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The Ends of the World: Volcanic Apocalypses, Lethal Oceans, and Our Quest to Understand Earth's Past Mass Extinctions Hardcover – June 13, 2017

4.6 out of 5 stars 443 ratings

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Editorial Reviews


“[Brannen] is a companionable guide, as good at breathing life into the fossilized prose of scientific papers as he is at conjuring the Ordovician reign of the nautiloids.” (New York Times Book Review)

“Gripping . . . Brannen excels at evoking lost worlds.” (The New Yorker)

“Clear-eyed, urgent, and eloquent. . . . Brannen offers an important education, making an argument for how better understanding what’s happened can help us determine how to move forward.” (Boston Globe)

“Timely to say the least . . . with grace and wit, [Brannen] makes a compelling case that recognizing our fortune and coming to terms with our fragility means consciousness prevails in the universe. We are still capable of changing the way we live.” (Paste Magazine)

“A remarkable journey into the deep past that has much to teach us about the future of our planet.” (The Guardian)

“Masterful . . . might be just the book to give to that uncle of yours who still wants to argue about climate change (or even to your US Representative). But first, read it yourself. It’s a page turner.” (Ars Technica)

“If readers have time for only one book on the subject, this wonderfully written, well-balanced, and intricately researched (though not too dense) selection is the one to choose.” (Library Journal (Starred Review))

“Revealing . . . Effectively link[s] past and present, [while] wind[ing] down with projections for the future and a warning against inaction in the face of climate change.” (Publishers Weekly)

“A simultaneously enlightening and cautionary tale of the deep history of our planet and the possible future. . . . . entertaining and informative on the geological record and the researchers who study it. . . . a useful addition to the popular literature on climate change.” (Kirkus)

“Much-needed as a cautionary lesson and a hopeful demonstration of how life on Earth keeps rebounding from destruction.” (Booklist)

From the Back Cover

A vivid tour of Earth’s Big Five mass extinctions, the past worlds lost with each, and what they all can tell us about our not-too-distant future

Was it really an asteroid that killed the dinosaurs? Or carbon dioxide–driven climate change? In fact, scientists now suspect that climate change played a major role, not only in the end of the age of dinosaurs, but also in each of the five most deadly mass extinctions in the history of the planet. Struck by the implications of this for our own future, Peter Brannen, along with some of the world’s leading paleontologists, dives into deep time, exploring each of Earth’s five dead ends, and in the process, offers us a glimpse of what’s to come.

Using the visible clues these extinctions have left behind in the fossil record, The Ends of the World takes us inside the “scenes of the crime,” from South Africa’s Karoo Desert to the New York Palisades, to tell the story of each extinction. Brannen examines the fossil record—which is rife with fantastic creatures like dragonflies the size of seagulls and guillotine-mouthed fish—and introduces us to the researchers on the frontlines who, using the forensic tools of modern science, are piecing together what really happened at the sites of Earth’s past devastations.  

As our civilization continues to test the wherewithal of our climate, we need to figure out where the hard limits are before it’s too late. Part road trip, part history, and part cautionary tale, The Ends of the World takes us on a tour of the ways that our planet has clawed itself back from the grave, allowing us to better understand our future by shining a light on our past.

Product details

  • Item Weight : 1.2 pounds
  • Hardcover : 336 pages
  • ISBN-10 : 0062364804
  • ISBN-13 : 978-0062364807
  • Product Dimensions : 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • Publisher : Ecco; First Edition (June 13, 2017)
  • Language: : English
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.6 out of 5 stars 443 ratings

Customer reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5
443 global ratings
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Top reviews from the United States

Reviewed in the United States on June 27, 2017
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Reviewed in the United States on July 11, 2017
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Reviewed in the United States on January 3, 2019
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Reviewed in the United States on June 1, 2017
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Top reviews from other countries

3.0 out of 5 stars This is a book about science.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on August 29, 2019
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3 people found this helpful
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Patricia Finney
5.0 out of 5 stars This is how tough Lady Earth (the planetary organism) is.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on October 13, 2019
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One person found this helpful
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John B Cooper
5.0 out of 5 stars Science writing for the fiction fan.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on October 21, 2017
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7 people found this helpful
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Mr. Peter Young
4.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on June 25, 2020
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Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Always enjoy reading about deep time.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on August 28, 2019
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One person found this helpful
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