• The Human Cosmos

  • Civilization and the Stars
  • By: Jo Marchant
  • Narrated by: Jo Marchant
  • Length: 11 hrs and 25 mins
  • 4.7 out of 5 stars (140 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

A Best Book of 2020 NPR
A Best Book of 2020 The Economist
A Top 10 Best Science Book of 2020 Smithsonian
A Best Science & Technology Book of 2020 Library Journal
A Must-Read Book to Escape the Chaos of 2020 Newsweek
Starred review Booklist
Starred review Publishers Weekly

A historically unprecedented disconnect between humanity and the heavens has opened. Jo Marchant's book can begin to heal it.

For at least 20,000 years, we have led not just an earthly existence, but a cosmic one. Celestial cycles drove every aspect of our daily lives. Our innate relationship with the stars shaped who we are - our art, religious beliefs, social status, scientific advances, and even our biology. But over the last few centuries we have separated ourselves from the universe that surrounds us. It's a disconnect with a dire cost.

Our relationship to the stars and planets has moved from one of awe, wonder, and superstition to one where technology is king - the cosmos is now explored through data on our screens, not by the naked eye observing the natural world. Indeed, in most countries modern light pollution obscures much of the night sky from view. Jo Marchant's spellbinding parade of the ways different cultures celebrated the majesty and mysteries of the night sky is a journey to the most awe inspiring view you can ever see - looking up on a clear dark night. That experience and the thoughts it has engendered have radically shaped human civilization across millennia. The cosmos is the source of our greatest creativity in art, in science, in life.

To show us how, Jo Marchant takes us to the Hall of the Bulls in the caves at Lascaux in France, and to the summer solstice at a 5,000-year-old tomb at New Grange in Ireland. We discover Chumash cosmology and visit medieval monks grappling with the nature of time and Tahitian sailors navigating by the stars. We discover how light reveals the chemical composition of the sun, and we are with Einstein as he works out that space and time are one and the same. A four-billion-year-old meteor inspires a search for extraterrestrial life. The cosmically liberating, summary revelation is that star-gazing made us human.

©2020 Jo Marchant (P)2020 Penguin Audio
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

Critic Reviews

“Marchant charts the history of humanity’s fascination with the night sky and explores the way the stars have shaped art, faith, science and society, and what our modern disconnect from the stars has cost us.” (USA Today, “5 Books Not to Miss”)

 "A tour of the heavens that centers not so much on outer space as what it does to our inner beings...Readers interested in the cognitive aspects of cosmology will enjoy Marchant’s explorations." (Kirkus)

"This thematic, engaging overview of our stars and skies has something for all readers of geography, exploration, religion, philosophy, and politics" (Library Journal)

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What listeners say about The Human Cosmos

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This book has changed the way I think about my own mortality!

It may sound hyperbolic, but it is difficult to explain the profound d impact this book made on me. I cannot recommend it enough. Each chapter could be an entire book by itself. It has changed how I think about history, art, gods and demos, and of course, the Comos!

10 people found this helpful

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An integrated understanding of Reality

I will have to re-listen to Jo Marchant's master piece again!
With pen and paper to take notes, references,...
Or buy the paper version...
Ms Marchant offers a healing reconciliation of our subjective and pseudo-objective views of reality, the cosmos, our moment by moment ever present *prehension* of our self and our place in the all.
Also: must find out what else Jo wrote!

8 people found this helpful

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Entertaining and most informative

An entertaining walk through mankind’s fascination with the heavens from ancient times to the present. Jo Marchant writes and narrates with knowledge and enthusiasm.

3 people found this helpful

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Feels Right

Wow! A short but very well done history of the Cosmos and much more. Heartfelt but pleasant reading. She articulates facts and possibilities that feel so right, important for every one of us right now. High recommendation for thinkers and dreamers.

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Absolutely stunning

This book was absolutely stunning, so expansive and thorough. Jo Marchant is a brilliant mind, and also wonderful reader for her words - fascinating and so connective in how she brings various ideas together. I loved listening to this book and have also given it now to friends, highly recommended.

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A compelling and expansive book

This book serves to provide an expansive review of the nature of human interpretations of the cosmos, addressing philosophical, scientific, artistic and psychological perspectives. It describes the changing concepts of the luminaries in these fields, dating back to the shamans, Plato and up to the modernists and post-modernists/abstract expressionists. The narration by the author herself is well done and keeps one engaged.

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Without Awe What Are?

This book is incredible. Such a delight to listen to. If you consider yourself a polymath or a person just as comfortable and interested in the Buddha Mind and Newton’s law of gravity or Gnosticism and Astro-biology then this book is for you. As a collection of facts, I have to admit knowing a good deal of them, but there is something amazing and absolutely enlightening about the way the book is written and arranged. I feel as though I crossed over some bridge of pessimism and that this book has given me strength that I had forgotten or lost. Can’t say enough. Ending is superb.

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Good book. worth your time

Great book, until you get to the final chapter and it goes new agegy.

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Unique and thought provoking

Takes a different view of humanity’s interaction with the stars over thousands of years. Most people don’t even look up anymore from their screens to see the majesty and terror in the universe that surrounds them.

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So much more than I thought it was going to be

I'm really glad I picked this one up. It was way more than what I was expecting and I found it and enthralling.

Will definitely be listening to it more than once ☺️