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  • Origin Story

  • A Big History of Everything
  • By: David Christian
  • Narrated by: Jamie Jackson
  • Length: 12 hrs and 23 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History, World
  • 4.6 out of 5 stars (81 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

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 bang through the present day - and even into the remote future? How would looking at the full span of time change the way we perceive the universe, the earth, and our very existence? 

These were the questions David Christian set out to answer when he created the field of "Big History", the most exciting new approach to understanding where we have been, where we are, and where we are going. In Origin Story, Christian takes readers on a wild ride through the entire 13.8 billion years we've come to know as "history". By focusing on defining events (thresholds), major trends, and profound questions about our origins, Christian exposes the hidden threads that tie everything together - from the creation of the planet to the advent of agriculture, nuclear war, and beyond. With stunning insights into the origin of the universe, the beginning of life, the emergence of humans, and what the future might bring, Origin Story boldly reframes our place in the cosmos.

©2018 David Christian (P)2018 Recorded Books

What listeners say about Origin Story

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Awesome

Comprehensive, looks for patterns and similarities, draws analogies, big picture thinking. Audiobook voice is also good.

3 people found this helpful

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Brilliant birds eye perspective on existence

Brilliant birds eye perspective on existence. The author does a remarkable job at covering a vast period of time in a way that keeps the reader engaged.

3 people found this helpful

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Both enjoyable and informative

Having read Sapiens I wondered whether I needed this. I thought it might be a bit repetitive. But this is a much vaster story. Beautifully written and read. I recommend you buy the book at the same time.

2 people found this helpful

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Absolutely crucial reading

How I wish this book could be adapted to become a core text in secondary schools so that young people could develop a fascination with our evolutionary origins and make sense of their own place in our extraordinary universe. The work is an absorbing new story of humanity that places us in the context of the ecosphere avoiding speciesist generalisations. I love the way the author talks of human intelligence to refer to the special linguistic gift of humankind whilst fully acknowledging animal intelligence and the complex wonder of organisms. Really enjoyed the narration too....

3 people found this helpful

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  • Ian
  • 02-10-2020

A superb book

I have read several Big History type books and never seem to tire of them. In this book David Christian casts a fresh perspective that is informative, easy to follow and thoroughly enjoyable. In particular the final chapter is a poignant and thought provoking challenge to all of us that I reread several times. This is a terrific book, very well narrated. I recommend it highly.

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Didn’t understand all of it but still enjoyable

Could do with taking a few minutes to explain the science around things (for us non science buffs) eg protons, electrons. Otherwise still enjoyable.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Diana
  • 15-08-2018

A great introduction into big history

The book takes you through what we understand as the beginning of the universe up to the creation of modern civilization. I myself can start to lose attention when big numbers are thrown out, but I wasn't too put off by the way they described our early universe. The evolution of big life, then hominid species, is when I really found it to get interesting. So if you find the beginning to be a little slow, I would advise you to stick with it. It's really worth it.

39 people found this helpful

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  • N. Weston
  • 29-07-2018

Really interesting

I really enjoyed this book and it held my attention the whole way through (although I was a little surprised by that to be honest). It is factual, apolitical and ended with some very thought provoking ideas. The narrator was excellent with just the right amount of energy and inflection for the book.

72 people found this helpful

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  • 11104
  • 05-09-2018

A brilliant achievement, must read/listen

This is the best and perhaps most important book I have read or listened to in a long time. We humans have a very poor sense of our place in the universe and this planet, of what a speck we are on the ocean of time. Origin Story places us in the context of, quite literally, the history of everything: the Big Bang, formation of galaxies, our star and our planet; the chemical, geological and biological development of the Earth; and where our species has come from, how it has transformed in an instant; and how our hurtling acceleration of technology and energy consumption may destroy us and our home. However, it also discusses how we can change our direction, possibly leading us to a brilliant future.

One of the main characters in this book is entropy, and entropy always wins in the end. Christian states that it will lead to the heat death of the universe, which he explains well. (I have read, however, that some scientists think that the ever faster expansion of the universe may lead to a Big Rip, in which the fabric of spacetime is literally shredded.)

The book is written with exceptional clarity and organization. There is limited scientific jargon and when technical terms are used, they are well explained. I recommend it to anyone who is interested in something more than the myopic vision of ourselves that is so prevalent.

92 people found this helpful

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  • Joe Klepacki
  • 07-08-2018

A Little Bit of Everything

After reading A Short History of Nearly Everything, I was worried this book may be a little repetitive. However, I was pleasantly surprised that this only built-on any prior tid bits and only made the reading more enjoyable.

24 people found this helpful

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  • Jefferson
  • 05-04-2020

Bracing Micro and Macro Views from a Mountain Top

After reading Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant (1885), which focuses mostly on Grant’s experience and understanding of the Civil War, I decided to try a different kind of history, one that casts a wider and more objective view than the history of an individual or a war or a country or an era or a world: David Christian’s Origin Story: A Big History of Everything (2018).

Christian teaches history via a series of “thresholds,” critical turning points in the “Big History of Everything,” starting with the Big Bang (13.8 billion years ago), the first stars (13.2 billion years ago), new elements (13.2 billion years ago), and our sun (4.5 billion years ago); working forwards through life on earth (3.8 billion years ago), the first large organisms (600 million years ago), the mass extinction of the dinosaurs (65 million years ago), Homo erectus (2 million years ago), Homo sapiens (200,000 years ago), the first farming (10,000 years ago), the first agrarian civilizations and cities (5,000 years ago), and the Fossil-fuels revolution (200 years ago); and concluding with a look at the future, the death of the sun (4.5 billion years from now) and the darkening of the universe (gazillions of years from now).

The last part, speculating on what is likely to happen if we continue our current trend of unsustainable growth, overuse of energy resources, and global warming and the chances of our being able to adopt a more stable and cooperative approach to growth, energy, and the biosphere, etc., is necessary reading.

The book as a whole is bracing in its micro and macro visions, for it reminds us of how miraculous life is (dependent on a set of “Goldilocks conditions” or rare perfect chances), how similar and related all organisms are (no matter how different they may superficially seem), and how tiny we and our earth and sun and galaxy are in the larger scheme of things.

Throughout, Christian explains complicated concepts simply and engagingly. We learn about how atoms are made, how molecules bond, how prokaryotes and eukaryotes differ, how photosynthesis made an oxygen boom later reined in by respiration, the role played by the molten core of the earth in plate tectonics and the surface temperature of the world, why foraging humans turned to farming and how the biosphere and humanity changed as a result, how erosion cycles carbon back into the earth, what will happen if (when?) the ice of the poles melts, how the fossil fuel revolution came about and how it has changed human civilizations, how stars are born and live and die, how black holes are formed and behave, and more and more and more. The book relates what scientists currently know about such things and how and when they came to know it and who first came to know it, and so on.

Sometimes Christian’s view “from a mountaintop instead of from the ground” can almost seem almost too detached when relating things like slavery and the exploitation of indigenous people, but overall it really makes you appreciate the miracle of living on our earth in the universe.

Jamie Jackson’s reading of the audiobook is fine.

5 people found this helpful

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  • ALW
  • 27-02-2019

Fine until the last few chapters

The book was fine with the excepion of the last few chapters which left Scince behind for pure opinion and speculation.

5 people found this helpful

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  • William F. McCann
  • 09-08-2018

Interesting but boring

is that an oxymoron? This book is a great introduction to the current thinking regarding creation of the universe and evolution of man. that said, it's pretty dry and a bit boring to listen to.

31 people found this helpful

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  • Rebecca Sokol
  • 03-08-2018

Interesting-Fascinating-Scary

An enjoyable book to remind us who we are and where we are going. All ages will profit from the lessons in this book. I did not agree with some of the conclusions reached, such as why hominids control the earth. I think the author falls short in his assessments of the other species with whom we share this planet.

12 people found this helpful

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  • washoearc@msn.com
  • 21-08-2019

Should be required reading in high school

This book clearly outlines our collective origin, reminding us that we all have a collective future. What happens to one state/nation/people, will affect us all. No way to get around it. Together, we can keep entropy at bay. Working at odds gives entropy the upper hand. Which will we choose?

2 people found this helpful

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  • Joanne Miller
  • 28-01-2019

Painful

I couldn't take it anymore. I kept hoping to gain some insight or learn something I did not know, didn't happen. I kept wondering who is the audience for this? I made it to near the end of modern times, was fed up, but thought I'd try the last chapter and see if there were redeeming qualities. I wasn't finding any so skipped most of it also.
I think everyone knows there is a carbon buildup and it is effecting weather. I doubt anyone will be doing anything about it. (Who knows, maybe if one of the super volcanoes under Yellowstone, Auckland, or the Amalfi Coast erupts we may be very glad we have the carbon buildup. It may lessen the volcanic winter. Or for that matter a nuclear winter?)
I have always thought we people act just like bacteria in a petri dish and will multiply until we not only deeply affect our environment but until we can no longer survive. Despite being blessed with many gifts, we are the engine of our own destruction.
I found this book VERY Euro and to a lesser extent Eurasian centered. It was almost laughable when a few tidbits about the Americas and the amazing cultures and advancements in agriculture there were thrown in. It was almost as if there were an effort to say "See I did cover it all" or as an afterthought.
I found the narrator to be very monotone. Sometimes the English pronunciation of terms through me at first which caused a discontinuity in what he was saying. If this were the only issue, it wouldn't have been a problem at all.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Gareth
  • 22-06-2018

A Very Good Effort

So the challenge to write a big history of everything must be a huge task. My knowledge of the topics covered in this book are elementary but I was seeking a consilience of thought.
David Christian has to be congratulated on his excellent attempt to achieve an almost impossible task. I found the reading and subject matter excellent. There were sometimes parts I didn't fully grasp but this is the joy of learning in so much that it stimulates one to research some more.
I have noticed on general book review sites there becomes almost an intellectual one- upmanship and a culture of "look at me I have a better knowledge than the author" by picking fault and quoting other books. Not into this game and for me what made this book superb was the theme of energy flows in natural systems a constant thread throughout.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Alexander e
  • 17-12-2018

Informative and well structured

Really didn’t expect the ending of this book to form the way it did, but it was much better than I could have expected.
Very well detailed conclusion

1 person found this helpful

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  • J. Drew
  • 24-03-2020

How we got to here

Most history books focus on recent events, military campaigns, kings and queens or political events. They also tend to focus only on events in the last 10,000 years or so. And most focus on events much more recently than that. What I loved about this book is that it starts with the moment the whole universe could be contained in a size less than the dot that finishes this sentence that began with all the light to the energy we needed to form a universe. The moment we now call the Big Bang occurred over 13 billion years ago. It uses this moment as the first threshold to explain the history of the origin of earth and moves through nine more thresholds to tell the story of how we got to here, right now. From this moment, it explains 4 forces including gravity, electromagnetic energy, and quantum mechanics that explain how everything comes together through simple laws of nature. But then explains how atoms work which then come together to form planets. And then 4 1/2 billion years ago, in a swirling dust cloud that formed our sun, shortly after all the planets of our solar system were born and we had the planet Earth. Then from planets and rocks, it then moves through life and mass extinctions (we’ve had at least 5 we know of - the last being the one to wipe out most of the dinosaurs [we still have some relatives of dinosaurs such as birds and chickens]). When it gets to Homo sapiens there is an Interesting moment when the human population was down to just a few ten thousand humans (enough to fill a moderate sized sports stadium) about 70,000 years ago. Our species came close to extinction, possible due to catastrophe that may have been triggered by a massive volcanic eruption on Mount Toba in Indonesia that pumped clouds of soot into the atmosphere, blocking photosynthesis for months or years and endangering many species. We survived and we now have 7.7billion people on the planet. However, all other species of upright ape have also become extinct. The threshold including timelines from billions of years and transformed into a 13 year time frame line to help us get an idea of the deep time is as follows (I always love using my arm to explain to people how much I would need to delete to wipe out the entire existence of humans who ever existed on this planet – it’s literally one swipe at a nail file across the nail of a finger of an outstretched arm or the removal of one layer of paint off the top of the Eiffel Tower):
THRESHOLD 1: Big bang: origin of our universe
13.8 billion years ago - 13 years, 8 months ago
THRESHOLD 2: The first stars begin to glow
13.2 (?) billion years ago - 13 years, 2 months ago
THRESHOLD 3: New elements forged in dying large stars
Continuously from threshold 2 to the present day
THRESHOLD 4: Our sun and solar system form
4.5 billion years ago - 4 years, 6 months ago
THRESHOLD 5: Earliest life on Earth
3.8 billion years ago - 3 years, 9 months ago
The first large organisms on Earth
600 million years ago - 7 months ago
An asteroid wipes oiit the dinosaurs
65 million years ago - 24 days ago
The hominin lineage splits from the chimp lineage
7 million years ago - 2.5 days ago
Homo erectus
2 million years ago - 17 hours ago
THRESHOLD 6; First evidence of our species, Homo sapiens
200,000 years ago - 100 minutes ago
THRESHOLD 7: End of last ice age, beginning of Holoceine, earliest signs of farming
10,000 years ago - 5 minutes ago
First evidence of cities, states, agrarian civilizations
5,000 years ago - 2.5 minutes ago
Roman and Han Empires flourish
2,000 years ago - 1 minute ago
World zones begin to be linked together
500 years ago - 15 seconds ago
THRESHOLD 8: Fossilfuels revoliition begins
200 years ago - 6 seconds ago
The Great Acceleration; humans land on the moon
50 years ago - 1.5 seconds ago
THRESHOLD 9 (?): The Future
A sustainable world order?
100 years in the future? - 3 seconds to go
The sun dies
4.5 billion years in the future - 4 years, 6 months to go

When it moves to the future, understanding the laws of nature to say what will happen to our planet and sun are easy to foretell. The mystery however, regarding the future, is it in the complexity and mystery of the nature of man. That is a much more difficult future to foretell. This is a wonderful book, and I look forward to thinking about this book a lot.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 06-07-2018

Not great

If you wish to know the history of everything, I cannot recommend A Brief History Of Everything by Bill Bryson enough, it explains almost everything in an informative, fun and interesting way.

1 person found this helpful

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