Cover Image: A (Very) Short History of Life on Earth

A (Very) Short History of Life on Earth

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Member Reviews

The content of “A (Very) Short History of Life on Earth” by Henry Gee was fine. Interesting and relatively engaging, bearing in mind that this is not a light read. Rather, it’s more scholarly.

For me personally, when I have a scholarly audiobook, it would be better if I had a print copy to follow along with. It deepens my understanding more, so if you’re like me, I’d recommend having a print version too, for optimal retention and comprehension.

I have a very strong opinion on the sound effects in the audiobook. I’d prefer them to be eliminated entirely. They either didn’t add to the book at all, or detracted from the content. Example: The loud chewing sound of a dinosaur tearing into flesh and the wails of a baby.

This is no fault of the author, but dang, books about the earth’s history can be depressing! The last chapter is all about how humans will go extinct, and you can have a little hope, but not a lot. I mean, I know that’s the way it’s going, but this book is about the history of the earth, not the future! 

I know, I know - they’re intertwined. The past was, at one point, the future. Just know that the last chapter can be deeply discouraging, so queue up a feel-good movie or book after you’re done reading/listening!

Thank you Netgalley, for the opportunity to listen to this audiobook.
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Pretty much as advertised in the title.  Pithy but very well written and interesting chapters n the history of life on Earth, with a big focus on the adaptations that helped creatures thrive and the environmental changes (magma plumes! ice ages!  new forests sucking plants from the atmosphere!) that led to mass extinctions.  It's always hard to understand geological time scales; a million years just seems so difficult to fathom.  But Gee does a good job of walking us through what know about so long ago.  Particular highlights are his discussion of the incredibly different anatomy of plants/"trees" in the Carboniferous forests (they were hollow! and didn't rot because more forest floor insects didn't exist yet!), the ways in which tectonics have shaped the plant, the details of our now extinct hominid relatives, and a discussion of what comes in the next several million years.  Gee sees human existence as a mere blip in the planet's history, which is simultaneously off putting and bracing (I mean, yeah.  We've only been around for 500,000 years or so) and even more of an existential slap in the face is his mater of fact statements that humans will be extinct in a relatively short time by geologic standards (most large animals don't seem to last more than a million years). But life will go on and once Earth can no longer support any life at all, the universe will go on.  Pretty humbling and made me want to both hug my kids and just marvel that we get to be here to be reflective on this amazing universe.
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This book is exactly as described. It is a rapid retelling of the entire history of, well, everything. From the big bang, to bacteria, to you and me. And even, the of life one day. I listened to the audiobook, and it was really nice to listen to during my commute. The author narrates it himself, and he really has the perfect voice for narration. The audiobook has some quick audio effects usually reflecting whatever "scene" he's describing. If you love science like I do, you will love this. I am very excited to read other books from this author. 

Thank you netgalley and Macmillan audio for giving me an advanced review copy of this audiobook in exchange for an honest review.
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I learned a lot with this book. Considering this was just a short history, it really has interested me in learning more! Which I am sure was the intention. It is clearly evident that the author did a lot of research. The information was entertaining, fascinating, and unbiased. I am a huge fan and would love to read more of the author’s work. 

The one odd part was the sound effects. At first they were fun. Then it just became extremely distracting. In particular chapter 6. It was a bit too much to have clown music. Sometimes the sound effects just didn’t work, and this was the biggest example I could give.
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This book was interesting, but it was a little dry for me. I guess I expected more humor and pithiness. In reality, it was really just an abbreviated history of life on earth. Ha. Don't get me wrong, the information was awesome, and I actually learned some things, so I would recommend it to anyone wanting to learn more about evolution. 

However, if you're looking for something funny and witty, this may not be the book for you. It's not nearly as humorous as I thought it was going to be from the title and description. 

Also, this narrator is FANTASTIC to fall asleep to, and I don't mean that he's boring. He isn't. He just has this great David Attenborough like voice that keeps you interested when you want to be interested and lulls you to sleep when you want to relax and unwind. 

I enjoyed the book overall, but again, it wasn't quite what I was expecting it to be.
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A (Very) Short History of Life on Earth is a brief look at the last few billion years of Earth's history and the creatures that call it home. This reminded me of the most interesting parts of an evolutionary biology class that I had in college, condensed into just a few hours time (and at a small small fraction of the cost). 

The author repeats in several sections of the book: "and beneath it all, the Earth changed". This phrase, while simple, captures the essence of a changing place that continually remodels itself and the organisms living on its surface and in its waters every few million years. 

This is a great book for anyone like me, who loves walking through the best parts of the natural history museum but doesn't stop to read every detail for every piece on display. The author does a great job of pointing out many remarkable facts, developments, and changes that inspire awe in the Earth and its organisms.
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I really wanted to enjoy this audiobook. And I really think that I would have enjoyed it, had one detail been absent: the sound effects. Throughout the audiobook there are low quality, silly sound effects that are far too prevalent and far too present in the audio mix. I almost quit listening several times per day. It's sad, because it ruined some interesting information.
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This book gives a fascinating and easily understandable overview of the rise and progress of life on Earth. It's a must-read for anyone interested in this topic. 

The sound effects in the audiobook did not, in my opinion, enhance the experience. I listen to audiobooks so I can multitask, not because I want a multimedia experience. The narration itself was excellent. 

Thanks, NetGalley, for the ARC I received. This is my honest and voluntary review.
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This review is going to have two parts. I listened to the audiobook version. 
The way the book is formatted you move forward through time with the Earth as it starts out in the earliest and then move forward. Each chapter is nicely grouped and none stand out as being overwhelming or unnecessary. I loved that as he moved through the evolution Henry Gee didn’t just focus on the animal life, he looked at the plant life as well. There were interesting facts I didn’t know and none of the science was too technical. There was always an explanation to help the layman to understand subjects they might not have encountered.
However, I was listening to the book, and not reading it, and this is where the experience really fell short for me. There was a constant barrage of sound effects through the reading that distracted and did not add to the book. During Chapter 7 in a section talking about the difference between how dinosaurs and mammals cooled themselves there was a nonstop wooshing sound that made it difficult to hear the words. It was also a juxtaposition of such scientific and professional topics with childish production. There were fart sounds and at one point talking about homo erectus’ estrus there are kissing sounds. The text of the book is fine from what I could tell, read it and enjoy, the audiobook I would not recommend to anyone. That is the reason why I gave it 2 stars. Thank you to NetGalley and St Martin’s Press for the copy of this audiobook.
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This is not my usual pick to read but I really enjoyed this! It’s a quick listen and really well done. Definitely would recommend someone to read this. It’s exactly what the title says it is. The narration is good as well.
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