13 May 2018

A Most Improbable Journey, by Walter Alvarez

Posted by Callan Bentley

As mentioned the week before last, Walter Alvarez has a new book out. I’ve read it. It’s good. It’s Alvarez’s take on what he calls “Big History” – the story that spans the cosmos, the Earth, life, and humanity. It’s pretty great for the reasons that Alvarez’s other books are excellent – his voice is calm, appreciative, and patient. His language is accessible and appropriate (though I will grouse that the audiobook version mispronounced some words and names, like “Tethys”). Alvarez’s narration of Big History comes across as vital, essential, and hidden in plain sight. His own research in Italy, and in unveiling the case for an extraterrestrial impact trigger for the end-Mesozoic extinction, features as part of this narrative, but it’s in no way the focus. He delights in all parts of the story, though his perspective and authority are principally in the Earth sciences, so most of the book is focused there. It’s a well-written account of what we know about what happened when and why. I found it very enjoyable, and occasionally enlightening. Recommended.