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A Series of Fortunate Events: Chance and the Making of the Planet, Life, and You Hardcover – October 6, 2020

4.4 out of 5 stars 279 ratings

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From the Publisher

Editorial Reviews


"Longlisted for the PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award, PEN America"

"One of Waterstones' Books of the Year 2020: Popular Science"

"Longlisted for the AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize for Excellence in Science Books for Young Adults"

"The role of happenstance in determining the fate of the world may seem a matter for philosophy more than science, but Carroll, a biologist, shows how central the idea is to everyday existence." ―
New York Times Book Review

"With conversational wit, Carroll encourages us to embrace the randomness of the world."
---Scott Hershberger, Scientific American

"The Yucatan asteroid is an epic example of the sheer randomness which, as Sean B. Carroll argues in this short but thought-provoking book, rules both the universe and our own lives."
---Nick Rennison, Daily Mail

"Carroll takes readers on an entertaining tour of biological discovery that emphasizes the dominant role played by chance in shaping the conditions for life on Earth. Along the way, he provides insights and humor that make the book a quick, lively read that both educates and entertains. . . . Books such as this remind us to make our unlikely time here count."
---Ivor Knight, Science

"Carroll’s work renders hefty topics accessible, exploring the perfect storm of events responsible for evolution, the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs and every living person’s conception."
---Meilan Solly, Smithsonian Magazine

"It is to biologist Sean B. Carroll’s credit that he’s found a way of taking a puzzle that could easily fill volumes (and probably has filled volumes), and presenting it to us in a slim, non-technical, and fun little book."
---Dan Falk, Undark

"A history book about humanity told with wit and style."
---John Brandon, Forbes

"A short, sweet, and scientifically solid view of life." ―
Kirkus, starred review

"I couldn’t put it down. If you’re at all interested in science, you’ll keep turning these pages."
---Flora Taylor, American Scientist

"If you enjoyed Bill Bryson's
A Short History of Nearly Everything, you'll like this breezy, equally amusing trip through time. . . . A stellar little book about science.""---Jenny Nicholls, Waiheke Weekender

"In Carroll, three traits that are rare in themselves conjoin in an even rarer alignment: a command of multiple scientific fields, an unrivaled ability to clearly explain complex scientific concepts, and a deep instinct for storytelling. It is only fitting that such an unlikely combination produced
A Series of Fortunate Events, since this discipline-spanning, highly engaging volume is all about the unlikely combinations that gave rise to all life, to the human species, and to each of us as unique individuals."---Barbara N. Horowitz, The Quarterly Review of Biology

"Entertaining and informative, Carroll’s latest is a real eye-opener."
---Nick Smith, Engineering & Technology

"Golf games, coincidental immunity, and pandemics:
A Series of Fortunate Events ranges from examining trivial events to sobering ones, but remains relevant throughout, revealing how chance affects everyday life."---Rebecca Foster, Foreword Reviews

"Entertaining and informative,
Carroll’s latest is a real eye-opener."---Dr Alyson Hitch, The Bay

"This book lays bare how often unpredictable events have shaped our world; it educates, engages, and entertains."
---R. M. Denome, Choice

"A short and charming book that will give you a new appreciation of the vagaries of life and their influence."
---Ian Simmons, Fortean Times

"This is an accessible and fun book but be forewarned that it might leave you wanting more. Personally, I take that as a good sign."
---Leon Vlieger, The Inquisitive Biologist


“Fascinating and exhilarating―Sean B. Carroll at his very best.”―Bill Bryson, author of The Body: A Guide for Occupants

"Profound, witty, and funny―this book will change the way you see yourself, and the universe, forever."
―Alice Roberts, author of The Incredible Unlikeliness of Being

“With equal measure of scientific authority, lively storytelling, and a profoundly optimistic view of the future,
A Series of Fortunate Events is the rare science book that reads like a guilty pleasure. Writing with deep insight and great humor, Carroll educates, entertains, and inspires.”―B. N. Horowitz, MD, coauthor of Wildhood: The Epic Journey from Adolescence to Adulthood in Humans and Other Animals

A Series of Fortunate Events, Sean Carroll pulls off a remarkable feat. He handles the 'Big Question'―the role of chance in the making of our bodies and our planet―with wit and scientific rigor. Carroll treats us to a tour of Earth history, DNA, cancer, and evolution that is awe-inspiring, urgent, and even at times laugh-out-loud funny."―Neil Shubin, paleontologist and author of Your Inner Fish

A Series of Fortunate Events is an engaging blend of science and culture, written in Carroll's usual easygoing style. Highly recommended!"―Matthew Cobb, author of The Idea of the Brain: The Past and Future of Neuroscience
Always the perfect gift

Product details

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Princeton University Press (October 6, 2020)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 224 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 0691201757
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0691201757
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 13.6 ounces
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 5.75 x 0.75 x 8.5 inches
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.4 out of 5 stars 279 ratings

About the author

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SEAN B. CARROLL is an award-winning scientist, author, executive producer and educator.

A prominent science communicator in print, on radio, and on film, Carroll is the author of:

A SERIES OF FORTUNATE EVENTS: Chance and the Making of the Planet, Life, and You

THE SERENGETI RULES: The Quest to Discover How Life Works and Why It Matters;

BRAVE GENIUS: A Scientist, A Philosopher, and Their Daring Adventures from the French Resistance to the Nobel Prize

REMARKABLE CREATURES: Epic Adventures in the Search for the Origins of Species, which was a finalist for the 2009 National Book Award for non-fiction

THE MAKING OF THE FITTEST: DNA and the Forensic Record of Evolution; and

ENDLESS FORMS MOST BEAUTIFUL: The New Science of Evo Devo (2005, W.W. Norton).

Several of his books and stories have been adapted to film, including the EMMY-nominated SERENGETI RULES.

Carroll himself also an EMMY-winning executive producer of more than a dozen feature theatrical, broadcast, or IMAX films including THE FARTHEST, AMAZON ADVENTURE, and OLIVER SACKS: HIS OWN LIFE.

He heads HHMI's Tangled Bank Studios and leads the Department of Science Education of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the largest private supporter of science education activities in the US, and is the Andrew and Mary Balo and Nicholas and Susan Simon Endowed Chair of Biology at the University of Maryland. He is also Professor Emeritus of Genetics and Molecular Biology at the University of Wisconsin.

Customer reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5
279 global ratings

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Top reviews from other countries

3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but not groundbreaking
Reviewed in Germany 🇩🇪 on November 11, 2020
3.0 out of 5 stars Not a definitive book
Reviewed in Spain 🇪🇸 on April 15, 2022
Janis Taylor-Lee
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome read!
Reviewed in Canada 🇨🇦 on August 21, 2021