An expert chronicle of the Earth that culminates in human civilization.




A thoughtful history of our species as a product of 4 billion years of geology.

According to British astrobiologist Dartnell (Science Communication/Univ. of Westminster; The Knowledge: How to Rebuild Our World from Scratch, 2014), “to truly understand our own story we must examine the biography of the earth itself–its landscape features and underlying fabric, atmospheric circulation and climate regions, plate tectonics, and ancient episodes of climate change. In this book we’ll explore what our environment has done to us.” Indeed, the author largely ignores human creations or actions, including war, religion, technology, and government. Readers will encounter plenty of intriguing surprises. The study of plate tectonics, which produces earthquakes and volcanoes, is vital to understanding the rise of early civilizations. The earliest, from the Aztecs to those in Anatolia, Mesopotamia, and India, grew along fault lines that happen to be rich in water and fertile soil. “We are the children of plate tectonics,” writes Dartnell. For 80 to 90 percent of our existence, our planet was hotter than today; then, 50 million years ago, it began cooling. The Antarctic ice cap first appeared 35 million years ago, the Northern ice caps 15-20 million years later. East African jungles retreated, replaced by open grasslands that encouraged the diversity of hominins as well as the large herbivorous mammals they hunted. More than 2.5 million years ago, encouraged by variations in the Earth’s movement, glaciers began spreading south and then retreating in a dozen ice ages. We are currently enjoying a warm period of retreat, but the industrial burning of fossil fuels is leading to an uncertain future of increasing temperatures, acidic oceans, unstable weather, shifting rainfall patterns, and rising sea levels. Despite the inevitable gloomy conclusion, Dartnell is an engaging guide through millions of years of history.

An expert chronicle of the Earth that culminates in human civilization.

Pub Date: May 14, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5416-1790-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: Feb. 20, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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