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Good Reads  Reference  Physical Sciences  Popular Science

A Series of Fortunate Events Chance and the Making of the Planet, Life, and You

Popular Science Coming Soon
By: Sean B Carroll(Author)
214 pages, 40 b/w photos and b/w illustrations, 1 table
A Series of Fortunate Events
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  • A Series of Fortunate Events ISBN: 9780691201757 Hardback Oct 2020 Usually dispatched within 5 days
  • A Series of Fortunate Events ISBN: 9780691234694 Paperback Feb 2022 Available for pre-order : Due Feb 2022
Selected version: £17.99
About this book Customer reviews Biography Related titles

About this book

Why is the world the way it is? How did we get here? Does everything happen for a reason or are some things left to chance? Philosophers and theologians have pondered these questions for millennia, but startling scientific discoveries over the past half century are revealing that we live in a world driven by chance. A Series of Fortunate Events tells the story of the awesome power of chance and how it is the surprising source of all the beauty and diversity in the living world.

Like every other species, we humans are here by accident. But it is shocking just how many things had to happen in certain ways for any of us to exist, any of which might never have occurred. From an extremely improbable asteroid impact, to the wild gyrations of the Ice Age, to invisible accidents in our parents' gonads, we are all here though an astonishing series of fortunate events. And chance continues to reign every day over the razor-thin line between our life and death.

This is a relatively small book about a really big idea. It is also a spirited tale. Drawing inspiration from Monty Python, Kurt Vonnegut, and other great thinkers, and crafted by one of today's most accomplished science storytellers, A Series of Fortunate Events is an irresistibly entertaining and thought-provoking account of one of the most important but least appreciated facts of life.

Customer Reviews


Sean B. Carroll is an award-winning scientist, writer, educator, and film producer. He is Vice President for Science Education at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Balo-Simon Chair of Biology at the University of Maryland. His books include The Serengeti Rules (Princeton), Brave Genius, and Remarkable Creatures, which was a finalist for the National Book Award. He lives in Chevy Chase, Maryland.

Popular Science Coming Soon
By: Sean B Carroll(Author)
214 pages, 40 b/w photos and b/w illustrations, 1 table
Media reviews

"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

"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

"In 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

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