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Cartoon History of the Universe I, Vol. 1-7: From the Big Bang to Alexander the Great

(Cartoon History of the Universe book I; vol. 1-7)

4.26  ·  Rating details ·  2,963 ratings  ·  236 reviews
An entertaining and informative illustrated guide  that makes world history accessible, appealing,  and funny.
Paperback, 368 pages
Published September 10th 1997 by Three Rivers Press (first published 1980)
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4.26  · 
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 ·  2,963 ratings  ·  236 reviews

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Aug 02, 2007 rated it it was amazing
One of my all time favorite books.

A classmate once asked a teacher how I know so many things (this was in reference to prehistory, greek history, early hominids, early civilizations, egypt). The answer came back "because she reads a lot." The picture that came into my head was this book, and I started to smile. Not exactly the kind of reading I think she meant.
Oct 17, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
This is a really fun—and actually quite comprehensive—historical overview. It's very handy as sort of a quick-reference guide and/or as a supplemental companion to the reading of primary source history texts. (I found it to be fabulously helpful along these lines with respect to Herodotus.)

A couple of disclaimers, primarily applicable to younger readers:

First off, the subject of sex is treated with direct frankness throughout. (This shouldn't be a problem, really. Gonick's emphasis on sex is ro
Sep 05, 2007 rated it really liked it
Great epic view of history, with lots of synthesis between events/movements occurring concurrent in different parts of the world. This volume covered many time periods I already knew a great deal about -- Greek & Roman empires; the Biblical era -- but there were still many nuggets of history that were completely new to me. The history of Mesopotamia, for example, when contrasted with what the Bible said had occurred, was fascinating. The strangeness of Egyptian history. The many humorous foo ...more
Newly Wardell
Dec 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
I read this book because I needed to finish my 2018 reading challenge. I. Had no idea I'd be so entertained. It covers a lot and still manages a level of brevity missing from every other history book. It offers a varied look at our shared history.
Apr 17, 2018 rated it did not like it
Utter rubbish

1. I am not sure how much of it is accurate. There are nine issues. I found inaccuracies in the one on ancient India. I don’t know as much about the content of the other issues to say that there were inaccuracies, but I am doubtful anyway.

2. I wouldn’t even consider this history. There is a lot of talk of legends and other texts that is not strictly historical like the Vedas, Old Testament, Greek epics. The title of the book is very misleading in this regard.

3. It’s outdated. It ta
Apr 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is an impressive achievement. Gonick's attempt to boil the history of the world down into comics form is ambitious and largely successful, despite how unwieldy the subject is, especially when he gets to the birth of civilization and faces the challenge of how to juggle the accounts of multiple parallel developments. The cartooning seems to waver somewhat in these later chapters, becoming sketchier and scratchier, losing a lot of the supple expressiveness of line that made the early chapters ...more
May 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic imagery and lovely writing. Engaging, easy to read, easy to pick back up after long pauses, and just all-around wonderful.
Jun 05, 2014 rated it really liked it
A fascinating journey from the big bang, to the dinosaurs and evolution, to the beginnings of man and civilization; culminating in discussions of Greece.

This makes for a nice introduction to some of the subjects, and a nice reminder of others (depending on how much you already know, of course). I was thinking, "this would have been nice to read when I was 12" many times throughout the book because it covers a lot of the material I drudged through in public school middle school (age 12-15).

Dec 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
Context: I recently learnt that Scott recommended this book (, just after having decided to read more books and semi-randomly browse the internet less (the latter was my wont for the last few years).

What I think of the book:
1) The writing style is conversational yet rigorous - very readable.
2) The illustrations are quite evocative, yet still funny.
3) It is synoptic in its scope - as Scott said, it introduces *many* people and places not usually covered, a
Nov 08, 2007 rated it it was amazing
This is such an *awesome* book. From the time I was about 7 to, oh, a few months ago, I have picked up this book and disappeared for an hour or so at a time just reliving this very wrily funny (re: British) "comic" on human history, from the Big Bang up to Alexander's conquest. It helped make me a well-rounded little 7-year-old, but more than that, I'm effing positive it shaped my sense of humor. Every child in the world should be given this on their 7th birthday so they can keep revisiting it t ...more
I don't know what it says about me that this book counts as one of my major comfort books. My wife reads Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum books, I re-read the Cartoon History. I guess it's just been a stressful few weeks for me.

My one off-note of this book is a change in the style of the art for the last chapter (covering the Golden Age of Athens up to Alexander the Great). Gonick was going for a more Crumb, less cartoony style, but I like the earlier style better.

No more information, just go fi
Overly obsessed with sex, focused on minutae, and at times offensive to my Christian viewpoint (I often felt that Gonick was accusing ANYINE with religious convictions of being dim-witted and gullible). I'm glad I read it, and there are a few parts if the Greek history that I'd like to use in teaching, but overall, I'm thoroughly unimpressed. Despite the fact that the next book contains through the fall of Rome (my favorite period to teach in World History), I'll not be picking up Gonick's next ...more
Gary Butler
May 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: graphic-novels
7th book read in 2016.

Number 146 out of 500 on my all time book list.

Review Pending:
Aidan Suess
May 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The Cartoon History of the Universe, written by Larry Gonick. This was a great book! This book is like a history lesson, but I actually want to learn and keep reading. It's full of interesting information and facts. This would be a good book for wanting to learn about the past, if you enjoy history and would like a different way of learning about it, or if you have a history test and need to study up on your history to pass it. I would say this book is probably more appropriate for ages 13+, I ...more
Jan 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
Overall, this graphic novel, Cartoon History of the Universe, by Larry Gonick is a fun and informative read. Gonick’s style is very self-aware and comedic which keeps the reader engaged and entertained while learning about a very boiled down version of, well, everything. I liked how anything from single-celled organisms to animals to inanimate objects are anthropomorphized and given character. I particularly enjoyed the first few volumes that were focused on the beginning of the universe, prehi ...more
Aron Barr
Sep 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Have you ever wondered about history, but find textbooks too dense (and boring), to read? Then The Cartoon History of the Universe, Volumes 1-7, by Larry Gonick, is for you. He is a cartoonist who is best known for this series of books, which were published in installments from 1977 to 2009. Gonick takes us on a trip from the beginning of the universe, to Alexander the Great, with a satirical undertone that would make even the most stony-faced man chuckle. In his effort to make history engaging ...more
I am a pretty terrible student of history. It doesn't matter how many times I try and grasp historical events; weeks later, I cannot recount a single name or detail. So I was hoping that this comic book (which would surely provide an easily digestible account of world history) could help.

There are certainly a lot of things to like about these volumes -- the drawings are engaging, the humor is dry, and I did indeed learn some things. I have a much better understanding of Greek history now, the re
Sep 27, 2018 rated it did not like it
Ambitious and a good concept, but I was irritated by how women were consistently portrayed as punchlines and sex objects. Also disproportionately focused on bible stories. And covers almost exclusively the Mediterranean, not even mentioning South America, East Asia, etc. Could not finish. Not recommended- weed it for outdated approach.
Sep 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
Everything one needs to know about the world's beginning, from the formation of the planet, the start of life, the different scientific eras, dinosaurs, early life, evolution of man, wars, plantlife, cultures, religions, etc., etc., from the beginning up to and including Alexander the Great. So much information, but presented in a easy to understand and enjoyable way, all in comic form.
Samridh Kudesia
Jun 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Cannot recommend this book enough. It condenses a lot of information into just a few pages, yet strikes the perfect balance between details and brevity. I was looking to expand my knowledge about world history, and this book is an immense help in building a solid mind-map for the same. Why isn't this mandatory reading in schools/colleges already?
Oryza Sativani
Mar 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Hilarious and informative. From the big bang, evolution, the rise and fall of many civilizations.. Cannot wait to read the rest of the series. If you're a noob in history like me, you may want to give this one a try. Guaranteed to keep you entertained.
Apr 02, 2019 rated it liked it
Fun, easy way to grasp the History of the Universe
Nov 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: general-history
I honestly do not know how he does it. To have so much history pop off of the pages with such wit is astounding.
Sep 07, 2017 rated it liked it
Kind of inappropriate for a History book... like the "Hose joke"
Sep 23, 2017 rated it it was ok
A history of the universe, swathed in nauseatingly snide humanism.
Anthony Faber
Jan 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
If you like his stuff, you'll like this.
Dawn Livingston
got it, skimmed it, seemed fine but decided not to read it. probably not giving it a chance and I may try to read it another time. artwork was fine. very thick book and so it gets bonus points just for tackling such a huge subject.

Jul 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
It may sound absurd, but the Cartoon History of the Universe is a well-researched, well-organized, and thoroughly put together global history overview, plus it's incredibly entertaining. I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a fun, accessible chronological history book.

Cartoon History smoothly transitions and links various historical and scientific topics together, it doesn't go into high detail given the breadth of the subjects, but it does provide the reader with further suggested readin
Oct 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing
(The following is taken from a review of the first three books in Gonick's Cartoon History. The entire review can be found at

If I were being honest, I wouldn’t be able to include the first omnibus edition of Larry Gonick’s Cartoon History in this Cannonball, as I’ve read it enough to have dog ended every other page. If I were being really honest, I’d have to admit that the book was the only reason I passed my Western Civ classes in high school and college. But upon readi
Feb 07, 2011 rated it really liked it
The Cartoon History of the Universe is a whirlwind pictorial tour of thousands of years of history that is as hilarious as it is comprehensive. Hilarious: Helen of Troy is drawn with a duck face, as a nod to her origin as the by product of Leda and the Swan. Comprehensive: Gonick doesn't act like Western history starts with the Greeks. He traces the emergent civilizations and empires of the Sumerians, Egyptians, Persians, and many others.

While it is rather disheartening to look at just how many
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Larry Gonick (born 1946) is a cartoonist best known for The Cartoon History of the Universe, a history of the world in comic book form, which he has been publishing in installments since 1977. He has also written The Cartoon History of the United States, and he has adapted the format for a series of co-written guidebooks on other subjects, beginning with The Cartoon Guide to Genetics in 1983. The ...more

Other books in the series

Cartoon History of the Universe (3 books)
  • Cartoon History of the Universe II, Vol. 8-13: From the Springtime of China to the Fall of Rome
  • The Cartoon History of the Universe III: From the Rise of Arabia to the Renaissance