Why Does the World Exist? by Jim Holt
An Existential Detective Story

82%

18 Critic Reviews

The astrophysicist Sir Bernard Lovell once said that trying to explain why there is something rather than nothing could "tear the individual's mind asunder". Holt's elegant and enlightening book suggests he was wrong.
-Guardian

Synopsis

The Washington Post Notable Non-Fiction of 2013



“I can imagine few more enjoyable ways of thinking than to read this book.”—Sarah Bakewell, New York Times Book Review, front-page review


Tackling the “darkest question in all of philosophy” with “raffish erudition” (Dwight Garner, New York Times), author Jim Holt explores the greatest metaphysical mystery of all: why is there something rather than nothing? This runaway bestseller, which has captured the imagination of critics and the public alike, traces our latest efforts to grasp the origins of the universe. Holt adopts the role of cosmological detective, traveling the globe to interview a host of celebrated scientists, philosophers, and writers, “testing the contentions of one against the theories of the other” (Jeremy Bernstein, Wall Street Journal). As he interrogates his list of ontological culprits, the brilliant yet slyly humorous Holt contends that we might have been too narrow in limiting our suspects to God versus the Big Bang. This “deft and consuming” (David Ulin, Los Angeles Times) narrative humanizes the profound questions of meaning and existence it confronts.
 

About Jim Holt

See more books from this Author
Jim Holt, a prominent essayist and critic on philosophy, mathematics, and science, is a frequent contributor to the New York Times Book Review and the New York Review of Books. He lives in New York City.
 
Published July 16, 2012 by Liveright. 321 pages
Genres: Science & Math, Law & Philosophy. Non-fiction
Bestseller Status:
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Peak Rank on Aug 26 2012
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Critic reviews for Why Does the World Exist?
All: 18 | Positive: 15 | Negative: 3

NY Times

Good
Reviewed by Dwight Garner on Aug 02 2012

Mr. Holt’s wit and intellect never fail him, however. He’s good company on the page, strewing offbeat words like a latter-day William F. Buckley Jr...

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NY Times

Below average
Reviewed by SARAH BAKEWELL on Aug 02 2012

...I can imagine few more enjoyable ways of thinking than to read this book.

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Guardian

Good
Reviewed by PD Smith on Jul 05 2013

The astrophysicist Sir Bernard Lovell once said that trying to explain why there is something rather than nothing could "tear the individual's mind asunder". Holt's elegant and enlightening book suggests he was wrong.

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Guardian

Good
Reviewed by PD Smith on Jul 05 2013

Holt takes us on an absorbing journey through the physics, philosophy and religion of existence. Along the way he talks to people who have spent their lives mulling the nature of being and nothingness.

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WSJ online

Excellent
Reviewed by JEREMY BERNSTEIN on Jul 20 2012

Mr. Holt presents all these possible explanations—and others—in the manner of trial balloons. We are to draw our own conclusions.

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LA Times

Above average
Reviewed by David L. Ulin on Jul 08 2012

...Holt...takes a perverse pleasure in doubling back, raising questions and then poking holes in them at once.

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The Independent

Excellent
Reviewed by Peter Forbes on Jul 21 2012

What is special about Why Does the World Exist? is that Holt and the experts he talks to apply humour, good sense, and a dose of incredulity and wonder to the problem.

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Huffington Post

Excellent
Reviewed by Glyn Vincent on Aug 28 2012

I only absorbed a fraction of it, but all these bits of new information are, like protons and electrons buzzing about my synapses, creating an elixir of imaginative universes to contemplate.

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Washington Independent Review of Books

Below average
Reviewed by Y.S. Fing

If this question tickles you, you will enjoy Holt’s book. It would be a hard slog otherwise.

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Express

Excellent
Reviewed by Christopher Bray on Jun 22 2012

Holt does a brilliant job of making their musings as clear as possible to the man in the street.

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Review (Barnes & Noble)

Excellent
Reviewed by Troy Jollimore on Jul 25 2012

...an entertaining introduction to a vast range of argument and speculation that would take more lifetimes to master than any of us has at his disposal.

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Slate

Excellent
Reviewed by Ron Rosenbaum on Jul 23 2012

...his current book is the culmination of years pursuing this ultimate question with the best minds in the realms of quantum cosmology, philosophy, and theology all over the world.

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Cleveland.com

Excellent
Reviewed by Karen R. Long on Aug 14 2012

Hurray for Jim Holt, who cracks our formulaic stupor with his crisp, jolly new book, "Why Does the World Exist? An Existential Detective Story."

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New Scientist

Excellent
Reviewed by Amanda Gefter on Jun 25 2012

...the most interesting parts of the book come not from Holt's subjects, but from his own musings.

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Wichita Eagle

Excellent
Reviewed by Arlice Davenport on Sep 03 2012

Holt writes a warm, humane, funny, gripping and poignant tale about Being and Nothingness in the 21st century, a book that every educated person should read.

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Citylife

Excellent
Reviewed by Chuck Twardy on Aug 01 2012

...the answer, which unfolds near the end, in a letter to one of the Big Thinkers he has interviewed, is disappointing.

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JH Weekly

Below average
Reviewed by Richard Abowitz on Oct 24 2012

...one wishes Holt would probe deeper or force the ideas he happens upon into a more challenging conflict.

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Vulture

Good
Reviewed by Kathryn Schulz on Jul 08 2012

...it does what real science writing should: It helps us feel the fullness of the problem. This is a book that ends, literally and figuratively, in opacity and incompleteness.

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