Book Review: The End of Everything

Think back to your favourite opener. The drama, the shock, the evocative feelings; Dr. Katie Mack achieves all that in the opening line of a book on astrophysics. This bodes well. Step aside fiction authors—you no longer hold the monopoly on great opening sentences.

The end of everything, metaphysically speaking, is an interesting discussion. The end of everything, philosophically speaking, is a great discussion. The end of everything, astrophysically speaking, is a fantastic discussion, caveat being that you really need to know what you are talking about. Dr. Katie does. She also knows how to make a complex, technical subject easy to read and understand. Cherry on top? Dr. Katie is also a great writer to boot. All of which make The End of Everything (Astrophysically Speaking) an easy recommendation for anyone curious about finding out how this universe ends. Go, read it, it’s excellent. End of review.

For the folks more on the fence about diving into a potentially dense topic with a lot of jargon, you may have noticed that my focus has primarily been on the author and not the contents of the book. That’s mostly because Dr. Katie Mack is amazing—her famous tweet in response to some random internet man asking her to learn ‘actual science’ was one of my earliest introductions to the concept of mansplaining, for which I am eternally grateful; but that also means that I know I have no business to be discussing what the book is about. So, I won’t, but I will tell you: Dr. Katie Mack knows what she is writing about. 

What I can instead do is talk about whether the book succeeds in what it sets out to do. The End of Everything sets out to be a popular science book and it is just that. Science books, even the bestselling ones, are difficult reads, requiring frequent pauses as one hops online to understand new concept upon new concept (looking at you, A Brief History of Time). This book, however, gracefully waltzes around those common issues. It is approachable, with every argument well-explained to the point where one gets it—the downside of this approachability, of course, is that this book will likely not be as enjoyable for someone with prior knowledge on cosmology and how our universe works. 

For the uninitiated, however, there is oodles to learn about things at a scope so immense; human beings seem not to even matter. Dr. Katie Mack’s writing is disarming, often veering away into a stream-of-consciousness narrative that dabbles in pop culture, witty observations and somehow weaving that back into an earlier discussion on, say, cosmic background microwave radiation. I’d say that is a stylistic choice utilised to appeal to millennials and younger generations, but a simple scroll through the author’s Twitter feed will reveal that no, that is just her personality, committed into book form.

The universe, as we know it, is unfathomably large. For scientists, however, it is finite. Depressingly so, and with this book, Dr. Katie Mack lays out and discusses the five more prevalent theories about the death of the universe. Bleak—yet I found myself giggling through most of the book merely on the strength of the excellent writing.

A word to fans of audiobooks: the audio version of this book is narrated by the author and the sections that I listened to were done exceptionally well. If you have access to the audiobook version of The End of Everything, it will absolutely be worth the time and money investment. 

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