What’s Gotten Into You

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Title: What's Gotten Into You: The Story of Your Body's Atoms, from the Big Bang Through Last Night's Dinner
Published by: Harper
Release Date: January 24, 2023
ISBN13: 978-0063251182


For readers of Bill Bryson, Neil deGrasse Tyson, and Siddhartha Mukherjee, a wildly ambitious and vastly entertaining work of popular science that tells the awe-inspiring story of the elements that make up the human body, and how these building blocks of life traveled billions of miles and across billions of years to make us who we are.

Every one of us contains a billion times more atoms than there are grains of sand in the Earth’s deserts. If you weigh one hundred fifty pounds, you’ve got enough carbon to make twenty-five pounds of charcoal, enough salt to fill a saltshaker, enough chlorine to disinfect several backyard swimming pools, and enough iron to forge a three-inch nail. But how did these elements combine to make us human?

All matter—everything around us and within us— has an ultimate birthday: the day the universe was born. This informative, eye-opening, and eminently readable book is the story of our atoms’ long strange journey from the Big Bang and the creation of stars to the assembly of planet Earth and the formation of life as we know it. It’s also the story of the scientists who made groundbreaking discoveries and unearthed extraordinary insights into the composition of life. Behind their unexpected findings were investigations marked by fierce rivalries, obsession, heartbreak, flashes of insight, and flukes of blind luck. Ultimately, they’ve helped us understand the mystery of our existence: how a quadrillion atoms made of particles from the Big Bang now animate each of our cells.

Shaped by the curious mind and bold vision of science and history documentarian Dan Levitt, this wondrous book is no less than the story of life itself.

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The Next Big Idea Club’s January 2023 Must-Read Books and 40 Nonfiction Books to Watch Out for in 2023

A New York Public Library Book of the Day

“A truly astonishing and eminently readable work of chemical detection, provocative, surprising, and alive with moments when you just want to tug your neighbor’s sleeve and ask—can you believe this?”
Simon Winchester, bestselling author of The Perfectionists and editor of Lapham’s Quarterly

What’s Gotten Into You is one fascinating journey. From the fireworks of the Big Bang to the busy life of cells, this is a story of scientific discovery, history, dazzling egos, quiet courage, and pure, unexpected insight. In other words, the best kind of story. Don’t miss it.”
Deborah Blum, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Poisoner’s Handbook and The Poison Squad

“You are billons of years old and brand new at the same time and if you want to know how you came to be and how gloriously lucky and mysterious it is to be here, read this book.”
—Robert Krulwhich, cofounder of Radiolab

“Levitt sheds light on the tiniest bits of what humans are made of in his stellar debut. . . . This is marvelous.”
Publishers Weekly, STARRED review

“brilliant popular science … He is a master at bringing scenes to life … keeps his narrative alive through sheer sense of wonder... In addition to a cosmos-spanning origin story, this book is also both an homage to researchers across the centuries and a reminder of the pitfalls embedded in the scientific research process.”
Emily Cataneo, Undark Magazine

“The 14 billion years story of how the primaeval seeds of matter become you and your breakfast - easily digested.”
Frank Close, Professor Emeritus of Theoretical Physics, Oxford University and author of Elusive: How Peter Higgs Solved the Mystery of Mass

“I love it, couldn't put it down. This book is sheer pleasure, a grand exploration through space and time from the expanding universe to the molecules in living cells. As told through the experiences of the men and women who made the discoveries, this is also a beautifully human story - a marvelous read in every way!”
Ruth Lewin Sime, author of Lise Meitner: A Life in Physics

“The author notes that the process of completing this book ‘has been a continual source of wonder, stupefaction, exhilaration, and gratitude.’ Readers will share those feelings. Lively, illuminating…”

“You will meet a cast of brilliant and sometimes quirky characters: alchemists, biologists, chemists, and physicists whose insights helped unravel some of the mysteries of life”
Natural History

“mind-broadening and thought-provoking.”
Nina MacLaughlin, the Boston Globe

“intelligent, accessible and just sheer fun.”

“....an epic atomic odyssey....From stars to Homo Sapiens, this book tackles sprawling subject matter —the birth and expansion of the universe, the origin of life, and how humans came to be what we are.”

“Great book! Big Bang to vitamins! It brings home how we go about our daily lives with such a narrow and myopic view of the world. It's refreshing to take a step back to see the very large, very small, and very old.”
Paul Kenrick, Paleobotanist, Natural History Museum, London

“Five stars… a fascinating description of how the theories emerged that enable us to trace our bodies' atoms back to the Big Bang. Really enjoyed it.”
Brian Clegg, author

“Since the dawn of time, humans have wondered where we come from. Dan Levitt has literally answered the question. In this fascinating account, he charts the origin of our body, from the Big Bang’s creation of atoms to the evolution of plants creating the food chains upon which we depend.”
Jonathan Losos, Professor of biology, Washington University in St. Louis and author of Improbable Destinies: Fate, Chance, and the Future of Evolution

“The book is an immense journey and a deep dive into an endless and endlessly fascinating subject.”

“There were many moments when I felt a deep sense of awe at the stranger than fiction journey that our planet has been on.”
Greenspirit, UK