Synopses & Reviews
“Why is there a world rather than nothing at all?” remains the darkest and most enduring of all metaphysical mysteries. Following in the footsteps of Christopher Hitchens, Roger Penrose, and even Stephen Hawking, Jim Holt now enters this fractious debate with his lively and deeply informed narrative that traces the latest efforts to grasp the origins of the universe. The slyly humorous Holt takes on the role of cosmological detective, suggesting that we might have been too narrow in limiting our suspects to Yahweh vs. the Big Bang. Tracking down an eccentric Oxford philosopher, a Physics Nobel Laureate, a French Buddhist monk who lived with the Dalai Lama, and John Updike just before he died, Holt pursues unexplored angles to this cosmic puzzle. As he pieces together a solution — one that sheds new light on the question of God and the meaning of existence — he offers brisk philosophical asides on time and eternity, consciousness, and the arithmetic of nothingness.
Whether framed philosophically as “Why is there a world rather than nothing at all?” or more colloquially as “But, Mommy, who made God?” the metaphysical mystery about how we came into existence remains the most fractious and fascinating question of all time. Following in the footsteps of Christopher Hitchens, Roger Penrose, and even Stephen Hawking, Jim Holt emerges with an engrossing narrative that traces our latest efforts to grasp the origins of the universe. As he takes on the role of cosmological detective, the brilliant yet slyly humorous Holt contends that we might have been too narrow in limiting our suspects to God vs. the Big Bang. Whether interviewing a cranky Oxford philosopher, a Physics Nobel Laureate, or a French Buddhist monk, Holt pursues unexplored and often bizarre angles to this cosmic puzzle. The result is a brilliant synthesis of cosmology, mathematics, and physics — one that propels his own work to the level of philosophy itself.
2012 New York Times
Top 10 Book of the YearSlate.com
2012 Staff Pick
In this astonishing and profound work, an irreverent sleuth traces the riddle of existence from the ancient world to modern times.
About the Author
Jim Holt is a longtime contributor to The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books and the New York Times Magazine, specializing in science and philosophy, as well as an erstwhile gossip columnist and an inveterate collector of jokes. His books include Stop Me If You've Heard This One and Why Does the World Exist? He lives in New York City.