Goodreads Monday: The Human Cosmos

Goodreads Monday is a weekly meme where we randomly select a book from our Goodreads To Be Read list and share it with the world. It’s been hosted by Lauren’s Page Turners, but I’m not sure if that blog is active anymore. Please enjoy this preview of what I want to read in the future!


The Human Cosmos: A Secret History of the Stars
by Jo Marchant
352 pages
Nonfiction/Science
Published September 1, 2020 by Dutton Books

From Goodreads: An 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 England. 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.


I’ve been fascinated by space for a long time. When I was a kd, I wanted to by an astrophysicist, until I started bashing my head against higher math (higher math won). But I still love looking up at the stars and reading about science, physics, and space. This sounds like it could be amazing, so I’ll give it a shot.

One thought on “Goodreads Monday: The Human Cosmos

  1. I don’t read as many science books as I once did, but I do still enjoy them, especially those about astronomy and cosmology. I like how this one sounds like it may not be just about what’s out there, but also how our interactions with and understanding of what’s out there has influenced us and what we make down here. Could be interesting, thanks for letting us know about it!

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