10 books like A Most Improbable Journey

By Walter Alvarez,

Here are 10 books that authors have personally recommended if you like A Most Improbable Journey. Shepherd is a community of 7,000+ authors sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Guns, Germs and Steel

By Jared Diamond,

Book cover of Guns, Germs and Steel: A short history of everybody for the last 13,000 years

Guns. Germs and Steel is an absolutely thrilling ride through world history in pursuit of the deepest answers to the question: why was it that European powers came to dominate those of the Americas from the sixteenth century, and not vice versa. The book was awarded the Pulitzer Prize and is a cracking example of what has come to be known as ‘Big History’.

Guns, Germs and Steel

By Jared Diamond,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Guns, Germs and Steel as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


The Human Web

By J.R. McNeill, William H. McNeill,

Book cover of The Human Web: A Bird's-Eye View of World History

The historian William McNeill studied the effects on world history of diseases and contact between different civilizations; ideas which have been hugely influential on other books such as Guns, Germs and Steel (above). In this book, he teams up with his son John, to deliver one of the best overviews of the grand themes and trends within human history that I’ve read.

The Human Web

By J.R. McNeill, William H. McNeill,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Human Web as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

World-historical questions such as these, the subjects of major works by Jared Diamond, David Landes, and others, are now of great moment as global frictions increase. In a spirited and original contribution to this quickening discussion, two renowned historians, father and son, explore the webs that have drawn humans together in patterns of interaction and exchange, cooperation and competition, since earliest times. Whether small or large, loose or dense, these webs have provided the medium for the movement of ideas, goods, power, and money within and across cultures, societies, and nations. From the thin, localized webs that characterized agricultural communities…


Prisoners of Geography, 1

By Tim Marshall,

Book cover of Prisoners of Geography, 1: Ten Maps That Explain Everything about the World

This book has helped me to frame my own experiences of travel and how to write about other countries. In his wry, low-key, non-academic style, Marshall sweeps through history, arguing persuasively that geography—mountain ranges, seas, rivers, deserts, and so on—has been key to the rise and fall of empires and nations. Mountains form a natural barrier, not only to migration and commerce, but to invading armies; open plains make the movement of people, goods, and armies easier. Many national borders, especially those of former European colonies, are artificial and, unprotected by natural barriers, consequently fragile. Marshall, who has reported on conflicts in the Balkans, Afghanistan, and the Middle East, breaks down geopolitics in clear and simple terms, with insightful chapters on countries and regions.

Prisoners of Geography, 1

By Tim Marshall,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Prisoners of Geography, 1 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this New York Times bestseller, an award-winning journalist uses ten maps of crucial regions to explain the geo-political strategies of the world powers—“fans of geography, history, and politics (and maps) will be enthralled” (Fort Worth Star-Telegram).

Maps have a mysterious hold over us. Whether ancient, crumbling parchments or generated by Google, maps tell us things we want to know, not only about our current location or where we are going but about the world in general. And yet, when it comes to geo-politics, much of what we are told is generated by analysts and other experts who have neglected…


Maps of Time

By David Christian,

Book cover of Maps of Time: An Introduction to Big History

Few thinkers have done more to advance and popularize the discipline of Big History in recent years than David Christian. He coined the term and has worked with Bill Gates to deliver Big History teaching to high school students around the world. The book I’ve picked out here is a little more academic and detailed than the others, and provides a really solid overview of this approach to integrating large-scale history from the Big Bang to the present. 

Maps of Time

By David Christian,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Maps of Time as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An introduction to a new way of looking at history, from a perspective that stretches from the beginning of time to the present day, "Maps of Time" is world history on an unprecedented scale. Beginning with the Big Bang, David Christian views the interaction of the natural world with the more recent arrivals in flora and fauna, including human beings. Cosmology, geology, archeology, and population and environmental studies - all figure in David Christian's account, which is an ambitious overview of the emerging field of 'Big History.' "Maps of Time" opens with the origins of the universe, the stars and…


Earthshake

By Lisa Westberg Peters, Cathie Felstead (illustrator),

Book cover of Earthshake: Poems from the Ground Up

Humor and poetry brought to the natural wonders of earth? Wow! This book has twenty-two poems such as “Recipe for Granite,” “Obituary for a Clam” and “Instructions for the Earth’s Dishwasher.” A favorite is a plea for a glacier, so sluggish and slow. “Just once, when no one is looking, peel out!” The illustrations are bright and fun and the endnotes provide extra information.

Earthshake

By Lisa Westberg Peters, Cathie Felstead (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Earthshake as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


Children's Encyclopedia of Earth

By Michael Allaby,

Book cover of Children's Encyclopedia of Earth

This book stands as one of the last great paper encyclopedias created for children in this day and age of digital searches, and that is what I love about it. As you leaf through its pages, it is reminiscent of turning the stone pages of our own planet’s 4.6 billion-year-old story, featuring the evolution of life, culminating in us! This beautifully illustrated and written encyclopedia presents the most up-to-date information about planet Earth in a style and format designed for children, but which will appeal to a wide range of readers. With hundreds of photographs, illustrations, diagrams, and maps, it presents an impressive overview of our globe—beginning with the history of the universe and ending with today's conservation issues. A truly spectacular reference. 

Children's Encyclopedia of Earth

By Michael Allaby,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Children's Encyclopedia of Earth as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

How do twisters form? What makes lightening strike? Why are tropical rain forests the lungs of our planet? Curious kids want to know everything about their planet. They’ll find the answers to their questions here, as they investigate our world from its core to its cosmic connections.


The Story of Earth

By Robert M. Hazen,

Book cover of The Story of Earth: The First 4.5 Billion Years, from Stardust to Living Planet

Written with the clarity and zest of Bryson and McPhee, but with the added benefit that Hazen is a professional geologist. I like this book because of how Hazen takes the reader into the process of how a geologist works and thinks. Hazen’s specialty is mineralogy, and his main thesis—that living organisms and minerals evolved together with each shaping the other’s future—makes for a unique and thought-provoking take on the history of our planet. 

The Story of Earth

By Robert M. Hazen,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Story of Earth as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Hailed by The New York Times for writing "with wonderful clarity about science . . . that effortlessly teaches as it zips along," nationally bestselling author Robert M. Hazen offers a radical new approach to Earth history in this intertwined tale of the planet's living and nonliving spheres. With an astrobiologist's imagination, a historian's perspective, and a naturalist's eye, Hazen calls upon twenty-first-century discoveries that have revolutionized geology and enabled scientists to envision Earth's many iterations in vivid detail-from the mile-high lava tides of its infancy to the early organisms responsible for more than two-thirds of the mineral varieties beneath…


Life. An Unauthorized Biography. A Natural History of the First Four Thousand Million Years of Life on Earth

By Richard Fortey,

Book cover of Life. An Unauthorized Biography. A Natural History of the First Four Thousand Million Years of Life on Earth

In this magisterial view of life’s progress, the author, a paleontologist, guides readers through its expansions and setbacks caused by the Earth’s ever-changing geological environments. This is no sterile account. Published in an excellent format, the writer’s travels and studies, and efforts of others, in uncovering past life are supported by vivid writing and splendid images. The book depicts landscape and submarine scenes of fossil finds, the creatures themselves, their relationships, and amazing reconstructions of past collective life scenes. 

In describing life from its primitive start through its explorative passages to human advent, the book opens up and pieces together the grandest story on Earth. 

Life. An Unauthorized Biography. A Natural History of the First Four Thousand Million Years of Life on Earth

By Richard Fortey,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Life. An Unauthorized Biography. A Natural History of the First Four Thousand Million Years of Life on Earth as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A magisterial exploration of the natural history of the first four thousand million years of life on and in the earth, by one of Britain's most dazzling science writers.

What do any of us know about the history of our planet before the arrival of man? Most of us have a dim impression of a swirling mass of dust solidifying to form a volcanic globe, briefly populated by dinosaurs, then by woolly mammoths and finally by our own hairy ancestors. This book, aimed at the curious and intelligent but perhaps mildly uninformed reader, brilliantly dispels such lingering notions forever. At…


A Geologist Speculates

By John M. Saul,

Book cover of A Geologist Speculates

Here, a seasoned geologist gathers several themes of his research interests, poses critical questions on apparent anomalies within them, and considers their resolution. He does this by giving free rein to informed lateral thinking on these topics. This produces an unusual book in the annals of geological writing, presenting thought-provoking and rewarding reading.

The thematic chapters are written in a fluent expression of the concepts involved, reinforced through a range of illustrative means. There are superb photographs of gems, minerals, and rocks as specimens and rocky exposures from many sources. Geological diagrams underpin explanations, superimposed maps highlight large-scale geological structures, and even images of paintings, historical scenes, postcards, and stamps reinforce particular points. The closing sections enter the realms of life on Earth, seen as coordinated biological and geological evolution. 

A Geologist Speculates

By John M. Saul,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Geologist Speculates as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

How did the Earth get its gemstones? · How did the Earth get its oil and gas? · What happened to the Earth's moonlike impact craters? · Why did it take 80% of the Earth's history for complex animals to emerge? · Do Darwinian principles apply to absolutely all creatures?


Principles of Geology

By Sir Charles Lyell,

Book cover of Principles of Geology

Lyell’s Principles, though published almost 190 years ago, is a masterful argument for the veracity of deep time. Drawing on his skills as a lawyer as much as his scientific perceptions, Lyell lays out the case for the power of gradual processes operating over vast expanses of time to change the face of our planet. His lucid, compelling case that “the present is key to the past” greatly influenced many subsequent discoveries, including Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. And, happily, various editions are freely available in facsimile on the web.

Principles of Geology

By Sir Charles Lyell,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Principles of Geology as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One of the key works in the nineteenth-century battle between science and Scripture, Charles Lyell's Principles of Geology (1830-33) sought to explain the geological state of the modern Earth by considering the long-term effects of observable natural phenomena. Written with clarity and a dazzling intellectual passion, it is both a seminal work of modern geology and a compelling precursor to Darwinism, exploring the evidence for radical changes in climate and geography across the ages and speculating on the progressive development of life. A profound influence on Darwin, Principles of Geology also captured the imagination of contemporaries such as Melville, Emerson,…


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