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Publisher's Summary

Random House presents the audiobook edition of Origins by Lewis Dartnell, read by John Sackville.

When we talk about human history, we focus on great leaders, mass migration and decisive wars. But how has the Earth itself determined our destiny? How has our planet made us?

As a species we are shaped by our environment. Geological forces drove our evolution in East Africa; mountainous terrain led to the development of democracy in Greece; and today voting behaviour in the United States follows the bed of an ancient sea. The human story is the story of these forces, from plate tectonics and climate change, to atmospheric circulation and ocean currents.

How are the Himalayas linked to the orbit of the Earth, and to the formation of the British Isles? By taking us billions of years into our planet’s past, Professor Lewis Dartnell tells us the ultimate origin story. When we reach the point where history becomes science we see a vast web of connections that underwrites our modern world and helps us face the challenges of the future.

From the cultivation of the first crops to the founding of modern states, Origins reveals the Earth’s awesome impact on the shape of human civilisations.

©2019 Lewis Dartnell (P)2019 Random House Audiobooks

What listeners say about Origins

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Awesome book

I absolutely loved this book, i learnt so much
Fantastic research done and great Narrator

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Perspective altering, food for the curious mind.

Brilliant! This is the perfect accompaniment to the authors previous book The Knowledge. Reading this will have you seeing value in everything that surrounds you. Everything has its worth but these books are priceless! As was the case with The Knowledge, I will be eating up Origins time and again. Thanks must be given to Dr Lewis for taking the time to dig up this treasure trove of information. His “Knowledge” of “Origins” will have you seeing the world we stand on with a whole new perspective.

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Fun pop geology

I hadn't studied geology or geography since the middle of high school, and listening to this book made me feel the lack. It places these subjects in a grand narrative of solar radiation and plate tectonics rather than as a collection of disconnected facts.

The first few chapters dealing with prehistory are probably the best - the later ones do occasionally wander into trivia, but even the trivia is pretty good. And the narrator has the perfect curious professor voice.

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l learned a lot, which is always a positive.

Very interesting. Narrator's voice soothing, I did sometimes drift off. Like being back at uni.

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Brilliant listen

A wonderfully written book, loved the narrator as well. It gave an insightful and interesting look at how nature has shaped us. When the last chapter finished I was keen to hear more, feel it could have done with another chapter to summarise all of its vast points. Not sure if this is different with the physical book but some aspects really needed a diagram or picture to understand especially when referring to geology (book may have these) but I found listening to it it was hard to follow some parts about sea currents etc. however highly recommend especially if you enjoyed sapiens by Yuval Harari as it has a similar feel but delves into different aspects of a similar story.

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  • Kano
  • 17-03-2022

Great Works from Mr. Dartnell.

Loved the book,it left me wondering about certain believes.
Mr. Dartnell was very informative.

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  • Dan
  • 10-06-2021

Fantastic

The perfect story, language and wording extraordinary and a balanced, focused and very much enjoyable narration - well, all in all, one of my top five books so far. Worth all the five stars. You should not miss the chance to listen to this. In short, just get this book.

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  • Adrian
  • 22-01-2020

Great book; unfortunate choice of narrator

I like Dartnell’s way of looking at the world. He’s always investigating how even the most seemingly mundane aspects of everyday life can be traced back to momentous events in big history. This book looks at how geological processes have shaped human (pre-)history, with a focus on geopolitics and the distribution of natural resources.

Having read a fair bit about the subject already, I went into this book with some reservations, fully prepared to find little beyond the usual pop-sci earth science (the Toba bottleneck hypothesis, the origins of British coal and Californian oil, etc). As it turns out, the book went into greater detail and covered more unfamiliar ground than I had expected, giving me several new topics to explore further. It does feel a little unstructured at times, but not enough to make it a difficult or frustrating read.

The one thing I really found tedious was the narrator. His tone and volume are both so low, and his articulation so indistinct, that he ends up sounding like a hungover Benedict Cumberbatch with a pillow over his face. I couldn’t make out half of the words being said when trying to play it over my car stereo, Bluetooth speakers, or non-ANC headphones. Only with ANC earplugs could I hear every word being said.

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  • "ben19"
  • 23-04-2020

Anthropology meets geography. Fascinating.

A fascinating incite into the role the earths geography and geology has played in human development. Anthropology is a topic I really enjoy learning about and this book is probably one of my favourites on it. The author makes complex subjects easy to digest and shows the link between seemingly unrelated things very effectively by regularly referencing points made in previous chapters.
I also liked the narrators voice, which as any audiobook listener will know, is important!
Will certainly listen to this one again in the future.

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  • Keith
  • 17-04-2019

Original

Quite an excellent discussion of our origins and history on the planet and how that came about due to features of the Earth itself. Where Sapiens followed our cognitive development and how that made us who we are, Origins follows how geological aspects of the planet brought us towards the major shifts in our civilization.

Perfectly read.

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  • Ramona S.
  • 04-04-2019

An origin history worth reading

Having read several origin or big history books this last year I can highly recommend this. Looking more closely at geography one can relate to each chapter well.

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  • jamin305
  • 15-09-2021

Disappointing and at times problematic…

For a book that promises a planetary perspective, Origins is steadfastly Eurocentric in its perspective. It eschews indigenous understandings of humanity’s relationship to the Earth and defaults to well-trodden, often out-dated narratives of human progress and Western civilisation. I was really excited by the premise but actually geological insight is thin on the ground and exciting new research is omitted despite being pertinent to the subject matter. The author presents a resolutely 20th century paradigm, using old-fashioned framings without question (for example “old world/new world”) and spending long chapters describing the advance of capitalism in hallowed terms. The result is a book that gets tangled up in its own conceit. This is less ‘How the Earth Made Us” and more “How The Earth Bestowed the Gifts of Capitalism Upon Western Civilisation.” The fact that iron and coal deposits are often found together, for example, is described as a “two for the price one” deal.

Worse still, there are a few problematic propositions scattered here and there. The authors suggestion that the North American horse species “probably” died out as a result of “over-hunting by early humans” is unscientific at best and the subsequent conclusion that “first Americans (had) unwittingly hobbled the development of civilisation across their continent” comes with an unpleasant insinuation. My least favourite sentence was the one that conjectured that Afrikaans is still spoken in South Africa “because of the roaring forties.” That prevailing winds might be even vaguely responsible for European colonialism and all its brutalities verges on apologism.

Whilst I’m sure all readers will enjoy the section which concerns the planetary forces that led to a drying in East Africa that may have accelerated the appearance of new species in the region, it was all too brief and lacked analysis. This book will not age well and there is plenty of far more exciting content on this subject that deserves your attention for more.

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  • steve hunter
  • 19-05-2020

fantastic

immensely interesting and thought provoking throughout
most enjoyed book for a long time
well read as well

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  • Fan
  • 22-06-2022

Awesome book

loved it from start to finish. I learned so much about the earth and human evolution.

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  • Anthony Tallis
  • 07-03-2022

Interesting but…

Whilst there were learnings in how humanity has been shaped by our environment the book a bit repetitive, revisiting the same points with the air of a Channel 5 documentary.

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  • L. S. Douglas
  • 07-02-2022

Absolute must for all inquisitive minds

A good blend of history, geography and science which is easily digestible. I wish I had this as a resource when I was at secondary school 25 years ago. Puts into perspective how small we are in the great history of our planet.

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  • Mrs L.
  • 04-02-2022

Fascinating

if you're interested in the history of the Earth itself, the history and development of humankind, and how the two stories interact, you should enjoy this book. How the Earth made us, and what we have done with her gifts, is entertainingly examined here.

it is well and carefully read by John Sackville although, as he is deftly spoken, it's not advisable to listen well into the evening ... although, drifting off into a doze is an excellent excuse for starting a chapter again!

As if excuse were needed...

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 07-07-2021

Brilliant!

I loved this book. the subject matter is utterly fascinating and the writing is accessible, light and easily absorbed. This book would make a wonderful TV documentary series

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