يمر مرور سريع على
التقنيات و التطبيقات لهذه العلوم و النظريات. و بما أن الكاتب هو "كارل سيغان" فمن الطبيعي أن تجد كثير من المعلومات عن الفضاء و الفيزياء و عن جمال الكون و عظمته لكن كل هذا موجود في القسم الأول فقط.

و لان "كارل سيغان" يمثل العالم (بكسر اللام) المثالي لكثير من العلماء و الهواة الذين يؤمنون بالعلم، فهو لا ب

Sep 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Thought provoking.

And honestly? More than a little disheartening.

A big chunk of this book deals with the CFC disaster of the 80's-90's and the parallels to be drawn between that and current climate change...going from the analysis of the threat, to the denial by big business, to the penalties coming to fruition, before FINALLY, some change being made.

It was....honestly a little depressing. And I'm not sure that's a situation that'll get better anytime soon.

Recommended for food for thought.
Saurav Sharan
Jul 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
I must say, I have never completed a book faster:just three sittings and last half in a two hour flight to Mumbai.I am inclined to be a little proud of this achievement.
My heroics were partly possible because the book is predictable in its first half, where Carl Sagan begins by enumerating the environmental problems,the world is facing,beamed especially with Ozone depletion and Global warming. The research and subsequent efforts by different companies, countries and communities have been capture
Menglong Youk
Billions and Billions, which was the last book of the one and only, Carl Sagan includes 19 different essays on subjects like history of the cosmos, science and mankind, danger of nuclear weapons, ozone layer disappearing, relationship between science and religions, abortion, and especially his personal fight with the disease that took his life away from yhis world. I love the way he reasoned his arguments with simple explanation and eye-opening examples. His enthusiasm makes readers interest and ...more
Fulya İçöz
Carl Sagan en sevdiğim bilim insanıdır. Onun gökbilim için yaptıkları, insanın geleceği için kaygıları, evrenin gizemini çözmek için yanıp tutuşan kalbi beni her zaman derinden etkilemiştir. Daha önce Karanlık Bir Dünyada Bilimin Mum Işığı kitabını okuduğum için bu kitabı onunla kıyaslıyorum haliyle. Karanlık Bir Dünyada... bu kitaba göre daha derli toplu ve daha tematikti. Bu kitap ise daha dağınık ve takip etmesi dolayısıyla daha zor bir derleme. En fazla kürtajla ilgili olan makaleyi sevdiğim ...more
Nov 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science, favorites
ماذا ستكتب وأنت على سرير الموت ؟ عن المستقبل فى الغالب أي مستقبل ؟ عادة مستقبل العائلة و هذا ما فعله ساجان بالضبط حيث كتب كتابه الآخير من أجل عائلته والتي هى تشمل سكان كوكب الارض بدءا من العوالق البحرية فى القطب الجنوبي مرورا بالأوزون والاحتباس الحراري نهاية بالإنسان وعواقب الثورة النووية

الكتاب لم يكن صدامي مع أي أحد سوي الشركات الجشعة والقوي المؤثرة فى العالم خصوصا الولايات المتحدة وروسيا سعي الكاتب بشتي الجهل لتوحيد الصف العالمي نحو الارض بالتعاون مع كافه العلماء وكافه الاديان وكافه الدول للع
Sep 01, 2017 rated it liked it
Some of the essays were wonderful, some I really didn't enjoy. The book was also not what I was expecting. The last few chapters and epilogue, describing his illness and his death left me ugly crying in front of strangers on a train. Regardless of my like or dislike for this particular book, Sagan was a wonderful human, and the world is absolutely better off for having had him in it.
Miguel Á.
Jul 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ensayo, 2015
Un alegato a la vida repleto de esperanza, un recorrido crítico a la historia de la Humanidad y los descubrimientos científicos, y una reflexión sobre cómo podríamos hacer de este un lugar mejor para vivir.
Reem Safi
Mar 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

"إن فهم الكون كما هو في حقيقته أفضل بكثير من مطالبة الكون بأن يتفق مع ما نرغب في أن يكون عليه."

"إهداء إلى أختي كاري
واحدة من ستة بلايين"

حينما سارت عينيّ على كلمات هذا الإهداء توقفتُ قليلاً وسألت نفسي؛ تُرى لماذا أخصها بالإهداء دون غيرها؟ ما الذي فعلته كاري لتنال كل هذا التقدير والأمتنان.. لم أعرف الإجابة إلا حين وصولي إلى المحطة الأخيرة من هذا الكتاب. ربما يعتبر الفصل الأخير من اكثر الفصول مأساويةً على الإطلاق لإنه متشبع بمزيج من أسمى وأقوى المعاني الإنسانية من ألم وصبر وفقدان وصدمة وكفاح ورغبة
Ashish Samuel
Apr 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: physics, essays
Carl Sagan talks about dozens of varied subjects like space exploration, climate change, inequality, arms race, abortion rights etc, in such an empathetic and harmonizing voice that masks the bitterness these divisive debates have generated over the years and still does. None of the thoughts and musings he share may sound new to someone reading it two decades later. He wrote this in a distant age when the internet and mobile phone technology were in their infancy, which later grew into proportio ...more
Mar 28, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: american, nonfiction
No meio de todas as coisas que eu leio, confesso que não são muitos os livros que me impressionam e me fazem refletir para muito além do momento da leitura. E não são muitos os livros que me ensinam enquanto me fazem rir. E, devo dizer, é menor ainda a quantidade de livros que fazem com que eu queira ser uma pessoa melhor (para mim mesma, para os outros, para os outros seres vivos, para o planeta, para o mundo). Todos os livros que eu li do Sagan (este, Contato e O mundo assombrado pelos demônio ...more
Carl Sagan's final book, finished up shortly before his untimely death in 1997. Because of that some of the science presented in the book has been surpassed in the last 20 years. But most of his conclusions, and fears, have continued along much the same paths as he discussed in the book, global warming, pollution and uncontrolled population growth.

As with most books of this type I was totally engrossed by the hard science topics and less so by most of the 'soft science' discussion. Still, overa
Nausheen Husain
Sagan's "compete with one another in good works" graf:
"Let us vie in art and science, in music and literature, in technological innovation. Let us have an honesty race. Let us compete in relieving suffering and ignorance and disease; in respecting national independence worldwide; in formulating and implementing an ethic for responsible stewardship of the planet."
Megan Schaller
Feb 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
the final two chapters - “In The Valley of the Shadow” and Ann Druyan’s epilogue - are potentially the most heartbreaking, thoughtful, fiercely loving things i have ever read. a worthy legacy for a most great, kind, and brilliant mind.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
  • The Meaning of It All: Thoughts of a Citizen-Scientist
  • Carl Sagan: A Life in the Cosmos
  • A Devil's Chaplain: Reflections on Hope, Lies, Science, and Love
  • The Pluto Files: The Rise and Fall of America's Favorite Planet
  • Black Holes and Baby Universes
  • Cycles of Time: An Extraordinary New View of the Universe
  • Bad Astronomy: Misconceptions and Misuses Revealed, from Astrology to the Moon Landing "Hoax"
  • Just Six Numbers: The Deep Forces That Shape the Universe
  • Visions: How Science Will Revolutionize the 21st Century
  • The First Three Minutes: A Modern View of the Origin of the Universe
  • Carl Sagan: A Life
  • Universe: The Definitive Visual Guide
  • Science Friction: Where the Known Meets the Unknown
In 1934, scientist Carl Sagan was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. After earning bachelor and master's degrees at Cornell, Sagan earned a double doctorate at the University of Chicago in 1960. He became professor of astronomy and space science and director of the Laboratory for Planetary Studies at Cornell University, and co-founder of the Planetary Society. A great popularizer of science, Sagan produced th ...more
“I would love to believe that when I die I will live again, that some thinking, feeling, remembering part of me will continue. But as much as I want to believe that, and despite the ancient and worldwide cultural traditions that assert an afterlife, I know of nothing to suggest that it is more than wishful thinking.” 672 likes
“Coal, oil and gas are called fossil fuels, because they are mostly made of the fossil remains of beings from long ago. The chemical energy within them is a kind of stored sunlight originally accumulated by ancient plants. Our civilization runs by burning the remains of humble creatures who inhabited the Earth hundreds of millions of years before the first humans came on the scene. Like some ghastly cannibal cult, we subsist on the dead bodies of our ancestors and distant relatives.” 45 likes
More quotes…